Viewer comments trot out the standard tired answers--troubled youth, a culture of narcissism, and exposure to violent video games and movies. Only the middle one starts approaching the root of the problem.
A common response from the spiritual left is we are what we think so focus on the thoughts we'd like to share, and teach virtue. And that is true and good advice--as far as it goes, anyway. Teaching virtue is a good thing.
But let's be realistic. CNN asks why so much violence in the US, while they breathlessly cover drones dropping bombs on wedding parties because some foreign country has resources or other economic value to transnational corporations and they won't willingly give these resources up for a meager sliver of the profit, or are ethically opposed to their exploitation.
Of course, the liberal hand-wringing and their claim the NRA has blood on its hands falls squarely in the middle of this same category. Just like it doesn't work for abortions and drugs, it's not going to work for guns. The gun rights nuts are correct in one way: Banning gun sales won't solve anything.
Some say it's simply that we don't teach morals as part of the standard public education curriculum. While it's true that secular society doesn't teach morals--for a number of reasons, all equally lame--the problem is that Western Industrial culture isn't based on moral values and wouldn't follow them even were they to be taught. "Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't work real well as a guideline for a moral life. Violent video games are not the root cause of violence, they are just one of many methods of desensitization and putting the blame there is a cop-out--it's easier than dealing with deeper social failings. Once you get beyond money, materialism, and all the other distractions for natural fulfillment you find the root cause to be our disconnection from the natural world. From this disconnection emerges hierarchies of domination and a pathological sense of the other. War, violence, aggression, and greed are not possible without this foundation.
Our culture worships violence as a way to solve problems, and believes violence to be an integral aspect of the natural order. The dominant religion in American culture has a god that according to their own scripture slaughtered hundreds more people than the three or so his antithesis, Satan, killed. We inculcate hatred of the other as an integral aspect of Empire. We ignore the needs of the less fortunate through selfishness and greed. The list of examples for why aggression, destruction, and violence in general is endemic is rather long here in the End Days of Empire.
Maybe it's time to revisit the question of social obligations if we're serious about reclaiming our moral compass. Let's connect some dots.
It has been widely reported that most of the shooters in the spate of mass killings over the past few decades were mentally unbalanced in some manner or alienated misfits. Whether stronger gun licensing and training would keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't be trusted with a butter knife is an open question, but I have doubts as to its overall long-term effectiveness.
What would have a lower overall social cost and greater benefit is reopening the mental health facilities Reagan closed down, and funding outpatient mental health care. But how do we pay for this? Is this the nanny state seeking to increase its power? Let's add something else to this equation before answering those questions.
Let's openly admit that people who live in despair do desperate things. A number of factors contribute to this, but two in particular have rather wide impacts. But we must be honest about the contexts for each of these two.
The two despair factors I was getting at above are unemployment and poverty. We could go a long way in solving those problems--and as a side benefit address the fact that poverty and environmental justice are deeply intertwined--by admitting we can provide a living wage for a 20 hour work week with at least one three-day weekend per month and a one week vacation every quarter. This has nothing whatsoever to do with being against free enterprise, but an admission of the responsibilities enterprise has to a social system and natural world that provides its core infrastructure and resources. It's time for technology to deliver on its long withheld promise of more leisure time instead of settling for the addictive substitute of more leisure wear.
With everyone employed at a living wage, overall tax revenues greatly increase. Were we to further make the common sense moves of equitably taxing all income, including capital gains, at a progressive rate, dropping subsidies for profitable industries, and closing tax loopholes that allow gambling losses (financial speculation) to be written off we'd have most of the money we need to fund infrastructure, health-care, and education for all.