FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Random Murder in the Age of Aquarius

Photograph Source: Rmvisuals – CC BY-SA 4.0

“’Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.”

—David Hume, 1711-1776 (A Treatise on Human Nature)

Most of us would agree that, on one level, random mass shootings don’t make any sense whatever, no matter which approach—clinical or sociological—we take to explain them. But on another level—the level on which rage, despair, hopelessness, and alienation reside—we might agree that mindless, random murder makes as much sense as anything else.

Existential philosophy of the early and mid-20th century maintained that the central problem facing Western Civilization was “abstraction.” Modern man had come to view the world as an abstract concept. Rather than the gritty, space-time, here-and-now entity we inhabit, they saw it as a “data point.” And by abstracting the world, we became desensitized to it. In a word, we allowed ourselves to become numb.

Indeed, Western Civilization has become so alienated from its existence, so removed from it, so detached, that existence itself is no longer capable of providing meaning. And, according to the theory, when people have become so detached that they lose their sense of “connectedness” with the world, they gradually become sociopathic.

This pathology manifests itself as self-destructiveness or violence. And let’s be clear. This theory is confined solely to advanced societies. People in poor, under-developed countries don’t go around committing random murders. They may kill other people—even butcher them—but the murders they commit tend to “make sense.”

I knew a fellow (“Jake”) who served thirty-three months in a medium security California penitentiary after being convicted of possession of PCP with intent to sell. The large amount of PCP (a Listerine bottle full of it), coupled with having previously been arrested for possession of marijuana and pills, led to the thirty-three months, a sentence his family lawyer considered excessive.

Perhaps to shock or impress us, Jake told a group of us that while he was incarcerated he had a cellmate (a “cellie”) who was serving time for murder. When we asked, predictably, if having a cellmate who was a murderer didn’t spook him, he replied that he wasn’t frightened at all. That was because he knew the “whole story.”

Jake’s cellie, a man in his early twenties, had a girlfriend whom he’d dated since high school. Even though he was still very much in love with her, and hoped that they’d eventually get married, she had apparently lost interest, because without warning, she abruptly announced that she was breaking up with him.

Making it worse, after she dumped him, she began dating another man—a guy the cellie vaguely knew (mainly by reputation), but whom he despised.

The cellie told Jake that he couldn’t get out his head the image of his girlfriend and this other guy engaging in sexual intercourse. It was eating away at him. Moreover, he said that one image in particular drove him absolutely berserk. He pictured her performing oral sex on this guy.

Inevitably, he attacked the man in a Denny’s parking lot, and beat him to death with a tire iron. Because Jake knew the circumstances that led to the murder, he said he had no reason to fear violence from him. The way he saw it, murder was a one-time deal for the cellie, and brutal or not, it was a crime that you could understand without having to try too hard.

Which brings us to Gore Vidal. Maybe Vidal was just trying to be his usual outrageous self, but he came at the question of American pathology from a slightly different angle. He identified the Declaration of Independence as the source of the problem. Vidal noted that we are the only country in history whose government charter makes reference to the “pursuit of happiness.”

No other country in the world has ever explicitly reminded its citizens of the fact that they are entitled to be happy. Not only entitled, but maybe even obligated. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And according to Vidal, because so many Americans are deeply unhappy, they feel that they have failed. Which results in more unhappiness. Which causes them to engage in pathological behavior. It’s only a theory.

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 22, 2019
George Ochenski
Breaking the Web of Life
Kenneth Surin
Boris Johnson’s Brexit Helter Skelter
Enrique C. Ochoa – Gilda L. Ochoa
It’s About Time for Ethnic Studies in Our K-12 Schools
Steve Early
A GI Rebellion: When Soldiers Said No to War
Clark T. Scott
Sanders And Bezos’s Shared, Debilitating, Basic Premise
Dan Corjescu
The Metaphysics of Revolution
Mark Weisbrot
Who is to Blame for Argentina’s Economic Crisis?
Howard Lisnoff
To Protect and Serve
Cesar Chelala
A Palestinian/Israeli Experiment for Peace in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
No Deal Chaos: the Brexit Cliff Face and Operation Yellowhammer
Josue De Luna Navarro
For True Climate Justice, Abolish ICE and CBP
Dean Baker
The NYT’s Upside Down Economics on Germany and the Euro Zone
August 21, 2019
Craig Collins
Endangered Species Act: A Failure Worth Fighting For?
Colin Todhunter
Offering Choice But Delivering Tyranny: the Corporate Capture of Agriculture
Michael Welton
That Couldn’t Be True: Restorying and Reconciliation
John Feffer
‘Slowbalization’: Is the Slowing Global Economy a Boon or Bane?
Johnny Hazard
In Protest Against Police Raping Spree, Women Burn Their Station in Mexico City.
Tom Engelhardt
2084: Orwell Revisited in the Age of Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Condescension and Climate Change: Australia and the Failure of the Pacific Islands Forum
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
The Dead Letter Office of Capitalist Imperium: a Poverty of Mundus Imaginalis 
George Wuerthner
The Forest Service Puts Ranchers Ahead of Grizzlies (and the Public Interest)
Stephen Martin
Geopolitics of Arse and Elbow, with Apologies to Schopenhauer.
Gary Lindorff
The Smiling Turtle
August 20, 2019
James Bovard
America’s Forgotten Bullshit Bombing of Serbia
Peter Bolton
Biden’s Complicity in Obama’s Toxic Legacy
James Phillips
Calm and Conflict: a Dispatch From Nicaragua
Karl Grossman
Einstein’s Atomic Regrets
Colter Louwerse
Kushner’s Threat to Palestine: An Interview with Norman Finkelstein
Nyla Ali Khan
Jammu and Kashmir: the Legitimacy of Article 370
Dean Baker
The Mythology of the Stock Market
Daniel Warner
Is Hong Kong Important? For Whom?
Frederick B. Mills
Monroeism is the Other Side of Jim Crow, the Side Facing South
Binoy Kampmark
God, Guns and Video Games
John Kendall Hawkins
Toni Morrison: Beloved or Belovéd?
Martin Billheimer
A Clerk’s Guide to the Unspectacular, 1914
Elliot Sperber
On the 10-Year Treasury Bonds 
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail