What Causes Mass Killings

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Sometimes I feel compelled to retread over topics I have previously discussed, because of the new appearance of events that, in some ways, exemplify quite well these themes from the past.  In particular, I am thinking of the Monterrey Park Massacre.  An elderly Asian man goes into an Asian ballroom dance studio during Chinese Lunar New Year weekend and ends up killing 10 and wounding 10.  One of the 10 wounded has since died from her wounds.  What is interesting is that this has occurred during a period of time when there have been many horrendous hate crimes against Asians.  But in this case, the shooter was an Asian.  There is speculation that the killings may have been the result of a personal dispute with someone connected with the ballroom.  Although the results of the investigation up until now offer no confirmation of this theory.  


Anyway, on one level, does it really matter.  Whatever generated the surface cause, can’t explain why the shooter would resort to killing so many people.  In the past, a person with a grievance against a ballroom or any other kind of club would not have gone around killing everybody in sight at the club.  Instead, he probably would have focused his anger on some important person or persons involved with the club.  Still living in a time when people were a little bit more in touch with their emotions and therefore a time when technology hadn’t taken over a person’s life totally and therefore made him totally numb, a potential shooter would have been emotionally overwhelmed at the prospect of a mass act of vengeance of the type committed by The Monterrey Park shooter. He would have emotionally exploded apart, if he had carried out such a heinous act.

As I write this article, two more mass shootings in California have been announced.  One in Half Moon Bay where seven people were killed and one was injured.  The victims were Asian and Hispanic farm workers.  The shooter again was an elderly Asian man.  Finally, there was a shooting at an Oakland gas station.  A music video was being filmed there.  There were multiple shooters, and it was thought that gangs were involved.  The latter is a situation I am very familiar with being from Chicago.  Although the shootings I am talking about today are very different from the targeted killings of the mafia, which is the kind of killing usually associated with Chicago.  Many of them are senseless killings where members of a gang go out and kill totally innocent people who have done nothing to them.  

And there is something of this senselessness in the shootings from California that are the main subject of this article.  Yes, we have discussed how there are thought to be grievances or disputes involved at least in the first two shootings under discussion.  And so far, in truth, no definite motive has been established for any of these three mass shootings.  And doesn’t it seem like a mass shooting is an inordinate response to having a personal grievance?  There is definitely something else going on in these situations. 

What is going on is that although all of us have been made somewhat numb by the increasing takeover of modern technology of more and more of our living spaces, some of us seem to have been influenced more by this takeover.  Such people seem to have a great deal of difficulty expressing their anger in more civil ways.  They can’t just tell a person they’re upset with them.  Or they can’t even just vent their anger and let it all hang out, but verbally.  They have to include physical violence, and not just focused physical violence against the person or persons who they perceive as having generated the grievance with which they are trying to deal.  The only way these people can explode out of their numbness and feel temporarily alive is by taking their anger out against a whole unfocused group of people.  And, in truth, sometimes their anger, which is totally generated internally, does not even require an external focused target to come forth and express itself.  I always remember that man in Las Vegas who started shooting randomly from a high floor in a hotel down below on a large group of people who had come to the hotel to enjoy a music festival.  No one ever discover a focused target there or even a motive in the shooter.  And no one probably ever will.

If we want to deal effectively with this problem, we have to start weaning people from mediated experience.  When possible, for writing things, they should handwrite.  Rather than sink into an armchair and watch spectator sports all the time, they should engage directly in athletic activities.  They should start participating more in creative activities.  Music, art, dance, writing everything from poetry and stories, to novels and plays.  And creative writing built around interesting ideas.  They should get involved in cooking their own meals.  They should join social groups, and, if they are lucky, find a meaningful significant other.  They should make themselves uncomfortable by traveling out of their element.  All these activities help a person to break out of the experiential vacuum in which he feels he is drowning in today’s world.

Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a ForoJudio.com y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

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