Wednesday, May 02, 2007
One condemned it without hesitation and the other "totally agreed" with the student. Wha? I was dumbfounded. Unsurprisingly, the views belonged to a conservative and a liberal, respectively. If this sort of view is prevalent, I think we're in for a rocky couple decades.And if one wants to get an inkling of how such an attitude as Johnson's is even possible, one need go no farther than this essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
[R]ampage school shootings are never spontaneous. Before they loaded a single weapon, Michael Carneal, Andrew Golden, and Mitchell Johnson had let fly with dozens of hints, ranging from vague comments like, "You'll see who lives or dies on Monday," to more-specific warnings to friends to "stay away from the school lobby." Those warnings started months before the shootings themselves. ...It is exactly as Rob Tarr said the other day: "Identification with the collective as a primary ... trumps everything [else]" for such products of Progressive education.
Why do school shooters broadcast their intentions? They are trying to attract the attention of kids whom they hope will embrace them as friends but who have typically denied them the social status they crave. Michael desperately wanted the acceptance of the "goth" group in his high school, which barely tolerated his presence. He posed as a delinquent when he was actually quite intellectual, passing CD's he owned off as stolen property. He stole pistols from his home and brought them to school as gifts for the most charismatic of the goths. "Not good enough," was the response. "We want rifles." No matter how hard Michael tried to change the way his peers saw him, nothing worked until the day he started fantasizing out loud about taking over the school and shooting people. That did work. He began to get attention. And once he had announced his intention, he risked social failure if he declined to go through with it.
School shooters are problem solvers. They are trying to turn the reputations they live with as losers into something more glamorous, more notorious. Seung-Hui Cho, a student of creative writing, probably didn't get a lot of "street cred" for his artistic side. Young men reap more social benefits from being successful on the football field. When their daily social experience -- created by their own ineptness, and often by the rejection of their peers -- is one of disappointment and friction, they want to reverse their social identities. How do they go about it? Sadly, becoming violent, going out in a blaze of glory, and ending it all by taking other people with them is one script that plays out in popular culture and provides a road map for notoriety. [bold added]
It would seem that two obvious questions elude students such as Cho. First, if one repeatedly gets rejected by someone else, why not move on? And second, what good is it to you to be dead? Their answers make sense only when one realizes that they have been taught not that one's life is an end in itself, but that the approval of others is.
And the Katelynn Johnsons of the world? Excluding someone from the group is a worse crime than murder -- if they even have the sense to regard murder as a crime.
Pragmatism in Practice
If the story of Seung-Hui Cho shows us that incorrect philosophical ideas can have deadly consequences when put into action, consider the recent effects of implicit Pragmatism here in Houston, where a horrendous fire cost three people their lives just as they were about to leave work on what should have been an ordinary day:
[Misty Ann] Weaver is charged in connection with a wind-whipped fire that gutted the upper floors of a six-story office building at 9343 North Loop East on March 28.From earlier stories, I learned that she had intended on "only" setting a small office fire in order to buy time for an audit she failed to complete on time. Rather than do her job, or admit her failure, she chose instead to destroy some of her employer's property, risking the property and lives of others in the process.
Three people who worked in the building -- Jeanette Hargrove, Shana Ellis and Marvin Wells Sr. -- died in the blaze.
Authorities arrested Weaver after confronting her about discrepancies about her activities around the time of the fire.
A Houston Fire Department arson investigator said Weaver had been in charge of preparing for an important audit for her boss, a cosmetic surgeon, and wanted to cover up the fact that she had failed to complete the paperwork.
Consistent with her impulse to disregard the principle of individual rights and do what "works" (i.e., her indifference to the rights of others and her short-range thinking), she ended up setting a fire in a building designed like a chimney while other people were still inside, killing three others in the process. For all I know, she is lucky to have escaped with her own life.
Bad philosophy can be deadly, even when one does not intend to commit murder, and whether one holds it explicitly or not.
What to do for May Day?
I like this proposal by Ilya Somin to repurpose -- I normally hate corporate buzz words, but in this context, the use is apropos -- May Day as it were, making it a memorial to those murdered by Communism:
The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century's other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so. I suggest that May Day be turned into Victims of Communism Day. I am, of course, open to suggestions for the official name of this day of commemoration. (HT: Glenn Reynolds)The Distributed Republic has a roundup for just such a purpose.
Today: Corrected "Amit Ghate" to read "Rob Tarr".