L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 44, April 21, 1999
by Tom Creasing
The shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado are a tragedy for
any number of reasons; the personal tragedy of the young people
injured and killed after they had trusted others to make the world
safe for them; the social tragedy of a community losing so many
people; and the political tragedy that will come from the fallout as
calls go out again for more rights to be abolished or restricted,
"for the children."
One of the more interesting aspects, though, from a comfortable
academic distance is the way these sorts of incidents always seem to
crop up during debates on the issue. Colorado, like many other
states, is currently legislating on the issue of firearms and whether
the Powers That Be will graciously permit the inhabitants of that
state to go unmolested by armed gangs of badgers in the event that
those inhabitants choose to carry, concealed, the tools of
victim-avoidance. Now, a reasonable person might conclude that
upright individuals carrying concealed firearms might help to avert
situations like that shooting -- after all, how often do these nutcases
go shooting up police stations or military posts? Such is not the
case, though, and the victim disarmament mob is already gearing up
its sob machine, pretending that by keeping honest people from having
guns that criminals will also forego same -- or some Alician logic like
that, I can never quite keep it straight.
Shortly after I learned of this shooting I emailed a friend saying,
essentially, "now what?" His response, edited for brevity, suggested
that we should be "demanding that Wellington Webb and Bill Clinton
prove they didn't stage this thing." Given the convenience and
coincidence of this event that is certainly one interesting demand
but I demurred, replying, "I sincerely doubt they did ... My guess is
that you're looking at a classic example of Japanese "ijime"
(organized bullying) combined with American "anomie" (a
disconnectedness with and deterioration of society)."
The ultimate evolution of human society is the recognition of the
individual -- individual rights, individual empowerment, individual
sovereignty, and so on. Without individuals there can be no "groups."
A mark of insufficiently evolved peoples, then, is their commitment
to "groupism" over the individual, "herdthink" as it were. Authority
figures have known this for millennia and strive to keep people
solidified in groups, if for no other reason than it makes them
easier to herd. In Japanese schools, the practice of "ijime" is one
method by which a group solidifies itself. Certain individuals who
don't quite fit in are singled out for abuse and torture. It is not
uncommon for these children -- too fat, too thin, too tall, too short,
in essence, "not us" -- to be bullied to death for the sake of the
group, committing suicide as their only escape. A small fraction of
them will, however, turn on their tormenters, often killing them in
the process. So it seems with these two. Spurned by other groups they
formed their own and finally, due to insecurity, elected to
demonstrate their own superiority by killing "jocks and minorities."
Members of other seemingly privileged groups, as it were, exacting
their revenge against the society that cast them out by attacking its
most visible members.
At the other end of the spectrum is anomie. Anomie is a term coined
by a sociologist whose name escapes me at the moment, but is in its
essence a state of society where there are few standards of conduct
or belief, and those that exist are weak. The older term for this
condition, coined by Thomas Hobbes two centuries ago, is "a state of
This is a society where the emphasis is on the individual -- but to the
exclusion of everything else. The strong take advantage of the weak,
doing with them as they will, and where life is "nasty, brutish, and
short." Locke wrote that the "social contract" was something that
people entered into to escape this hobbesian world, giving up the
"right" to aggression, for instance, in return for at least some
security from every other person's aggressions. Locke recognized that
there would still be predators who would not adhere to the social
contract, but was a firm believer in the right to self defense,
making that problem generally moot.
But only in America could we have managed to have a series of
incidents, and make no mistake, more are coming, where overemphasis
on the group and on the individual meet like
this. Unable to be accepted by a "mainstream" group, yet desperately
craving group membership, these anomic individuals -- anxiety ridden,
disoriented, isolated, feeling no attachment -- decided that their
tormenters should pay the ultimate price in best Japanese style.
As long as Americans are "herdified," as long as they allow
themselves to be sheered for the benefit of others, as long as they
accept that they can only achieve benefits at the expense of other
groups, not in cooperation, these incidents will continue and worsen.
The herders have spent nearly a century creating this mess and
resolution, if any, will be neither easy nor painless.
Never trust a dog to watch your food. -- Patrick, Age 10
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