As a means for the preserving of the individual, the intellect unfolds its principle powers in dissimulation, which is the means by which weaker, less robust individuals preserve themselves-since they have been denied the chance to wage the battle for existence with horns or with the sharp teeth of beasts of prey, This art of dissimulation reaches its peak in man. Deception, flattering, lying, deluding, talking behind the back, putting up a false front, living in borrowed splendor, wearing a mask, hiding behind convention, playing a role for others and for oneself-in short, a continuous fluttering around the solitary flame of vanity-is so much the rule and the law among men that there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive
for truth could have arisen among them.
– Friedrich Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense” (1873)
Only in a truly desperate society are we so absolutely in need of good news that we will accept any number of shunts away from the truth in order to enjoy it.
Such is the case with school shootings, where we get to hear a long list of suspects — video games, evil music, drugs, satanism, racism, homophobia, mental illness — for what are sometimes quite rational acts. If you believe your world is headed toward inevitable decline, and that although this decline could be reversed easily, most people are too emotionally invested in being in denial to do anything about it, you might self-destruct to avoid the tedium. If you’re going to self-destruct, don’t go out alone; do some good, thin the herd, and send up a big red flag.
While some school shooters are delusional, and usually seek the attention, others like Jeff Weisse, Pekka-Eric Auvinen and now Matti Saari are of the ideological type, attempting to communicate through mass death what could not be said in words, because words can be ignored if inconvenient to the listener. This is what is most frustrating about civilization: it frees individuals to close their minds to the truth, yet depends on them (through democracy) for its leadership. It is like a partnership to deny reality, a handshake between drug addicts or a wink between snake oil salespeople. We maintain your right to denial so you will maintain our own. While we can deny any words, symbols or truths, it’s hard for us to deny a physical act, like a Zen master’s slap, a concentration camp or a school shooting.
Those who profit from the ignorance of others, usually because they have an ulterior motive to hide, will encourage us to see this latest event as the product of one of the above-mentioned scapegoats, or in the grand tradition of all manipulators, blame Finland’s relatively liberal gun laws, which has the added benefit of making us less able to defend ourselves against parasitic manipulators. They will want us to react emotionally, to construct our own abstract symbols unrelated to the actual causes of these events, and to blame anyone but the collective “we” that has allowed our civilization to slip so far into decay that school shootings are one of the few effective wake-up calls a student can issue.
However, if we were to treat this situation as a scientist would, we would instead look into the actual causes. Why do these intelligent young people choose to take their own lives, and those of others, in this way? Is this a suicide first, and a murder second, to make the suicide efficient? Is the motivation of shooters internal, a/k/a frustration with themselves, or is it external, a frustration with the world? If we looked at school shootings as a scientist would, we would encounter more troubling questions than answers.
Even worse, we’d find that the solutions we need are compartmentalized. Radical change doesn’t happen because any change must pass through innumerable social approvals, bureaucracies, agencies, etc., and while each of these has a pretense of being open to the public, that claim is ludicrous when you consider that to participate, the public must have money, no daytime obligations, and plenty of energy to follow the proceedings. In reality, the situation is closed to the public so that those who manipulate it can profit.
In essence, our society has decayed so far that we have created an alternate reality in which we operate as if it were reality, composed of our institutions and public opinions. Reality itself remains far away, doubly so because it is often complex and does not make a good sound bite, election slogan, advertising jingle or hip new saying to impress our friends. The process of society’s decay always takes it further from reality and into this social dimension, as the ancient Greeks recognized. Plato wrote of the cycle of civilizations, and how they start realistic and slowly decay into selfishness, at which point tyranny must intervene:
In the oligarchical State [drones] are disqualified and driven from office, and therefore they cannot train or gather strength; whereas in a democracy they are almost the entire ruling power, and while the keener sort speak and act, the rest keep buzzing about the platform and do not suffer a word to be said on the other side; hence in democracies almost everything is managed by the drones. – Plato, The Republic
As Plato illustrates, in a democracy like ours, idiots rule, and by their greater numbers, they suppress the ideas of those who by definition know better.
Democracy, technology and mass media give us the ability to deny Difficult Realities we don’t like, and replace them with Pleasant Illusions. All sides of the political spectrum do this. It is the underlying attitude that is the problem, not a specific instance of it.
Obviously, if this process continues our society will get more corrupt and disorganized, smart people will flee or not breed, and we’ll be left with a large population of clueless people who are more interested in their own personal drama and accessorizing than doing anything important or useful:
Neither does he receive or let pass into the fortress any true word of advice; if anyone says to him that some pleasures are the satisfactions of good and noble desires, and others of evil desires, and that he ought to use and honor some, and chastise and master the others.whenever this is repeated to him he shakes his head and says that they are all alike, and that one is as good as another.
Yes, he said; that is the way with him.
Yes, I said, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour; and sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the flute; then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin; then he takes a turn at gymnastics; sometimes idling and neglecting everything, then once more living the life of a philosopher; often he is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head; and, if he is emulous of anyone who is a warrior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once more in that. His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on.
Yes, he replied, he is all liberty and equality.
Yes, I said; his life is motley and manifold and an epitome of the lives of many; he answers to the State which we described as fair and spangled. And many a man and many a woman will take him for their pattern, and many a constitution and many an example of manners are contained in him.
Let him then be set over against democracy; he may truly be called the democratic man.
The result is a nation that descends into third world status, like modern India, Russia, Egypt and Mexico, or simply vanishes, like the ancient Angkor Wat civilization did. As in life most attempts fail, in civilization, most societies fail. Those that survive are the ones that resist the entropy of allowing drones to rule.
Currently, as I see it, drones rule in the West, including the USA and Finland. If you want to know why we have school shooters, it’s because when authorities don’t listen, people do desperate things like blow up buildings, stage revolutions and shoot up their schools. They’re just dying to be heard in a world hellbent on ignoring them as it heads toward destruction.