Saturday, December 15, 2012

What's Wrong With White People?

There's a site that I like very much called "We Are Respectable Negroes."  As the name implies, the site concerns itself mostly with issues of importance to the black American community.  The writer is no grinning cheerleader though, he bravely calls out pathologies as he sees them that involve the target group.  This honesty, I think, gives him a license to occasionally decry pathologies that exist in the white community as well, and he does.

"What's wrong with white people?" he asks.  It's a valid inquiry.  Beyond questions of White Supremacy and White Victimology, he wonders why it is that so many white American men feel the need to gun up and go out on killing sprees, often for no reason at all.

Could It Be . . . The Guns?  

Blaming it on the guns is too glib, to easy.  It's an excuse for guys like Piers Morgan to get up on their Hobby Horses and feel relevant.   The guns are only the low hanging fruit, staying so close to the surface of any inquiry denies it any chance of success.  A deeper psychological mechanism is at work here.  It manifests itself in more ways that the gun stuff.  There's also child and spousal abuse; high risk behaviors; religious mania; blind racism; substance abuse; xenophobia.  And that's just to name a few.

Suggesting that guns are the cause of the problem is problematic to begin with.  White people in America are feeling threatened by a loss of their former status at the top of the food chain, feeling the loss of their former privileged position, but they're not the only ones.  Certainly white people all over the world are in similar danger of losing their exalted position.  I believe that European white people are experiencing the same negative reactions to this loss that the Americans are feeling, but their responses are different.

Glib references to the numbers of guns in different countries do not explain this difference.  In England, let's say, there are fewer guns in private hands, but in Switzerland virtually every household has an assault rifle handy.  Every adult male is in the army reserve, and keeps possession of the gun, a machine gun really, and a supply of ammunition.  Neither country is experiencing a sustained wave of mass shootings, the relative availability of guns notwithstanding.

Mass shootings do occur in Europe, but with much lower frequency.  That guy in Norway, for example, his rampage was a unique event.  There have been school shootings in other countries, with multiple fatalities, but so far America has been the standout leader in the field.

Pardon Me, Have You Seen My Identity?

Signs of the deeper problem were raised in the recent presidential election.  White Americans are clearly angry about losing their place in the world, which is to say, losing their status as the Masters of the World.  Masters of other countries; masters of the minorities in their midst; men as masters of women; masters, masters, masters.

It's as though they were slowly losing their own personal identities.

"Take back the White House!"  I don't think that the White House was the problem at all, although having a black president did exacerbate the feeling of loss for certain white people.  The White House thing was a case of Freudian substitution, "Give us our identities back!" was the underlying cry.  Where's Freud when you need him?

I wonder what happened when Rome experienced a similar decline in fortune.  For almost one thousand years they were the undisputed masters of their world.  They wielded unchallenged, dictatorial power over everything that mattered, in economic, military, and cultural matters.  And then it ended.  I'm sure that they were deeply shocked, and nostalgic about their bygone, ascendant time, as we seem to be for ours.  Let's say, "similarly shocked," because it is difficult to impossible to go back and understand the psychological pathologies of the remote past.  For one thing, they did not think as we do, a lot has changed in the history of consciousness.  History is silent on the subject; history is much better at reporting the crowning and passing of kings.  There was no device such as the novel with which to examine their motivations at the time.  I'd bet my tattoo though that they were in a deep identity crisis there for a while. I wonder how they handled it. (By re-establishing their power through the Catholic Church, probably.) 

My Humble Conclusion.

People, numerous people, on a regular basis, are shooting up the joint, and that is a problem.  So, what is the answer, Mr. Blogger, Mr. Frederick.Ceely.Wannabe.Com?  As usual, I don't know, but I've got an idea.

The guns themselves are part of the problem. That only makes sense. But there are many countries in the world where this kind of killing doesn't happen even though those countries are chock-a-block full of guns. There must be more to it than the mere presence of so many guns.

I'm sure that the general alienation of modern life doesn't help matters.  Alienation has been snowballing terrifically since the dawn of the industrial revolution.  Cogs in a machine, as it were; the growth of massive, faceless cities.  The disappearance of our institutions, the churches, the communities.  The modern versions of these things stand as poor shadows of themselves.  Remember unions?  Hell, remember secure employment?  Loyalty?  Family?  I like the Internet as well as the next guy, but it's no substitute for what we have lost.

We live in what has been called the "new, you're-on-your-own world."  We are cast adrift, forced to choose between either accepting our interchangeable natures or fighting to establish an individual identity in a world that does not value the individual.  A fight that leads some people, some mostly white people in America, mostly white men, to gun up, go nuts, dress in black like they do in the movies, and go forth to slaughter some strangers, or relative strangers, or occasionally their own families or co-workers.  (Are the later cases easier to understand?  At least there is the appearance of a reason.)

A fight that leads some of us to write blogs, which serve at least to firm up our own images of ourselves, we bloggers.  

Maybe we need to get back in touch with each other, and I don't mean on Facebook.  Maybe people need more security in their lives and more of a sense of community.  Doesn't standing alone against the world get old after a while?  I certainly find it tiring myself.  It's almost no surprise that some people snap, you know, not having a blog to fall back on. 

No comments: