Sunday, October 7, 2012

Part 2 (Mass Massacres): Society Plays the Blame Game While Perpetrators Blame Society Itself

In our previous post (Part 1 (Mass Massacres): Examining the Psychology and Sociology Behind Individuals who Commit Them), we went over the 3 main factors that could potentially lead individuals to commit mass massacres:

(1). The individual has delusions of self-importance (individual attitude)
(2). The individual was exposed to a society that is mainly heartless and dismissive
(societal attitudes)
(3). The individual desires to be accepted into the society and sincerely attempts to live according to their rules
(individual attitude about the societal attitude)

In this current post (Part 2 (Mass Massacres): Society Plays the Blame Game While Perpetrators Blame Society Itself), we begin to tackle each of these 3 items and provide solutions to eliminate mass massacres. 

As this blog title suggest (and as discussed in Part 1), perpetrators of mass massacres are often seeking revenge on society for their failures. After the horrific events that these individuals commit, many people in society turn to the blame game while ignoring their own role in festering this violent and sick environment.

Even though responsibility lies within the individual (who is not free from blame), society also has an important role to not incite them further. The end goal is to prevent future mass massacres from occurring; blaming external factors or attacking/mocking the perpetrators does not resolve this (and may in fact incite it further).

With that said, let's begin tackling solutions to each of the 3 factors discussed as being the root causes:
(1). The individual has delusions of self-importance (individual attitude)
Regardless of the circumstances leading to their action, the individual engaged in committing the act and so responsibility lies on them. If we ignore society's role for a moment (which will be tacked in item (2)), we are left hoping each individual dealing with overwhelming resentment/anger will voluntarily seek out professional help in order to cope with their issues. In reality, many of them are mentally ill (influenced by pharmaceutical drugs) and already view everyone in society as their enemy. It is unlikely that they will 'give in' again and conform to society's wishes -- a society which has already failed them in their initial attempt to fit in.

But for what it's worth, an accessible self-help approach is most often helpful in changing these individual's negative attitudes and destructive thought process. Too often, though, self-help is becoming another marketing ploy associated with ruthless, unethical business practices aimed at making profit (or increasing the motivational speakers' reputation) by taking advantage of the weak. It might also be associated with optimistic dreamers who only surround themselves with 'positive energy' and see the world through rose-colored lenses. In either case, it can be dismissive and isolating to the individual with 'negative energy' who are the ones truly in need of their help. This dismissiveness only validates the individual's hatred of everyone in society. What does it mean when those who are suppose to show compassion turn out to be heartless like the rest? (This is an issue with society that will be tacked in item (2) below).

Anyway, the issue we are tackling here for item (1) is the individual's 'delusion of self-importance'. There are many people who experience the same pain as the perpetrators -- and even have similar personalities -- but they don't go on a killing sprees. The main difference is in their coping mechanisms. When being criticized, instead of feeling self-important, they lean towards self-consciousness or self-absorption.
  • Self-important implies that the individual is focused on how an external entity could be perceiving them less; (They are usually concerned with adjusting society to fit in with their expectations) [In fact, they often play the 'blame game']
  • Self-conscious implies the individual is focused on what they could be doing to make an external entity perceive them less; (They are usually concerned with adjusting themselves to fit in with societal expectations)
  • Self-absorbed implies the individual is focused on themselves only; (They maintain their self-identity without controlling society. i.e. 'This is who I am, you are free to react as you wish')
Of course, being 100% in any of these is cause for trouble -- it is all about moderation and which side you lean more towards. Switching from being self-important to self-conscious/self-absorbed is really as simple as changing the way you word your thoughts (no twisting of truth is needed):
  • Self-important :"They must be threatened by my intelligence to not accept me."
  • Self-conscious :"What did I do to offend them? Am I doing something wrong for them to hate me?" 
  • Self-absorbed :"I'm too focused on my Ph.D thesis to even care what others are saying about me" 
Being self-conscious or self-absorbed often gets negative connotations, however, both are exhibited by everyone to an extent. People needs to be self-conscious in order to reflect on their behavior and also help them analyze why society behaves the way it does. People also need to be self-absorbed in order to maintain their drive when tackling something for society's overall benefit (whether for science, sports, business, music, literature, art, etc.).

Unfortunately, society (reinforced through media) has taught us that people who display any self-absorbed behaviors should be labeled 'delusional' and should be told to 'get out more and get a life'. Also, people who display any self-consciousness are labeled as 'sad and pathetic' and told to 'get over themselves'.

Since we are not able to ignore society's influence on creating this hostile environment, lets get into item (2):

(2). The individual was exposed to a society that is mainly heartless and dismissive (societal attitudes)
Society is quick to put a label on suspects and generalize them. People come up with short-sighted ways to handle/prevent mass massacres -- providing a 'personality' or 'appearance' for the public to be wary of. There was a quote going around:
"If James Holmes was Arab, the shooting would be 'terrorism'. If he was Black, he'd be a 'thug'. If he was Mexican, it would have been because of the 'drug war.' If he was Asian, he was having a mental breakdown from disappointing his 'high expectations Asian father'. But he's White, so it's a 'mental illness'."
This 'witch hunt' can sort of become a self-fulfilling prophecy for future perpetrators. After repeated indoctrination from the media, individuals who fit a certain profile begin to believe what society says: they are a failure because of 'this' and must be a menace to society because they exhibit 'this trait'. After society has branded them as second class citizens, there is nothing left to lose when committing their violent acts -- only a welcomed release of their anger.

The solution here is to educate society on the implications and pointlessness of their stereotyping, mocking, etc. Here are examples of how society sometimes behaves when the inexplicable occurs and who/what they blame for it:
  • Physical Appearances: When Jared Loughner's photo was plastered all over the news media, reporters constantly mentioned that 'he even physically looks like a monster'. Did they not consider the thousands of others who look like him? Or are disfigured and 'worse' looking? Being told that someone who looks similar to you 'looks like a monster' can be devastating to one's self-esteem and threaten their personal identity. "Since I look like the person you are mocking, you must think I am a monster too."

    And if the individual already has low self-confidence, it may even destroy their aspirations to achieve higher. They think: "If society has already made assumptions about me based on physical appearances, there is no point in fighting it. Might even embrace it." This leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy, and a continuous cycle.

    [This is the same reason people with weight issues can feel emotionally invested upon hearing someone else mocked for being 'a lazy fat-ass'.]
  • Unconventional Behavior: When the Occupy movement first emerged, CNN's Erin Burnett dismissed it and mocked all the participants' odd behaviors. Other CNN news reporters, like Alison Kosik, joined in to ridicule participants in this movement (kind of like a public shaming). Although no horrific massacre has been committed, this is a good example of how society can exacerbates people's anger and make them go mad. Whether you agree with the movement or not, no good can ever come out of negatively labeling and ridiculing people in sad and desperate situations (such as losing their jobs/homes/relationships). In what may have otherwise been an insignificant event, the rage was felt strongly, even from those who may have been indifferent to the situation, and Occupy ballooned into a historical event of significance. The dignity of these occupiers has already been discredited, so there was nothing for them to lose by fully living out this movement for what it's worth. (If Occupy was an individual, this may have meant snapping back at elite society)

    [Society also uses mass massacres as justification for their personal beliefs and prejudices:]
  • Parents and upbringing: 
    • "He was poor/uneducated so only knew of using violence as a means to obtain things." [Gangs]
    • "He was privileged/educated so became a spoiled brat who took desperate measures to have everything go his way."[Elliot Rodgers]
  • Gun Laws:
    • "I want to be able to protect myself and prevent the situation from getting worse" 
    • "It will lead to accidental shootings and make the situation worse"
  • Personal interest and career path:
    • "He studied math/science/engineering -- why are killers often drawn to study these weird loner fields? ...maybe because they don't have to socialize." [Dr. Amy Bishop, James Holmes]
    • "He studied art/film/writing -- these killers are really into expressing their sick ideas in poetry and writing." [Seung-hui Cho]
  • Personality Trait: 
    • "He's nerdy, quiet and odd -- let's watch out for the shy ones."
    • "He's loud and obnoxious -- I wouldn't trust any loud-mouthed party animals."
  • etc.
It doesn't matter which side one takes, anyone could use these previous items for justifying any of their prejudices, so it's pointless to use them in arguments of mass massacres. In fact, there is excessive media coverage on the traits/behavior/personal life/appearance/etc. of these perpetrators that it could even lead to copy-cat mass shooters who desire that sort of infamy. It's ultimately a distraction that takes energy away from working on real solutions to the root causes.The fact is, this person committed a senseless act. Speculating on external factors only incites those who have similar behaviors/traits (many of whom are not violent at all).

If the shooter had been something else, we would look for that to blame -- and eventually, everyone is a suspect. Gun laws and profiling will not solve the problem. It's bigotry, prejudice, and hatred that kills people (reinforced by society's own bigotry, prejudice and hatred and perpetuated by advertisements in mass media). More compassion, open-mindedness, understanding and acceptance is needed in society.

The fact is though, it is nearly impossible to change all of society to be more compassionate. And to a mentally ill individual on the verge, one personal attack can overshadow dozens of compassionate people in society (this still doesn't excuse people from exhibiting compassion, though). This next item (3) is aimed at tackling the issue of the individual's narrow perception of society.

(3). The individual desires to be accepted into the society and sincerely attempts to live according to their rules (individual attitude about the societal attitude)
The individual needs to realize that these 'norms' they are seeking to achieve are not hard-coded. Just because several people label them as 'losers' (for not following the latest trends or living up to societal expectations) does not mean they are failures in life.

Unfortunately, as discussed in an earlier post (07/26/2012): Confessions of a former Consumer Analyst - Marketing Director, society is taught to become invested in conforming to the status quo. It is ingrained into society through mass media and advertisements. Those who find if difficult to conform will  have feelings of resentment for being different -- for being an outlier in mainstream society. And they are unable to see other paths to living a meaningful life that does not revolve around what mass media spits out at them.

Most vigilant citizens are able to recognize the absurdity in media and society, and not let it influence their well-being. Mentally ill individuals, however, are not vigilant enough to see behind the veil of society. For them, it is not common sense to ignore what media/society shoves in their face; to not let it affect them. These people need to be shown alternatives, to be informed on how they can erase the mindset ingrained into them by our mainstream media culture. To do this, the vigilant ones need to display more understanding and concern towards others. This does not mean catering to the insecurities and irrationalities of unstable people. This can mean something as simple as rewording the phrases we use when dealing with difficult people [or making them realize how these phrases can be re-interpreted].

In the Confessions of a former Consumer Analyst - Marketing Director post, several destructive phrases media advertisers like to popularize were discussed. Below are examples of how they can be rephrased (or re-interpreted by the individual):
"Damn bro, you need to get OUT more!" Can become: 
"Oh, you're working on a Ph.D thesis? That's cool. I don't have that kind of self-discipline. That's why I'm always out partying. lol"

"Wow, you're soo boring, studyin' math all day - all them numbers. What a loser!" Can become:
"Wow, that's a lot of numbers. I'm not really a numbers guy, but props to you for figuring it out!"

"Hahaha - man, you dress like someone from the 80's! I get my clothes from Hot Topic and American Eagle" Can become:
"That's a unique style you have. Where do you find these gems? Sadly, I only know of the stores in the mainstream mall."
"How'd you manage to gather all these clips to make that youtube video? You have waaaaaaayyyyy too much free time dude. You need a life." Can become: 
"That looks awesome dude! You obviously spent a lot of time on it. I wish I had the motivation. I spend all my free time surfing the web to find stuff created by others who do, lol."
"WTF is this Peace Corp for humanity you are joining crap? F- that shiat dawg, I'm making real dough!"Can become:
"Sorry, I'm really too busy with my office job to get involved with anything. I have a family to feed. But when I have time, I may check it out."
"Who's Lady gaga? Damn, you never heard of Lady Gaga? Bitch, then you don't deserve to know her" Can become:
"Oh, Lady Gaga is just a pop singer who embraces people's differences. I don't know if you'll like her music, but many people do. They're inspired by her messages of anti-bullying."
Basically, instead of questioning/mocking the decisions other people make, we should try to understand their situation and be more considerate. People who are different from the majority need to be reassured that it's fine to live life they way they are living. Forcing any lifestyle onto someone who is inherently different only leads to frustration and mental breakdown (because they can never change who they really are, and would only be lying to themselves if they did). [There are many examples with religion trying to force their values onto vulnerable gay church-going youth: Benji Schwimmer and Joseph's story]

Elliot Rodgers wrote in his manifesto: "All I ever wanted was to fit in  and  live  a  happy  life  amongst humanity,  but  I  was  cast  out  and  rejected". His  mistake was  associating "fitting in" with  "happiness".

Millions of people can be considered failures to society (and they may even be self-delusional); they can also get rejected by a society that consistently mocks and marginalizes them. But they all do not commit such random acts of violence on society: "...Nerds, dorks, geeks, mouth-breathers, loners, mama's boys, newbs, droids, druids, trekkies...furries...fucktads, fucktardos...bloggers, ... fat people...real doll fuckers, toy collectors, action figure fuckers..." "

These are people who do not want to fit into society -- they just want to be understood/accepted by society. They want to be allowed to live their life with different values and customs, and not be judged/attacked for it. Telling someone who is different that they have failed at life will only drive them mad. Without society changing our mindset (and combating the destructive influence of mass media), the only solution these individuals may see is to pretend to fit in (and be subsequently labeled fake) or accept their label as 'losers/rejects' and snap back at society.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Interesting take on a touchy subject. I think we can all relate to it no matter what race you are. Each individual might be affected by this at least one point in our lives.


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