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What, exactly, motivates someone to waltz into a public place and gun down scores of innocent people he’s never met?
Well, that may be the wrong question. In the shooter’s mind, there are no innocents — only sinners and reprobates of all kinds; jerks, dunces, philanderers, drunkards, and bullies. That 16-year-old grocery bagger might seem nice enough, but he likes to torture the nerds at school — and, besides, he stole the girl I fancy. That 36-year-old mother of two may look innocent, but she’s actually part of an ethnic invasion which seeks to destroy the country as we know it. Et cetera. For people who think this way, each killing is an act of revenge against a world the shooter believes has wronged him. It is, in his warped and woeful understanding, a type of justice.
But lobbing projectiles into an unsuspecting crowd is only the most spectacular form of revenge (and the form preferred by the most deranged). Hatred of the world manifests in other ways, too. Politics overflows with it — plebeians and public officials alike bathing in a stew of pity and entitlement. Envy, once among the deadliest of sins, has become the sine qua non of modern political life, and it now underpins the system of ethics accepted by most American elites. (What is “distributive justice” if not envy repackaged?) Across the country and the world, people brand themselves with tribal regalia (“I’m ugly, but my tattoo makes me beautiful!”) and adopt various artificial identities (be they transgenderism or something else), all in an attempt to thumb their noses at an order of being in which they seem to have no place. (Those who think that the prevailing message in society is “Be happy!” haven’t turned on the television lately.) And, worst of all, nobody is immune. Much as I dislike crowds, I’ve no interest in slaughtering them. But am I content with my life? Am I free from resentment? No. And perhaps I shouldn’t expect to be.
The disappointment and disillusionment which characterize our era are the fruits of high expectations. If life offers little, it can take little. If I expect nothing from the world, I might be pleasantly surprised. But the world promises a bounty. Man is a striving, yearning, uneasy creature. If he has nothing worthwhile to fight against, he’ll turn on himself. If his existence isn’t already a struggle, he’ll make it one. Indeed, this may be an unavoidable consequence of civilization — that a critical mass of mankind, without the ties and trials which once distracted from angst, is bound to self-immolate.
Then again, perhaps I’m too pessimistic. But I don’t see much reason for hope. The world needs a little more Christianity and a little more stoicism, neither of which is in vogue nowadays. Best to cultivate our gardens, then.