The Isla Vista shooting is a tragedy.
It’s so much of a tragedy that there are already somewhere on the order of a billion articles that all start with approximately the same first sentence as this article and all immediately then change direction and attempt to analyze and dissect what the root of the problem is. I’m sure when I get this week’s issue of Time magazine, the entire magazine will be dedicated to three kinds of articles: 1) those which describe and convey the tragedy; 2) those which analyze and dissect the tragedy; and 3) those which describe, convey, analyze, and dissect the tragedy.
My title is taken from this article which is now widely circling the inter webs and my Facebook feed. It’s mostly a rambling rant of blame-pop-culture nonsense. However, surprisingly, it does have a correct conclusion. And that is:
What did Elliot Rodger need? …
He needed to grow up.
We all do.
It’s a surprising conclusion coming from an article – one of millions which are essentially the same in their body, not their conclusion – because the conclusion comes just two skimpy paragraphs after this statement:
It’s because other people’s bodies and other people’s love are not something that can be taken nor even something that can be earned.
If love – and the bodies that house the minds that form love as an emotion – cannot be earned, then, well, game over. If love, respect, admiration, whatever emotion you’re trying for (think: with/from your friends, your children, your spouses, your parents, your coworkers, your enemies, any type of relationship you might have with any kind of person) cannot be earned through actions that you make, then we’re machines. If we – those who “give” or “bestow” our emotions and feelings to others – have no control over our own responses to others’ actions, then we’re machines.
And we’re not machines. You DO have to earn the emotions and feelings your “get” from other people. You do respond to how others behave and think when forming opinions of them and emotional connections to them.
So, yes, you absolutely must earn love. You must earn bodies. Everything in life – emotions, property, life itself – must be earned. You can’t just sit, doing nothing, and expect to survive. You have to DO.
What being “grown up” means is understanding that sometimes you cannot earn that which you want, and, furthermore, recognizing those cases and being able to move on. Sometimes hard work pays off. Sometimes it doesn’t. Being grown up means recognizing the difference (often, after you’ve spent a long time NOT recognizing the difference because you didn’t and possibly couldn’t know).
Furthermore, Arthur Chu, author of the article linked above, uses the word entitlement four times in his article, one of which appears in the title. Does he really believe, as the quote above suggests he does, that bodies and love cannot be earned? If so, then the only other option for “getting” them is by entitlement. His entire thesis is refuted by his own internal contradiction: entitlement or earned; there is no third option.
That was all a preface, however, to perhaps the most important think I’d like to point out about the Isla Vista shooting. That point is: most of us do move on. Most nerds, most jocks, most hot people, most ugly people, most everybody does move on. Most everybody is grown up. How many people watch movies, television, attend frat parties, attend parties, play video games, and don’t commit heinous crimes? Answer: statistically, everybody.
The point is: killers are an anomaly and responding to them should be treated as such. Usually, anomalies should be ignored as edge cases. In general, laws and social norms and censorship and ranting articles in the weeklies and on the internets ought not to be dictated by events that rarely – statistically, never – happen. Most people that play violent video games aren’t violent. Most people who watch caricature-ish fraternity movies aren’t rapists. And by most, I mean nearly everybody. And by nearly everybody, I mean, statistically, everybody.
According to the FBI, in 2011 there were 4.7 homicides per 100,000 Americans. The average person’s chances of getting killed in the US are 0%. (And that’s not even considering that by “flattening” the statistics across all demographics and geographies, the average person’s chances of dying in a homicide are actually much lower since homicides tend to occur in particular areas amongst people who at some level know each other.)
Just focusing on mass killings, here is a collection of the 25 deadliest. In 2012, for example, there were two events that left 39 people dead. There are 300 million people in the US. Statistically, you’re odds of dying in a mass shooting are 0%.
And since those are the #s for how many people died at the hands of 1 person, it means that virtually nobody is a serial killer. Nearly everybody is grown up; at least with respect to not killing other people when the world doesn’t go their way.
So grow up. Most people who play Wolfenstein and watch Animal House don’t hurt other people. Pop culture is not the problem. Grow up, figure out how to think rationally about the world, and learn how to understand the world around you.