It’s been a terrible week for casual violence. There was a shooting at a university and then a plane crashed into an IRS office. Nooze crews then searched through the wreckage of the lives to try to find out just what went wrong.
They probably won’t come up with anything, at least not before the next similar episode occurs. There won’t be much of a follow-up because another event will overtake the scene of carnage. These two episodes are just more disconnected events in a string of people who use whatever implements are at hand to lash out. It is that disconnect that they, and all acts of violence, have in common.
It goes without saying that ordinary healthy people don’t do things like this. That makes the frequency of these events even more alarming because we clearly live in a time when a large number of people have the power to destroy in their hands but are not connected enough to believe that their power can or should be used more wisely.
Many times, this disconnect starts with what I call the “Sensible Assumption,” which is the belief that things are supposed to make logical sense. What appears to be a senseless killing becomes an option when a person believes that senselessness defines their lives. The most recent two episodes started with a denial of tenure and a large ongoing struggle with the IRS – both of which involve some kind of belief in the power of money and what the individual thought they deserved.
If someone honestly believes that money is a measure of something real, as most “sensible” people do, the lack of it can make senselessness the order of the world.
The real problem, however, is always a disconnection of some kind. People who are well connected to their world rarely think about destroying it. Killing on a grand scale requires a machine for killing, a gun or a plane, that helps to isolate the person from the acts they are doing themselves. The IRS itself was probably seen as a machine, not unlike the way the 9/11 terrorists saw American culture as an inhuman force that destroyed everything they saw as decent.
How many people are disconnected from the world we live in, lacking the control they need to genuinely take responsibility for themselves and the people around them? More all the time, unfortunately. We can expect this to continue.
This is what happens in a world that stresses individualism while at the same time requiring people to fit into some kind of industrial design that encourages specialization. We’re all supposed to take care of our own lives, yet we wind up relying a lot on the opinions and actions of other people to make it all work. When someone becomes disconnected, something we might call “senseless” is a real possibility.
Senselessness often defines how ordinary things go down. Attempting to describe violence as somehow distinct because it is “senseless” misses the point altogether. These events are common enough that they are hardly unique. The real problem is how people have become disconnected enough that violence can be framed in a way that it seems an acceptable alternative. That occurs not just on campuses and IRS offices, it can become national policy when large enough groups of people are disconnected.
That, too, has been happening rather constantly lately.