July 20, 2012

Dark Rites: Mass Shootings As Rituals That Trigger Calls For Gun Control

 The spirit of death engulfs us now.

Waking up to the news that a shooter dressed as a film villain killed moviegoers at the midnight showing of 'The Dark Knight Rises' in Aurora, Colorado was disorienting at first, but then familiar thoughts entered my head, "Not again. Another day in hell. This tragedy was predictable."

As a culture, and I'm specifically speaking about North America, we're being desensitized to violence and mass death. It seems it's every other week that we hear about violent incidents and mass shootings at malls, cinemas, schools, and other public places. Zero Hedge has compiled a list of mass shootings in the last two decades, and the list is by no means comprehensive. For instance, it doesn't include the shooting at Eaton Centre Mall in Toronto in early June.

Jessica Redfield, one of the victims of the shooting in Colorado, narrowly escaped the shooting at Eaton Centre. Her tragic story and this tragic event reminds us that life is precious and death is our common destiny. After the shooting in Toronto, Redfield wrote:
"I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.
I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given."
What should be our response to tragic mass shootings? Redfield reacted with maturity and resolve, and a renewed sense of purpose in life. But not everybody is as mature and wise as she was. A lot of people allow their lower nature overtake them, search for scapegoats, and become hostage to power-hungry politicians and government control freaks.

The first thing we have to understand is that mass shootings are not normal events in our lives even though it feels like the opposite. Freaks of nature like the shooter James Holmes aim to stalk our collective psyche and make us afraid. We must deny them our fear. Psychological and social resilience is fundamental if we want our culture and society to be vibrant, alive, and healthy.

But we must also be on guard against knee-jerk political commentators, politicians, and media figures who seek to take advantage of our shaken mental states in the aftermath of mass shootings so the government can impose greater control over society. Such people have a political agenda and they do more harm than good by naming scapegoats, politicizing the healing conversation, and demonizing guns. 

Paul Joseph Watson writes that in the wake of the shooting at the Batman movie, "political opportunists have seized upon the incident to push for gun control, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg demanding that both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama “stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about” mass shootings." What Mr. Bloomberg is doing is irresponsible and uncivil. Now is not the time to make political points.

Is gun demonization and calling for gun control the correct response to mass shootings? No. If this was any another age, if the governments of the West weren't tyrannical and totalitarian in nature, then taking guns out of the hands of the general public would be sensible, reasonable, and not a big deal. But we live in an age when the greatest threat to the individual and to society is the government. As Alex Jones said yesterday, the totalitarian state is death. The totalitarian fascists in Washington want to disarm American citizens so they can herd them to the UN slaughterhouse without facing resistance.

Holmes has nothing on the U.S. military-industrial-media complex. Ask Afghans and Iraqis about the terror of gun violence, and if the answer is to ban guns. If guns were banned in Iraq and Afghanistan then the U.S. military would've killed many more innocent civilians. And if guns were completely banned in America than psychotic shooters like Holmes would feel empowered to buy guns in the black market and kill even more people. These freaks are not going to magically disappear off the face of the Earth once guns are banned.

Banning guns is applying band-aid to a spiritual wound. The problem is bigger and deeper than guns. Western man is in crisis. The West has entered a period of general psychosis, spiritual pain, and mental breakdown. Holmes said he was the Joker. He was imitating his hero. The question is why? Why are there young, cold, and psychotic men who worship anti-social villains that openly embrace their freaky nature? Remember what the Joker said to Batman in the scene when they're in jail: "I'm not a monster, I'm just ahead of the curve."

Holmes was probably seduced by the dialogue, the philosophy, and the character of the Joker. But blaming The Dark Knight for the mass shooting is nonsense. Still, Hollywood is not innocent. Images and archetypes have the power to seduce mentally deranged individuals like Holmes and inspire them to act against society. Filmmakers are pushing the envelope, mixing extreme violence with an extremist philosophy.

Is art imitating life, or is it the other way around? Powerful films like The Dark Knight series hit the gut, and give mentally unbalanced people a lot of ideas. 99% of the people are not affected. Only one out of ten million like Holmes who are passive aggressive in nature get emboldened and act destructively.

I used to think that we can't excuse the violent actions of crazy killers by blaming violent movies and other media programming. But there is a clear connection between the collective imagination of the big screen and images inside the individual mind. The lines between reality and fiction are gone. Many social commentators are saying that Hollywood movies have contributed to a culture of death. And some people are in the mood to kill.

Maybe this analysis is an overreaction. But it is deeply unnerving that movie magic is creating real life terror.