Odium Mundi

 

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.

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 7 comments.

  1. GrannyDude Member

    Burwick Chiffswiddle: 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.

    Oooh. Can I quote you in a sermon? 

    • #1
    • August 8, 2019, at 8:03 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Kephalithos Member
    Kephalithos Post author

    GrannyDude (View Comment):

    Burwick Chiffswiddle: 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.

    Oooh. Can I quote you in a sermon?

    Um, well . . . shucks . . .

    . . . if you really want to.

    • #2
    • August 8, 2019, at 8:07 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Western Chauvinist Member

    I sometimes hear religious people — even ordained religious! — say foolish things, and I think to myself, “he hasn’t suffered enough.” The path to human excellence, whether physical, mental, or spiritual leads straight through suffering. Why do we suppose so many saints carry the stigmata? 

    Great post.

    • #3
    • August 8, 2019, at 10:29 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Django Member

    I can’t find the right word; self-centered isn’t strong enough. It’s almost as if those murderers think they are the only ones who have ever suffered, that only their pain matters. In their minds someone insulted them, somehow wronged them, and they think, “How dare they do that to ME?” It never occurs the killer to ask, “How dare I do this to THEM?”

    • #4
    • August 9, 2019, at 9:57 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. Slow on the uptake Thatcher

    There is no clear and simple answer, no clear and simple solution in this world. So, it is not reasonable to expect any politician to solve the problem: Neither is it reasonable to expect any politician to admit he doesn’t have the panacea.

    I, of course, have the panacea but that’s a separate conversation.

    • #5
    • August 9, 2019, at 10:16 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Aaron Miller Member

    Abnormal psychological habits are often exaggerations of normal thought processes. It is not uncommon for people to selfishly indulge in rage or depression among company.

    The furious person snaps at anyone in the vicinity who draws attention. The original anger, perhaps justified, is displaced to include everything. 

    Likewise, indulgent sadness sucks happiness from a room. It seems unkind to smile beside a sad person. Though the temptation to withdraw from society can perpetuate the problem and we encourage depressed people to join us, there is also a temptation to impress one’s misery onto others. 

    Indiscriminate attacks might be similar, but exaggerated. Or they might echo the typical experience of teenage minds that perform whatever thoughts pop into their heads without truly considering consequences or sympathies.

    • #6
    • August 9, 2019, at 11:35 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. Saint Augustine Member

    Burwick Chiffswiddle:

    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. . . .

    . . . The world needs a little more Christianity and a little more stoicism, neither of which is in vogue nowadays. . . .

    This is one reason I write books on Augustine’s theology of desire.

    (The Conversion and Therapy of Desire: Augustine’s Theology of Desire in the Cassiciacum Dialogues: much easier to read that most academic work. Affordable. Only $10 on Kindle. Reason, Authority, and the Healing of Desire in the Writings of Augustine: Announcements in due time!)

    • #7
    • August 9, 2019, at 4:52 PM PDT
    • 2 likes