Passivity and paralysis.

By Paul J Cella Posted in | | | | Comments (90) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Yet another massacre of innocents in a public place — it’s become all too common in this country. The shock of it, that staggering horror we all felt back in the Nineties, has proven evanescent. There is now a routine to it: the television networks have their “Tragedy in Omaha” graphics ready within a half hour. A few witnesses are interviewed, the horror retold briefly; the police repeat some platitudes, perhaps a distant accomplice or collaborator is questioned and released; a few psychologists or criminal profilers utter their usual tedium — and then it’s back to coverage of the Iowa caucuses.

What are the chances that there will be a real effort of self-reflection following this latest mass murder/suicide in a public place? As David Kopel wrote (subscription only) on the first anniversary of the Columbine massacre (in a Weekly Standard article that made a vivid impression on me at the time): “the real lesson of Columbine is that very few people care enough about the horrible events of April 20, 1999, to try to prevent their recurrence.”

Read on.

He continued, “That the year after Columbine has been spent on trivial and irrelevant debates — instead of on serious proposals to save lives — is a sign of the degeneracy of our political culture.”

Kopel’s essay amounts to a searing arraignment of the social state of the country: passive, baffled, mute in the face of the swagger of nihilism: in short, morally paralyzed. Others have built upon these arguments. After the VA Tech massacre last April, a few commentators were so bold as to wonder aloud why so few of the young men present at that holocaust dared to confront the killer. Most choose to flee. Self-interest ruled. Only an aging Israeli professor resisted.

In a private conversation with some friends, someone made a trenchant point. Our paralysis is, as it were, preemptive. We are so baffled by evil that we just don’t think about it; thus, we are invariably stunned into inaction when it appears. But actions in a crisis require mental preparation; a fortiori if the actions must be coordinated to be effective. A single shooter, even armed with an assault rifle, can be quickly overpowered if men band together against him. This is a fact. It is a fact affirmed dramatically by the courageous collective action of the Flight 93 passengers in September 11.

Even going just this far in the discussion is to leave behind the standard narrative of “tragedy” (a word rendered meaningless in our age), victimhood, and bewilderment at the brazenness of evil. Who would dare to argue that, since we are manifestly a society that rears up among us young men whose depravity issues in murder-suicide in schools and malls, we must perforce become a society that trains other men to resist? In short, who among us will argue that wickedness must be resisted, and that our young men must be trained up in a tradition which honors those who will resist? Not so long ago, as James Bowman has documented, this tradition remained in force. The classical Western in film was its exemplar. In recent years the tradition has nearly vanished. What are we to make of this astonishing fact?

What, to speak more uncomfortably, are we to make of the fact of our passivity in the face of evil? What will be the verdict of history, once some objective distance is achieved, on a society that has cultivated an actual tradition of this depravity, and emasculated the tradition of resistance to it?

My first instinct here is to consider this part of the wages of removing the fear of God from the hearts of men. The fear of God issues in a sense of duty. The only Righteous Judge is a more fearsome prospect for the God-fearing man than all the schemes of men. The God-fearing man has a hard time thinking of anything more terrifying than standing before His Throne of Judgment, hard on the heels of massacring 10 or 12 innocents and then taking my own life; or of standing before that same Throne, having fled the field of danger when decisive action may have saved the weak.

We have ourselves a violent society; but there is little courage. Our streets teem with braggarts; whose quintessential test of strength has become, How many unarmed innocents can I slaughter?

This latest shooter said he wanted to “go out in style,” and indeed he did: the style of cowards and nihilists, which is becoming the American popular tradition.

Passivity and paralysis. 90 Comments (0 topical, 90 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

I missed the part where popular movies started celebrating wickedness and depravity. Action heroes are virtually always depicted as fighting the bad guys, and this is no less true now than it was in the golden age of the Western. Sure there are anti-heroes, but Westerns had their share of those too! I guess you never saw The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly or Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

As for a lack of the fear of God being the problem, well, you'll have to explain why this sort of thing happens so rarely in Japan, a nation where fear of God is practically nonexistent.

Your third error is in assuming, along with David Kopel, that Americans simply don't care about this kind of tragedy. Of course we care; we just aren't sure what to do about it, and we don't find the pet explanations of the religious right (Evil movies! Less church attendance!) particularly compelling.

I missed the part where popular movies started celebrating wickedness and depravity.

Then you missed one of the more popular trends in contemporary American film making. Perhaps Scorsese and Tarantino are obscure names for you. Go back to intramurals, brother.

Re Japan, take a gander at this: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200705/group-suicide

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

... and Ludacris is the nadir of immorality in popular music... no wait, 2 Live Crew was... no wait, Madonna was... no wait, Elvis was...

Yawn. Every generation thinks the whippersnappers have achieved a new low in artistic immorality. Read art criticism going back to Shakespeare's day and you will see the same breast-beating. It's a well-known cognitive illusion that people keep falling for.

Your link about group suicide in Japan was interesting but completely beside the point. Positing a lack of religion as an explanation for why Americans kill each other is a hypothesis that doesn't even make it out of the starting gate, given that other societies, far less religious, are far less homicidal.

(1) I never mentioned music. Nice dodge.

(2) Not every generation develops a tradition of murder-suicides inflicted on and by schoolchildren.

(3) Murder-suicides. The latter is part of it.

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

High profile press sensationalism not withstanding - this generaion of youth does NOT have a higher homicide rate than previous generations. Youth homocide, both as offender and victims, tracks closely to adult rates and saw the same increase in the late 80's peaking in early 90's that we are all familiar with. Current rates are in line with earlier generations.

(I don't of any great data on murder-suicides, but academic studies I have seen claim they track with overall murder rates)

Can someone fix it, I must have forgot to close the link

anything about homicide rates.

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

1. Everything I said about music is also true of movies. I assumed that it would be obvious that my point was about popular art in general, not some particular medium, but I suppose it doesn't pay to assume. Please feel free to substitute Roman Polanski, Sam Peckinpah, Sergio Leone, and F.W. Murnau for the examples I gave.

2. I never said they did. I said that a supposed decline in the moral standards of popular entertainment is not the cause of this phenomenon.

3. Murder-suicide a la Columbine, VA Tech, or Omaha is so uncommon in Japan as to be virtually nonexistent when compared with the United States. Conflating tragedies like Omaha with the suicide pacts described in your link makes no sense at all. In any case, even if we did decide to combine murder and suicide statistics for whatever perverse reason, the United States would still be well ahead.

Well, the Huckabots haven't finished the day, but I really doubt they'll be able to come up with a more ignorant statement than that one.

"Societies" religiousness doesn't matter. The "individual's" does. The point is that the shooters in the US are not personally religious. Whether or not the rest of the people in their town happen to attend a church service is of no import.
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CongressCritter™: Never have so few felt like they were owed so much by so many for so little.

... irreligious individual Japanese are just as likely to commit mass homicide as irreligious individual Americans?

Love to see a statistic that supports that conclusion.

THAT's what to do about it. Church I was in a few years back, the pastor authorized me, indeed INSTRUCTED me, as a CHL carrier, to pack a pistol at church. Just in case. That was explicitly prohibited by law, but that's what we did.

Stare decisis is fo' suckas -- Feddie

I carry myself, but I think we need to be careful not to overstate the impact of conceal carry laws. VERY few CHL holders will ever encounter a situation such as this.

We carry because it is our right, not to stop crime.

Despite what Neal Boortz might say, the odds that someone with a carry-conceal permit being around and actually having an opportunity to engage the gunman would be very low. If it happens great, but don't count on that as a defense, Personally I haven't gotten my carry-conceal permit, but that's my own decision and I respect and applaud anyone who has gotten theirs.

Get a carry conceal for your protection, not to become some sort of unregulated militia.

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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

a guy who wants to 'go out in style' like this twerp, they are wanting a high body count and they are NOT wanting any body shooting back.

A gun-free zone is a great big welcome sign. It says CRIMINALS PLEASE COME HERE! If there are no gun-free zones, you will not eliminate ALL these jerks but you will deter some of them.

And a 1 out of 25 chance that there's an armed CHL holder who can and will engage, well, that's a HECK of alot better than a 0 out of 25 chance.

Stare decisis is fo' suckas -- Feddie

I don't think he cared much if someone was shooting back - he had no intention of surviving the ordeal.

There is no deterrent against crazy short of removing them from society pre-emptively - which of course carries its own risks.

Suicide by Police.

We treat our mentally ill atrociously enough as it is, I'd hate to see what it'd be like if we had forced incarceration of people who were marginally functional but still holding on and trying to become healthy. Mental Health facilities are much better than they were 30 years ago or more, but they're still a very bleak place. In a lot of ways they're like a prison and in a few ways, worse than a prison, in particular, you can't leave until the people in charge say you can leave, No matter what state of mind you might be in. (and yes, I'm agreeing with you BTW, just adding in my own experiences and thoughts to the matter)

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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

What will be the verdict of history, once some objective distance is achieved, on a society that has cultivated an actual tradition of this depravity, and emasculated the tradition of resistance to it?

That we erred grievously when we began ceding personal responsibility to government authority. That as we conditioned ourselves to first want the government to keep us safe, and then to expect the government to keep us safe, we lost the ability to keep ourselves safe.

That a helpless, feckless, and child-like populace that desires to be cared for by the government is a terrible example for the next generation, and begets more of the same.

An intriguing hypothesis.

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We are all heroes, you and Boo and I. Hamsters and rangers everywhere, rejoice!

Unless one can offer an explanation for the Bath school "disaster".

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NARF

So mass murder began with the New Deal?

I would argue that the "Passivity and paralysis" Cella titled his post with and the "emasculat[ion of] the tradition of resistance to it" to which I referred to has its roots in the rise of the liberal welfare/nanny state. To some degree we might also attribute it to the introduction, acceptance, and now depressing reliance of parents on government education of children, although that is certainly connected with or part of the growth of socialist influence.

You're welcome to advance your own competing theory of "Passivity and paralysis" if you'd like.

A cursory search indicates that H.H. Holmes was perhaps the first mass murderer in America, circa 1890.

The first Mass Murderer title is generally given to Howard Unruh, who in 1949 killed 13 people one day in New Jersey.

But the real test of your hypothesis would be to look for similar behaivior in other liberal countries - I don't think you will find it. My guess is if the 'passivity and paralysis' is a real phenomena, it my share a cause with the desire for growing govnermental involvement but I doubt it is actually caused by it.

"But the real test of your hypothesis would be to look for similar behaivior in other liberal countries - I don't think you will find it."

The refreshing breeze of critical thought. One can almost feel it cooling the fevered brows of devoted culture warriors.

I really find it hard to believe that any commenter can, with a straight face, ascribe a rise in teenage murder/suicides to violent cinema, religious laxity, or "emasculation". Every country in the world watches our movies, many of them are far less religious than we, and if our young men were truly being "emasculated", that should make them far less likely to pick up a gun and live out the ultimate Lone Wolf warrior fantasy.

The contention that unarmed and unsuspecting people should have ganged up on these psychos rather than trying to save themselves is so ludicrous as to be unworthy of comment.

The contention that unarmed and unsuspecting people should have ganged up on these psychos rather than trying to save themselves is so ludicrous as to be unworthy of comment.

Not "people" in general: men. If a gunman enters a store, intent to slaughter anyone in sight, including women and children, I do firmly belief that men have an obligation to resist as best they can. I pity the man who does not believe this.

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Most gunmen who walk into stores aren't intent on slaughtering anyone but merely want to rob the joint. And while I agree with you that people (not just men!) have an obligation to save what lives they can, in many cases taking on a gunman who is obviously homicidal would be nothing more or less than wasting one's own life.

If, God forbid, I were ever in this situation, I hope I would do my utmost to pursue any reasonable chance of stopping the killer... however, I'd certainly keep in mind that the best chance, if I were unarmed myself, would be to get to cover and call 911.

I would almost never question the actions of anyone under the pressure of that horror. Certainly the likelihood is that most men would fail to subdue the attacker, and perhaps die in the attempt. But even this failure is likely to succeed in the sense that it will allow others to escape.

I don't have in mind a blind run at the lunatic, like some zombie. But the options are many, assuming the maniac is not right next to you. For instance, there will invariably be potential projectiles available to distract and harass a gunman.

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

So, women and children should be shrieking violets looking for their Daddies or Husbands or Boyfriends to protect them from other men? I suppose if no men are around they'll just hide, scream, and get slaughtered to appease your sensibilities?

The very idea that somehow women should be coddled and treated as though they're unable to defend themselves is rooted in the idea of patriarchal superiority. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I find that idea absolutely offensive and immoral. No one should be superior to another, be it by race, sex, creed or religion or any other qualifier. That's what equality is about.

Just wow.

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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

The phrase is shrinking violet.

And I'm sorry, the post says nothing about women and children lay like lambs to the slaughter, but rather that men, gentlemen at that, should, even if unarmed against an armed man, defend those who are less capable of defending themselves.

It says nothing of what women or children should do, but if you want your toddler and middleschoolers to protect you from a gunman, go ahead.

He corrected the Parent post by saying, 'not people, Men'

which was the entire point of my diatribe. He's saying that it's the mans job and women aren't supposed to fight, after all it's unladylike.

Where you pulled the nonsense about toddlers and middle-schoolers from, I have no idea... pointless insult that serves no purpose. (-1 flamebait)

As far as the phrasing goes. you are correct, it's shrinking violet. I was too impatient to google it. (though I still like the visual of shrieking violet :)
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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

uggh... are you one of those uber literal people?

Nothing can be metaphorical right?

Men, as in, responsible, stepping up, not shrinking in fear.

Some of us attribute quality of courage and sacrific to be manly. It doesn't at all indicate women are the opposite.

But again, you're looking to find sexism and whatever else you're looking to find.

Let us know if you find something else to be offended by. I am sure there will be.

They annoy me way too much.
:)

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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

I said literal. Not liberal... even though sometimes they aren't any different.

ok, I cede any and all arguments in this diary entry after misreading it that badly.

Wow to me.

I go hide now in embarrassment. :)

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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

isn't really relevant. In this world, the vast majority of killers are men, and the vast majority of protectors (police, etc.) are also men. Calling this an artifact of "the patriarchy" is more than a little silly, unless you think "the patriarchy" has exercised its mysterious influence across all times and cultures in recorded history.

I agree with you that it is perhaps unfair to claim that men are more obligated to protect their fellow humans. It's hard to deny, however, that on average they are better equipped to do so.

there was a magical time in the neolithic period when everyone worshiped the earth mother, women were the rulers and everyone ate vegetables.

Then along came the evil meat eating patriarchal tribes and screwed everything up.

Honest, lots of people with PHD's believe this stuff.

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"
Kyle

It manages to be sad, funny, and somehow (perversely) admirable at the same time.

I've been in hour-long arguments with Ph.D.'s who believe that human beings have no natural inclination to violence, and that all crime is the result of untreated mental illness.

Maybe I'm too idealistic, I don't think women should be superior to men, I don't care about the 'earth mother' or 'tree loving hippies' to heck with all that mumbo jumbo. But I'm also going to call out someone's mumbo jumbo if it's patriarchal and sexist.

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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

I was trying to say that we ALL have a obligation to defend ourselves and others. to imply that somehow that one group or another doesn't because they're somehow the 'weaker' sex strikes me as very offensive.

sorry if I wasn't clear on that point.

I'm not saying any of this to shift the blame, but if someone were trying to kill my girlfriend or wife, I'd hope she'd defend herself to the best of her ability. If I were there, I'd step in front and try to stop the person, If she wants to help, great, if she wants to run and get help, that works too.

but to act as though only men are supposed to step up and defend themselves is a sexist viewpoint.
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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

"But to act as though only men are supposed to step up and defend themselves is a sexist viewpoint."

This completely contradicts your prior statements that you want your girlfriend to defend herself and if you're there, you'll help out.

Men should defend themselves, and they should, as humans, be there to help people who may or may not be physically able to protect themselves.

I hope that's what you are trying to say. And I think you were just trying too hard to make a sexist comment where one wasn't.

Chivalry and respect aren't sexist.

And I am not afraid to concede I may be reading too much into his statement.

I just think any expectation based only on sex is a sexist viewpoint. Period.
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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

it's cool.

I think the point being is that we should all act as gentlemen and ladies... or if you want to be even less genderspecific, we should all act as good neighbors to one another (not to steal State Farm's slogan).

Well there are a couple of expectations, biologically specifically, that are incumbent upon sex and gender.

Men can't pop out babies, but they can take care of them.

Women can't "make" babies without men, but they can make a living for their families.

Nothing about either of these statements is wrong.

Language used to be a lot more beautiful before we started using gender neutral "they" and "theirs" and he/she and his/hers. But oh well. It is what it is.

you are arguing with a strawman, because I doubt anyone would claim that "only men are supposed to stand up and defend themselves".

Women are the weaker sex, if by "weaker" we mean "less physically and emotionally prepared to deal with sudden violence". That certainly does not equate with courage in general, of course.

Since men are the more violent gender, it's arguable that they have a greater responsibility when violence is called for. The problem is that this is all situational, and it's really, really silly to try to make up blanket "rules of engagement" for men -- or women -- who find themselves in potentially violent situations.

but to act as though only men are supposed to step up and defend themselves is a sexist viewpoint.

NOBODY said that. You're talking to phantoms.

If someone tries to kill your girlfriend, you're obligation is to try to stop him.

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Just as I hope Paul and myself would try and stop someone from doing it as well.

This can also be chalked up to taking care of one another.

1) Stand there and watch?
2) Get a rock and brain him while we're wrestling?
3) Run?
4) wait to see who wins, and lives or dies.

According to what you said, it's *my* obligation as a man to fight. but by your logic, she can take any of options 1 through 4 and be morally ok in your book.

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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

about her obligation. So again, you're sort of talking to yourself, with me as your foil.

And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

you were very specific in the OP that "Not "people" in general: men" were obligated, with the implication that women were not obligated. am I wrong?

"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

I am, I confess, not perfectly sure as to the woman's obligation.

But I damn sure know the man's.

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Thank you for an honest answer. And my apologies to you for being a bit over the top with my attack. I think I used you as a bit of a whipping boy. whatever things that have happened with my friends, I'd offer as explanation, but it doesn't change the fact that I over reacted to your post.

I am sorry about that.

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"The bass, the rock, the mic, the treble, I like my coffee black, just like my Metal." - MSI

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

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The Red Sox Republican: Burkeanism, Baseball, and Sundries.

I'm afraid you are using my words to advance a theory I do not subscribe to. The root of our problem is in things far older than the "liberal welfare/nanny state," though the latter is an important contributory factor.

In a sense it is in a thing as old as the Fall, but what I would point to is the failure of modern man to properly estimate the capacity of mankind for sin and depravity; an overestimate of human goodness, punctuated by a concomitant disrespect for the painstaking work our forefathers did to constrain human evil.

So (for instance) we emancipate divorce law (no-fault divorce) and wonder why family life goes flying apart; or we (again for instance) liberate pornography and stand in bewilderment at the malicious, wicked perverts in our midst. Each time we accomplish our emancipations, we add to the depredation insult. Only tyrants would want tighter divorces laws! Only prudes or statists desire censorship!

We can never really concede that maybe our forefathers knew us better than we know ourselves.

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

I agree with you with regard to modern assessments of human nature. One of liberalism's great faults is its dogmatic insistence on equating "natural" with "good" or "desirable". Human beings are naturally killers and rapists -- and naturally saviors and devoted husbands too, of course.

I don't accept your ontology of human nature, and I don't think the problem lies so much in a failure of control as in a failure of acknowledgement, but I like the premise of your post and I do what I can to promote a realistic understanding of human nature in the liberal and academic communities.

The difference between control and acknowledgment is an intriguing one. Perhaps the topic for a diary?

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

Again, I was addressing the "Passivity and paralysis" theme which I took as the main thrust of your post, as opposed to why some people decide to kill randomly and indiscriminately which to me is a separate issue (but which you did also talk about). America as a nation of self-reliant individuals operating on the basis that they themselves were overwhelmingly responsible for their own security and general well-being started to die as socialist policies, social engineers, and central planners took root in our government.

As far as the aspect people seem more interested in discussing - the genesis of mass murderers - I'm more than willing to regard some data or evidence that supports your position that, for example, a lack of tighter divorce laws or censorship is contributory to someone taking up a firearm and engaging in random murder. I don't see any fundamental difference between them and serial killers who perpetrate mass casualties albeit slower and with more deliberation. And both of those groups display a lack of regard for their fellow citizen and for justice no different that all of the 'common' murderers that have existed for millennia - and without immersion in the 'wicked' American culture of the latter 20th century.

If you want to go back even farther, I assert that Cain had access to neither pornography nor was he a product of or participant in divorce, and the guy even had the clear knowledge of God's power and wrath from first-hand witnesses, for all the good that did him. We could deplore the terrible culture and bad influences that Cain grew up with that 'caused' him to commit murder or the lack of fear that 'allowed' him to kill... or we can more rationally accept that some people will make their own decision to act with injustice, and ponder how it would have played out differently were Abel armed at the time.

As far as the 'for instances' you cite, I remain skeptical that American citizens cannot be trusted by their government with very broad degrees of liberty (and be expected to take responsibility for themselves, as well). This skepticism isn't unfounded:

... nearly every social indicator is trending in a direction most of us would consider positive. Here are just a few examples, culled from government agencies and advocacy groups:

Teen pregnancy is at its lowest point since government researchers have been keeping statistics. Juvenile crime has been falling for 20 years (though there was, admittedly, a slight uptick last year). Crimes against children are down. The number of reported rapes has dropped dramatically over the last two decades, even as social stigma against rape victims has subsided. Despite a negligible increase last year, overall crime in the United States has also been in decline for 15 years. There’s more: Divorce is down. Teens are waiting longer to have sex. High school dropout rates are down. Unemployment remains low. And over the past decade, the overall abortion rate has dropped significantly.

<...>

What’s most intriguing is that all of these trends have been taking place since at least the mid-1990s—a period during which technology has given us more freedom to indulge in sin and vice than ever before, and an era in which Americans have become markedly less judgmental. The last 15 years have seen more tolerance for gay lifestyles, with shows like Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy finding mainstream audiences. The 1990s also saw the rise of the Internet, which has given Americans private, unfettered access to gambling and pornography; enabled the anonymous purchase of alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs; and given even the oddest and most bizarre of subcultures the opportunity to find others just like them, and to create communities. The 1990s also saw the rise of gangsta’ rap, violent video games, Howard Stern, and South Park. [cite]

If you're right, the liberties enjoyed by American citizens over the past 20 years should have had us completing our long slow slouch toward Gomorrah, with blood flowing in the streets, yes? But if anything, our society has gotten better for all the new choices and freedoms available, not worse.

More on the same topic: link, link.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it. [Jefferson]

Our forefathers certainly knew some things we seem to have trouble remembering.

I would argue that the "Passivity and paralysis" Cella titled his post with and the "emasculat[ion of] the tradition of resistance to it" to which I referred to has its roots in the rise of the liberal welfare/nanny state.

It sounds like I'm tangenting, but I promise I'm not: Do you know what effect the depression during his second Administration had on Grover Cleveland's presidency, popularity, and ultimately, ability to accomplish anything?

To some degree we might also attribute it to the introduction, acceptance, and now depressing reliance of parents on government education of children, although that is certainly connected with or part of the growth of socialist influence.

At what point do you think the invertebrate flipped?

My point was to suggest that the a certain attitude toward the state is not the root of the problem -- or at least, not the only root of the problem. I confess to being at a loss as to what the ultimate problem is, other than a hunch that we've forgotten a great deal about human nature, and forgot how to raise our kids as a result.

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We are all heroes, you and Boo and I. Hamsters and rangers everywhere, rejoice!

Do you know what effect the depression during his second Administration had on Grover Cleveland's presidency, popularity, and ultimately, ability to accomplish anything?

No, and I'm not at all opposed to you elaborating!

At what point do you think the invertebrate flipped?

The point when parents began seeing government as the cure for their children's education? I might guess it was when they were duped into believing public education equals free education...

My point was to suggest that the a certain attitude toward the state is not the root of the problem -- or at least, not the only root of the problem.

Well, that seems to be similar to the response from Paul and lapert: that it is a factor but isn't the only one nor perhaps the 'root' cause. That seems like a reasonable position, but I perceive a rise in "passivity and paralysis" as described by Paul that tracks with the sharp growth of government starting in the mid 1900's, and chalking it up to human nature doesn't explain it for me.

Heckuva nice fella, bright, witty, and obviously had a way with the ladies. When the depression hit, he -- a classical when it came to economics -- was utterly unprepared, not for the depression, as so many said, but by the cries of so much of the voting population for the government to do something. This wasn't how his mind, or indeed, the minds of most of the political elite at the time functioned: Government was there to provide a framework in which a market could survive, not to intervene and take over the market when it failed.

This broke his effectiveness, such as it was after the sugar fiasco, in Congress, and at least as importantly, broke his, and his faction's, control over the Party.

In other words, in the 1890s, men were crying out to government to take care of them, and yet they were not passive in the face of vicious murderers.

See where I'm going with this?

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We are all heroes, you and Boo and I. Hamsters and rangers everywhere, rejoice!

I suspect citizens will cry out for the government to act when the nation is under attack by a foreign army, too, but that doesn't suggest anything to me about their individual resolve, or lack thereof.

If you're trying to compare a reactionary call for "action" in a moment of great (perceived or genuine) crisis, to the willful and continued acceptance (some might even say, invitation) of the 'warm embrace' of the welfare state even in this time of extraordinairy prosperity and opportunity after World War II through the present day, then I see where you're trying to go with it, I'm not yet seeing you get there...

I'd like to think our aim is electing people who can tell the difference between a genuine crisis that falls within the proper role of government, and a perceived crisis for which quick fixes do more damage over the long term. If your point is that this is a very uphill battle, it's hard to disagree with you given the prevalent attitude re: the current lending "crisis": government, please come save us from our mistakes!

Which leads me to observe how your Grover example seems most relevant to the manner in which overreaction - often fueled by the political blame game as seems to be the case in that situation (it's Grover's fault! he did it! just elect us instead and we'll fix it up right quick!) - has contributed to the growth of government and the heaping of one intrusion onto the next. I admit ignorance re: the Panic of 1893; the giant Wiki tells me that "the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, perhaps along with the protectionist McKinley Tariff of 1890, have been partially blamed for the panic", but "the U.S. economy finally began to recover in 1896. After the election of Republican McKinley, confidence was restored and the economy began 10 years of rapid growth ..."

Wouldn't be the first time.

I suspect citizens will cry out for the government to act when the nation is under attack by a foreign army, too, but that doesn't suggest anything to me about their individual resolve, or lack thereof.

If you're trying to compare a reactionary call for "action" in a moment of great (perceived or genuine) crisis, to the willful and continued acceptance (some might even say, invitation) of the 'warm embrace' of the welfare state even in this time of extraordinairy prosperity and opportunity after World War II through the present day, then I see where you're trying to go with it, I'm not yet seeing you get there...

The "Panic" -- it was called the "Depression" until the 1930s -- at issue was not the first depression the nation had ever experienced, nor even the first post-Civil War severe economic downturn. What makes this depression so unusual is that for the first time in American history, there was a clear, popular call for the government to bail out individuals, to take care of the problem for them. Remarkable in a lot of ways, and incidentally one of the reasons why I favor immigration, but only tightly controlled immigration -- our mass importing of people used to social safety nets led to the disaster in which we find ourselves today, and you can really see their impact with the response to the "Panic."

This was a true sea-change in American politics; and from there forward, you can see a citizenry increasingly certain that one of government's jobs is to protect its citizens from everything that could go wrong.

My question is simple: If you assume -- and for the sake of argument, please do assume, even if you disagree with the assumption -- that Americans were already baring their throats to their government forty years before public education truly caught on, why weren't they passive in the face of murderers and crime?

-----------
We are all heroes, you and Boo and I. Hamsters and rangers everywhere, rejoice!

Not Annette Funicello

And it proudly glorifies and promotes self-destruction by people who have absolutely no reason to destroy themselves, except for the decadence of it all. In our culture, people with serious mental health and substance abuse problems are promoted by the Grammys. Those people are now mainstream. Except they're also celebrities. And when you cannot be a celebrity in a death culture, and you're also disturbed, alienated, depressed and jilted, you want to be one, and you find ways to make it happen. You consider life to be hopeless and so you collapse things to a single point and you go out with a bang.

Winehouse also had a tumultuous 2007, for different reasons. The British singer was already known for her pot-smoking, hard-drinking ways when she released her stunning soul album "Back to Black" earlier this year. The album's top hit, "Rehab," a defiant anti-treatment anthem, earned her nods for record and single of the year.

Her hard-living past seemed behind her - until reports of even harder partying became more frequent and she canceled tour dates because of "health concerns." Just this week, Winehouse was photographed outside her London home walking barefoot, clad in only a red bra and jeans, looking distressed.

Comedian George Lopez joked about her reputation when he announced one of her nominations at the announcement ceremony: "Could somebody wake her up this afternoon around six (o'clock) and tell her?"

Still, the Recording Academy looked past all her drama to nominate her in key categories, including best new artist. In a statement, Winehouse said: "I'm grateful to have my music recognized with these nominations - this is a true validation from people I respect and admire."

Or Sid Vicious?

Once again, we need a reality check. Popular attention to self-destructive, antisocial behavior is nothing new, and invoking it as an explanation for the Omaha shootings is not a serious analysis. Bad boys (and bad girls) have a timeless appeal, not as "role models" but for the same reason traffic slows down at the site of a bad accident.

Just kidding.

In all seriousness, while I certainly don't think that the fact of bad-boy celebrities causes cultural decay by itself, I think there's a pretty good argument that when those bad boys' behavior is lionized, when a lot of the cultural mores and implicit standards disappear, it can assuredly contribute to the problem.

Byron was overrated, by the way. So was Vicious.

-----------
We are all heroes, you and Boo and I. Hamsters and rangers everywhere, rejoice!

I'm genuinely curious. I mean, given that celebrities in the Byronic mold have always been with us, why are they suddenly a good explanation -- even a contributing explanation -- for events like the Omaha shootings?

I already mentioned the fact that there is no such thing as "cultural decay". Read art criticism over the last three hundred years. All commentators, especially conservatives and devotees of "old media", see cultural decay all the time. It's a cognitive illusion.

I already mentioned the fact that there is no such thing as "cultural decay". Read art criticism over the last three hundred years. All commentators, especially conservatives and devotees of "old media", see cultural decay all the time. It's a cognitive illusion.

You see "cognitive illusion," I see a recurring observation through history with varying degrees of accuracy. (Your observation, aside from the strange note about "old media," actually extends back thousands of years.) Just because you're paranoid, in other words, does not mean that people are not out to get you.

I'm not talking about whether "celebrities in the Byronic mold have always been with us" (a statement with which I'd take issue as written, but I'm avoiding a threadjack and conceding ground for the sake of argument); the issue to me is, Have the societal barriers that stood between admiration and emulation broken down?

Let me offer this by analogy: Almost every post-pubescent male, even married ones, has a brief moment where he sees some young buck fooling around with a fairly significant number of attractive women, and thinks, Man, I wish... Social mores, since the fall of Rome, have kept at least the peasants either (1) stopping at the sigh, or (2) having the good grace not to engage in scandal by keeping their indiscretions private. (Whether you judge this a good or bad thing is not actually the point.) Those mores were in place to add a certain kind of social cohesion.

What happens when those mores break down? No one doubts there have been and will always be men tomcatting around; I'm more interested in what happens at the core than at the margins. If the tomcatting is tutted and frowned on, the system continues with mild pressure releases over time. If the tomcatting is treated as perfectly normal, or at least acceptable, the system changes over time.

Similarly, the question isn't whether Byron has always been with us, but rather how society as a whole reacts to Byron, and more importantly, what it teaches the young and old about Byron.

And that, I think, has changed.

-----------
We are all heroes, you and Boo and I. Hamsters and rangers everywhere, rejoice!

is not being treated as "perfectly normal"! A quick perusal of any tabloid should disabuse you of any notion that society's mores have undergone some significant change in this respect. I seem to recall a President being very nearly impeached for just that behavior...

As far as your first paragraph goes, I can only say that if you concede the fact that the "cultural decay" observation is perpetual, how do you intend to establish its validity at any given time? Seems like we're in stopped-clock territory here.

I mentioned to another commentator that there is an excellent body of scholarly research on the decline of civilizations, and no modern anthropologist I'm aware of would ascribe it to changing standards in popular entertainment.

By that somewhat obscure remark I was referring to the tendency of established critics to deplore new art forms. The novel, for instance, was at one time widely condemned as immoral by its very nature. So were movies, TV, and probably cave paintings.

It isn't a "cognitive illusion". That's a very, very glib response to the fact that our culture is actually decadent. The Decadence in Rome wasn't illusory -- it was real. It's also real in our culture. Britney Spears getting her crotch shot with no panties in the papers isn't an illusion, either: and she's a role model for a lot of young girls.

Movies like "No Country for Old Men" which I wrote a review of here a little while ago aren't an illusion either -- it's the most frightening and nihilistic movie I've ever seen, and I've watched a lot of them. The only comparison I can make is "Eyes Wide Shut."

The real cognitive illusion, as you put it, is that people will accept the culture around them as though there's nothing different about it from other times. It's like putting a frog in a pot of water: if you increase the temperature slowly enough, the frog doesn't notice that it is boiling to death, right up until the moment it dies.

Our culture continuously ratchets ever further into the obscene and degrading, and people who honestly compare movies, television and music now don't have a leg to stand on.

Cultural decay is real or else civilizations wouldn't fail. And yet history is replete with examples. Were they imaginary?

If you're really interested in why civilizations succeed or fail, I have a book recommendation for you: Jared Diamond's Collapse. Diamond is perhaps the greatest anthropologist of his generation and the book is nothing short of genius.

That's if you're interested in real science backed by a lifetime's worth of research, rather than anecdotal analysis of entertainers' private lives.

Oh, and by the way, the frog-in-a-pot-of-water thing is a myth.

I found his arguments not nearly as good as the ones in Guns Germs and Steel, and those were not 100% convincing.

A good review of Collapse can be found in National Review.

Diamond is a smart guy, but remember that all his arguments are coming from a rather hard left worldview.

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"
Kyle

Anything to support that contention? I've never heard of Diamond being politically activist at all.

Eyes Wide Shut was, like every movie Stanley Kubrick ever made, fantastic. It wasn't some kind of nihilistic "message movie". It was art. Art is supposed to be challenging and difficult to absorb.

Ever seen Paths of Glory? Same director, and I think you'd agree that anyone who could make that film can't be all bad.

I don't think celebrities are really an adaquate explanation for cultural decay or even a contributing factor. Perhaps, instead, we could consider them as a symptom of generalized cultural decay itself. I think it is possible to prove that Byron was the first "bad boy celebrity" and the Romantic period was the beginning of real celebrity interest and "fandom" of individuals of artistic merit.

How do I think this ties in with murder on a massive and public scale?

Not really sure that it does at all, although you can point to celebrity fandom as a cultural phenomena much larger than the smaller trend that is mass murder. I don't think the hypothetical data is there to possibly (and realistically) equate the two. Or especially to equate promotion of violence in the media as a reason either.

On the other hand, while there's no direct correlation, you could point to a lot of things as exemplifying a level of cultural decay. Someone also posted data on the overall improvement of statistics relating to acts of violence (murder, rape, etc.) in the US over the past 10 years or so. While I think this is excellent news, cultural decay isn't necessarily exemplified in acts of violence. Cultural decay is a moral battlefield, not necessarily a physical one; and you can easily argue that cultural decay-- or perhaps cultural change, is very real, and has always been taking place. What one may call "change of culture" could (to another of differing ethics and morals) seem to be a "decay of culture."

________________________________

"Sorrow is knowledge, they who know the most mourn the deepest o'er the fatal truth."

some would say that Democracy and freedom sow the seeds of thier own discussion within themselves. That the urge to gain freedom from the culture of "The Scarlet Letter" ends up going too far in the other direction and what begins as the beat poets and Hugh Hefner ends in wall to wall internet porn and hatred of all normalcy.

I do not know the answer except to say that cultures either renew themselves from time to time or go the eay of decadence and dissolution which seems to be happening in western europe right now.

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"
Kyle

"Nothing works like freedom, Nothing succeeds like liberty"
Kyle

Bad boys and bad girls will always have "appeal" but this culture also doesn't do much to showcase the "good boys" and "good girls" except as subjects of ridicule and naivete.

I've never been a "South Park Conservative" because of that. The one thing liberals can't stand -- more than anything else -- is that good people actually do exist. It's a way of spreading the guilt around. It's the root of the "hypocrisy" movement, and it's done a tremendous amount of damage.

For most people today, thinking about the 1950s is something they do in a very backhanded way, thanks to people like (among many, many, others) John Kenneth Galbraith. The 1960's were a de facto revolution against "squareness" but in fact the reason the '60s radicals succeeded was because they were working from a position of real strength. The music was better, the films were better, the debates were better and the culture was more vibrant because regardless of what anyone might have wanted, it had to compete against something really great.

I'm a big fan of the 1950's, but not in a postmodern, hip, retro-cynical way, like (for example) Corey Doctorow are. He keeps pieces of '50s kitsch in his house because he wants to *ridicule* that time. The truth is that the 1950's produced people like my father, who are some of the best people this country has ever seen. The legacy of the '60s is much, much worse: tens of millions of children have been aborted and tens of millions of others have been placed into dependence at the government's teat.

And after the bottom fell out in the 1990's, music has just never recovered. There isn't a single song I can think of in the past ten years worth listening to on the Billboard charts. What are these people going to listen to when they're 50? Gwen Stefani? Gwar? Jay-Z? Give me a break.

Sid Vicious was a piece of crap who happened to find a guy running a thrift store who thought he might be something and the entire success of the Sex Pistols is a sad story of how much of a loser Sid Vicious really was. The guy couldn't even play guitar.

"The one thing liberals can't stand is that good people do exist."

I hope you realize that that comment, by itself, should be enough to make you reevaluate some of your assumptions. Do you really, seriously believe that all liberals are sneering hypocrites who are engaged in a constant celebration of depravity in order to validate our miserable self-image?

Yeah... I guess you probably do. And, sadly, many liberals believe that conservatives are all bluenoses, consumed with the desire to make sure no one, anywhere, is having any fun, to paraphrase H.L. Mencken.

The inability of each side to recognize sincerity in the other's motivations is the real problem.

Do you really, seriously believe that all liberals are sneering hypocrites who are engaged in a constant celebration of depravity in order to validate our miserable self-image?

Yes, I do. I think they're pathetic people. And I have known enough of them in high places to know.

It happens to be the truth. I've sat across the table from a drunken female dean of a law school and listened to her talk about how all guns in this country should be confiscated, before she showed up at the graduation ceremony drunk and urinated on herself and then, after having gone to Betty Ford, kept drinking and managed to blow the entire school's grading curve -- AFTER converting to Orthodox Judiasim and getting a seat on the board of directors of Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago.

And I won't even talk about the rest of the supposedly intelligent liberals I knew there -- they're just a bunch of jokers, especially [redacted] one, who used to have a portrait of Che Guevara hanging on the wall in his office. At a nominally Catholic law school.

Jon Stewart is such a disrespectful smartass that he's *lucky* he's got a job on Comedy Central, because if he ever had to do anything himself except tell self-referential and cynical jokes someone would have kicked him to the curb a long time ago. Franken is only a little better, because he went to Harvard instead of William & Mary. He's a smart-mouthed punk, and he can't even write his own jokes.

I had a Republican Hill staffer call me a Christ Killer, a partner a prominent law firm who had worked in Republican adminsitrations (including this one) tell my friend to go back to Jew York, a young Mdiwestern Republican new to the city asked me if I had my horns removed (that one really shocked me) and a Republican lobbyist tell me he can't wait for the second coming so he could be rid of Jews. Do I think all conservatives are Anit-Semitic? Of course not, its patently stupid.

I can't speak for your personal experience but I know plenty of well intentioned, if naieve and misdirected, liberals and plenty of Republicans who want to rid the country of minorities - and the only group of people I'm willing to paint all as pathetic is the group who think there is noone of value on teh otehr side of the aisle.

Even while I was in Chicago at a very liberal law school there were plenty of people who loved Jewish holidays for exactly that reason...

And I can assure you they were all liberals...

I think the main reason people get tired of the Jews from time to time is that they're exceptionally smart, very determined people. They're tough competition. :)

I wish you had been recording them, because it has no real place in our discourse. Heck, I wish I'd recorded some of the things I'd heard as a fly on the wall, but I won't quote them here. I can tell you that Egyptians who wrote the charter of the International Criminal Court aren't exactly jew-friendly in their candid moments.

Some of these people have future political ambitions, and the blackmail value alone would be worth it.

My friend, I think that one of the biggest problems with this country is that people think *everything* is a joke. CNN/YouTube certainly think the Presidential debates are a joke. When you kill babies by the millions, and Michael Kinsley calls human embryos "clumps of cells" on the front page of the Washington Post's website, hey -- everything is pretty much a joke at that point, isn't it?

I don't think there's any sincerity in the motivations of the Left except to expand the influence of Government. They're very sincere about that, they're deadly serious.

If liberals were sincere I'd give them the benefit of the doubt, but nothing I've seen in the past ten years tells me that they are. There are a few things I could see myself supporting from a "sincere liberal:"

1) A genuine reduction in the cost of higher education, but one that took into account that it is the *colleges and universities themselves* who have artificially inflated the costs of such an education.

2) A genuine reduction in the cost of health care, but one that took into account that medical malpractice lawsuits are one reason doctors need to carry so much insurance and have to elevate their fees.

3) A genuine exploration of alternative energy sources, but one that recognized that we need a safe waste depository for our existing nuclear waste, and that the only three real alternatives for the future are nuclear fission, thermonuclear fusion, and exoatmospheric solar power.

4) A community-service mentality that actually served communities instead of doing things like mandating government service for young people.

5) A climbdown in their reflexive anti-corporate rhetoric. Most corporations are more responsible than most Democrats are.

6) A steadfast unwillingness to manipulate public opinion for political gain through Hollywood.

And a few others...

But very few of them are sincere. There are only a handful left.

Squares are the people who made this country great -- not the postmodern philosophers, not the hipsters in Dutch Architect glasses, not the pornographers, not the radical feminists, and not the free-love hippies.

I'd settle at this point for a little bit of respect on that score.

Take a good look at Amy Winehouse, the Grammy winner, sometime -- if you can stand it.

She's a self-consciously self destructive, tattooed drunk who is taking the talent God gave her and destroying herself with it.

What a waste.

in an earlier age, the age that produced the notions you speak of, Paul. We've essentially repealed natural selection in the last century or so. The brave man and true has been replaced by the pencil necked geek. Generally, women have bigger b**ls than men since culture hasn't yet repealed their natural drive to protect their babies and their nests. Of course, this phenomenon makes modern women crazy since they've been bred to seek the broad-shouldered lad who would protect and provide, but in today's world, he can't make any money. So, she marries the investment banker and has flings with the pool boy so she can get her toes curled.

Go to the old parts of the Country and poke around old cemeteries. See what the odds were of getting your three score and ten. You either died young or lived practically forever.

Paul, I don't know what the new paradigm is. The man who would lay his cloak in the puddle before the Queen is useless. Hell, they even killed him back then. I've opened my share of doors only to have someone hiss, "I can open a f**king door myself."

I guess I've lived a pretty macho life, but it wasn't the macho stuff that got me fast cars, old whiskey, and young women - Pipeline days excepted; we made enough money to have any and all of those. I can do most of those things that Hank Jr. talks about in "A Country Boy Can Survive," but none of it ever made me any money, and score is kept by money these days not by notches on a gun or pelts on a wall - except in a very figurative sense.

In Vino Veritas

Sweet. Can we move on to gravity next?

The selection pressures on human beings are different now than in the earlier age you speak of (though I'd dispute the extent of the difference -- we've always been social animals, and much more likely to benefit from a silver tongue and a quick mind than the ability to swing a mean club).

And the investment banker, in your scenario, is much more likely to be the one having flings. Just sayin'.

since clearly you are an arrogant ass and I don't usually engage in repartee with such. But ...

On one thing we do agree, the selection pressures today are different. Until relatively recently, say the last century, one needed a silver tongue, a quick wit, AND the ability to "swing a mean club" in order to be a leader. As society became more complex and technological, the "club" took on forms other than weaponry, but the male leadership personality required that the leader demonstrate personal courage and when necessary agression whether that demonstration took place in the boardroom, the courtroom, the field of honor, or in military combat.

Over the last century, and especially the last half century, the principled, courageous, agressive male has been relentlessly suppressed in Western elite culture. The Western male has become so feminized that I agree with Rush's characterization of large segments of "manhood" as the new castrati. Wheedling, guile, and deceit are the only skills now admired as demonstrated when as a recent President openly lied to us, the only commentary was on his skill and charm in doing so, and the only condemnation was when he didn't lie skillfully enough.

Children, and especially male children, can no longer be disciplined, since the modern mommy has become so indoctrinated to leftist/feminist cant that she will not tolerate a strong male influence on her babies and will not tolerate any discipline of those babies. Consequently, we now have two generations of narcissitic little sociopaths who glorify showing their crotch to the World or create their self-actualized identity by randomly killing a few dozen defenseless people. Nietzche would be proud of these super men and women. And since there is no longer any objective right or wrong, only that right or wrong that we create, who are we to say that it is wrong? Where does one stand to condemn the random shooter when he is doing what is "right for him?"

As to those defenseless people, those who haven't become sociopaths have become cowering, groveling, "nice people." This is the world of "A Clockwork Orange," since you admire Kubrick so much. We have the creative supermen, and women, and we have the groveling subhumans who cannot reach the enlightenment necessary to become a superman who doesn't care what the subhumans think or feel. Had there been someone armed in that Mall who had the skill and courage to simply pop that little punk as soon as he showed the rifle, that person would be facing charges, civil liability, and the condemnation of all the elites for such an unwarranted act of vigilante justice. After all, he was only a troubled child.

And finally, the best argument is the fact that I'm reduced to relatively civilly arguing with you when in a sane world, if some punk lipped back at me the way you do, I'd be able to just pop him in his sneering mouth. People are so much nicer when they know they can get hurt if they're not. "Sweet," isn't it?

BTW, if one of my boys had said "Sweet" in that sarcastic tone to me, he'd have been picking himself up off the floor; lesbian social workers be damned.

In Vino Veritas


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