10 June 2014

Have We Buried Enough Children Yet?

To be brutally honest, I never thought I would make this post, especially with this title. There is something about filtering the laws, structure, and information in our society through the needs of a child that has always bothered me. Like politicians kissing babies; invoking children and safety has seemed odiously manipulative and in the same category as the "feel good movie of the year" when it comes to spoon feeding emotions to an audience. Nonetheless, here I am...

Today marks yet another outburst of school violence. Once again we hear the same statements, watch as children are robbed of their happiness and lives, and brace ourselves for the inevitable rush of agendas that will immediately begin to appear. The sad part of all this is that I do not even have to identify the incident directly. In fact, I could be writing this post on any number of days and it would be relevant to that day's events. All of the actions I just described happen with a tragic regularity, almost as if programmed into some cosmically dark routine. Again and again, these scenes playback like a cheap soundtrack through the blown-out speakers of a failing mall.

It is guns, or it is not. It is this generation, or it is not. It is schools, police, movies, video games, lack of religion, too much religion, or the rise of an ultimate evil in the end of times. Or it is not. It depends on who you ask and who is listening when you ask. Stuck in a rote reaction mode, it is as though we, as a society, have completely lost our ability to confront the problem in any real sense of the word. Except that suggests we once had some ability to lose and arguably, we never did.

Our society is firmly grounded on the concept of winners and losers. We reinforce the concept that humanity comes with hierarchical structures that are as immutable as nature in every aspect of our social and political life. The only human agency we assign to this truism is the solidly accepted myth that one plays a greater role in which column one falls into than one actually does. But it is not really competition that is the problem, it is the narcissism that comes with it. For in our society, team has never mattered as much as self.

TV programming is overrun with "unscripted" shows. Formerly known as Reality TV, these shows focus on one individual and suggest that their world revolves utterly and completely around them. Our advertising, technology, and product development revolve around one point repeated ad nauseam: you are told that you deserve every thing you want, exactly when you want it. Before long, you believe in self-interest as the ultimate virtue, society accepts narcissism as a positive, and an almost impervious sense of entitlement settles over our communities. It becomes natural to demand what serves your best interests and a sign of weakness to acknowledge the interests of anyone else. This sickness soon holds our social and political processes hostage and like a virus, perpetuates itself in a constantly evolving process meant to avoid eradication.

As an individual's world contracts to a population of one, alienation, hostility, and extremism become the norm. In this toxic environment, almost any spark becomes a catalyst for exploding rage. Challenging the concept of an individual as the ultimate power in their own universe enables them to justify their violent response. After all, they have been conditioned almost 24/7 to believe their whims are the world's realities.

Any reasonable person can tell you that anecdotal correlation is not causation. The reason we keep having this conversation is that we keep targeting those things that serve our own agenda as the root causes of days like today. They are not. Until we acknowledge the weaknesses of a society built upon the basest elements of the human condition, we are not one step closer to eradicating the scenes of dead children and lost promise. Skeptical? Even in the midst of a tragic event, one can clearly see the people jostling for center stage, for recognition, and for the spotlight to shine more brightly on them.

Have we buried enough children yet? Take a look at any medium in our society and the answer appears to be no. Days like today are simply one more line of dialogue in the larger tragedy that is us.