In the book Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, the author explains that young tigers in India and other places, whose mothers have been shot, have a much greater chance of becoming people-killers, because they don’t receive the socializing education their mothers could have given them.
I have been trying to understand how the U.S.’s young shooters arrive at their sad, empty places. It’s confusing because there are always at least two issues: one, our incipient fascism that does nothing to restrain the shooters through the responsible rule of law; the other is the state of mind of these young men and how they arrived at their numbed hostility toward others, especially toward young successful women such as the four young Congresswomen called the squad. Much of it coached by older misogynists.
We are already in a low intensity civil war where we have to make some decisions about how we will save the Constitution and how our children and grandchildren will be able to walk to school and sit at their little desks without fear of being murdered. What do we do? Shall we forgive our disaffected rebels with their 100-round AR-15s and invite them back into the family fold? Or shall we hunt them down and annihilate them with our own violence. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez advocates bringing them back into the family, and I am with her.
But where is the family? When I visit the U.S. from Mexico, and when I lived in California for many, many years, it was hard to find a central plaza where everyone gathered and where you could never pass through without greeting and chatting with several recognized, known and valued members of your society. In my colonial Mexican walking city, I know Juan our butane- gas-tank man, who, upon seeing me, always springs into a karate stance to the amusement of anyone else on the street. The man in the Jardín de la Unión plaza who sells traditional blankets to tourist, when he sees me, grins warmly as if seeing a long-lost brother and asks me—it’s a ritual—how many of his blankets I want. And I say, always, forty or 400, maybe a 100,and he’s delighted and I’m delighted and we embrace. Each time. And, of course, I buy nothing. I have many such sustaining contacts, sustaining because they are repetitive, warm and human. When I’m in the States, I don’t have contacts like that. Because I‘m always in a car. And there is no plaza to walk in.
The mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton from August 5, 2019 are almost daily occurrences now, and we have to ask ourselves again how things got so far. Our Leader the President deserves much of the blame, but not all of it. And it all began long before him. Still, he works at distraction and misdirection, like a barker at a carnival, inveigles the discontented to enter the big tent with all its bizarre attractions.
The veneer of civilization is thin. Now and then someone comes along who is willing to undermine institutional checks and balances in order to assume unlimited power. Our leader does this with all the instincts of a snake that stalks a bird with the intention of swallowing it.
The opposite is former president Barack Obama, who just a day later counseled citizens to reject racist and divisive language coming out of the mouth of any politician. He spoke of “Goodwill,” a concept that is the opposite of “invasion, rats, dirty, rapists, criminals,” words the carnival barker uses to invite you into his lurid show.
I suppose the situation has to be right. Like massive unemployment in late-1920s Germany. Or stagnant wages. A clever carny comes along or a caudillo like Franco in Spain, or a Hitler or a Trump. It’s our bad luck because it’s the ascendency of the Pitiless Male. Like a chameleon, the harsh father cleverly poses as a Nurturer when he is not one.
He mocks the institutions that he says have let plain folk down. He attacks and undermines the Truth. He creates a counter-truth. He knows instinctively that investigative journalism has to be demonized. A counter-media emerges, a private propaganda ministry that endlessly repeats the leader’s anti-truth and vice versa. He attacks and belittles all other leaders of stature. He replaces them with an anti-elite, who surround him and carry out his orders. He mocks the old elite.
And, that is all he offers.
Wages do not rise. The only inclusion is identifying oneself with him. He distracts from any resulting consternation in his tribe by blaming others. It’s the Mexicans, he says, the terrorists, Muslims, African-Americans, the snobby un-American Hollywood women and Liberals who have destroyed everything. It’s the smart, young women who have entered Congress and are challenging his anti-truth. In the past it was the Chines, the Germans, the Italians, the Poles and the Irish.
Who brought on the social funk where our shooters languish? To explain, we have to use the taboo words. It’s always been capitalism, now super-charged as globalism, that suppresses union membership and seeks out the cheapest labor and moves the factories to other countries. There is no loyalty to labor. The old, more moderate profit margin, it turns out, isn’t enough for the bosses of the new global order.
But who originally abandoned our young tigers? That is the question. They went along with mockery of the elite, they fell for the misdirection. At the same time, no one had their welfare at heart. There were no gas men or blanket seller to embrace them. No one told them education was the key. Critical thinking would have been a defense against the exploiters. They did not understand well enough to protect themselves against propaganda, technology, lies and restructuring – a clever word for job cutting. They did not understand that private capital had become the shining city on the hill, the New America, the resurrected Golden Calf—as opposed to the secure union jobs of the Old America, of the New Deal. Unionizing and higher wages and loyalty to workers or any other arrangement for a more equitable sharing of America’s Wealth, they were told, was “socialism.”
To keep this secret, the leaders sold them mockery and hate. They offered them other sops. In Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, in the chapter “The Grand Inquisitor,” Christ returns to Toledo, Spain and is immediately arrested. The grand inquisitor visits him in his cell and says the returned Savior is not needed. What the people need are Authority, Miracles and Entertainment. A Strong Leader. Mass rallies full of irreverence, fun and complaint. Plus the endless distraction of smart phones and thousand-channel TVs. Instead of embracing the shooters-to-be, they cheered on the Leader, the entertaining carnival barker. None of them noticed that the promised Miracles never materialized: Good jobs, an End to Cancer, Affordable Care, cheap pharmaceuticals, and Unlimited Personal “Winning.” None of it has arrived. The Leader showed that no one needed Goodwill, Good Acts, Doing unto others as You Wish They Would do unto You, the Golden Rule. In other words, none of the New Testament teachings of Christ.
In the same chapter by Dostoyevsky, Christ hears out the grand inquisitor, then steps forward as kisses him.
The longing for relevance, the need to believe in the promises of the Leader, these are strong. A cognitive dissonance, like a fog, settles around the young tigers. Their eyes and ears tell them one thing. The Leader tells them to trust him. They are “winning,” he says, and the “others” are losing.
But below everything a magma of pain and sadness seethes. People know what they need to do in order to cope. Opioids for the anger and confusion, AK47s and AR15s to soothe the abandoned, the rejected, the left out, with the illusion of power. With no civilizing socialization—the nurturing tiger mother—some of the abandoned begin to lash out and kill. Even the shooters do not know why. The politicians who should be caring, don’t. They look away, because they have real goals. And those are to remain in positions of power by whatever means necessary. And that includes strangling our democracy and dashing the possibility of shared wealth. It means abandoning everything, including the welfare of the planet and every living thing on it. And so, how can we be surprised when the forlorn start shooting? —