By now you have heard about the awful, tragedy in Connecticut. A shooter killed 27, 18 of them children. This is just a few days after someone in my hometown of Portland shot up a mall.
It’s sickening. The first reaction most of us have upon hearing of news like this, after the initial emotions of sadness, revulsion, etc. is why? What is the explanation of this? Humans seek to understand tragedy because we think if we can understand something we can control it. And so prevent it.
One of the first reactions I saw to this was on Facebook. Someone posted in response to news of the shootings – This is what happens when people try to interpret the Mayan calendar.
Now as I’ve said before I think the Mayan calendar has 0 influence on the length of the world, we will still be around in 2013, and 2014, and on and on. But I think this person’s assumption is very interesting: the assumption is that if people know that the world is going to end, they are like — well fuck it, I’m going on a shooting spree. Ladies and Gentleman, if that is all that really holds civilization back from murder and violence than it would be a good thing if the world did just plain end in a week.
Because the end of the world would mean that we don’t have to face what’s wrong with the world. And by the world I mean us, humans, people. (The earth, plants and animals would be doing just dandy without us). The end of the world is a fantasy that lets us ignore the real issues at hand, and the hard work that must be done if we as a race are to progress.
Now, where does that leave us, with regards to the old big question of the nature of evil? Why? How could this sort of thing happen? Who is ultimately responsible? I don’t know. The media will blame it all on the sick fuck that did it. (And I do think that the media perpetuates the cycle of violence as much as anybody, by obsessing over it — and by the media I mean us the readers.)
But, I think that we as a race are no longer children, we have powers, and access to technologies, ideas, and abilities that would have made us gods in the eyes of our ancestors. Maybe our moral reasoning, our ethics, and ideas of responsibility need to evolve and mature too. So here is a radical idea (despite being over 130 years old). What if we all take responsibility for all of society, as individuals, and we all take responsibility for all individuals as a society? Here is a passage from The Brother’s Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, where the elder monk Zosima explains this radical idea to his monks.
“When he knows that he is not only worse than all those in the world, but is also guilty before all people, on behalf of all and for all, for all human sins, the world’s and each person’s, only then will the goal of our unity be acheived. For you must know my dear ones, that each of us is undoubtedly guilty on behalf of all and for all on earth, not only because of the common guilt of the world, but personally, each one of us, for all people and each person on this earth. This knowledge is the crown of the monk’s path, and of every man’s path on earth. For monks are not a different sort of men, but only as all men on earth ought also to be. Only then will our hearts be moved to a love that is infinite, universal, and know no satiety. Then each of us will be able to gain the whole world by love and wash away the world’s sins with his tears . . .”