robertogreco + schoolshootings   1

The Real Cultural Explanation for School Shootings | Al Jazeera America
"Teenagers raised in relentlessly competitive environments are learning a dangerous lesson"



"The problem isn’t video games per se but a particular narrative about power, violence and domination. In one of their better insights (cribbed from their son Eric), the Singulars look at two hit movies released in 1999: “The Matrix” and “Fight Club.” These movies were never really bugaboos for cultural conservatives or nervous parents; the popularity of “Fight Club” built slowly, and “The Matrix” had artistic merit and a positive message about thinking for oneself. But both stories — along with that year’s “The Boondock Saints,” which completes the dorm room poster trilogy — are about white men transforming the world according to their will, using their hands (and guns). Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) don’t have to abide by stupid rules or unfair structures. They can transition from nobodies to earthly gods through aggression and will. The most exciting parts of both movies are when the heroes remake the world like a painter with a canvas.

One 26-year-old did a good job describing for the Singulars the culture from which these fantasies are an escape: “Follow this one path all the way and you win. Follow another path and you’re nobody. The pressure to win is everywhere. It’s on top of us pushing down, from grade school on. It feels like you’re in a struggle for your survival, even if you have financial resources. My friends and I constantly talk about this. It’s a part of our daily reality.” In a society that pits each kid against the whole world for a shrinking number of success slots, shooting up your school seems like a misunderstanding. You’re only supposed to figuratively kill all your classmates.

By the time I got to high school, we were participating in active-shooter drills. At the time, teenagers in my hometown stuck to killing only themselves — as they still do — but the school wanted to be prepared. As students, we thought the drills were ridiculous, and we had plenty of time to talk about it while filing around. Teachers were supposed to put colored cards in the window to signify whether there were safe or injured people inside. (“Why, so the shooter knows where to go?”) Then we were all supposed to go to the field near the parking lot. (“If it were me, I’d put a bomb under the bleachers.”) We understood something the adults still couldn’t fathom: If someone was going to shoot up the school, they were learning the emergency procedures along with the rest of us. They were the rest of us.

A lot of young Americans have practiced being hunted by our classmates, and during the drills it’s not clear how many kids are imagining themselves on the other side of the gun. We have been asked to identify with the shooter or the victim, the exceptional individual or the sheep marching toward the bleachers. It’s not much of a choice.

The young people in “The Spiral Notebook” are ultimately asking why competition is so important and why we always have to fight one another. Those are questions that stories like “The Matrix” and “Fight Club” seem to encourage, but they are also questions that get you immediately kicked out of a “Halo” game. It’s all part of the same school-shooting culture.

The baby boomer generation of peace, love and understanding — the Singulars’ generation — is lost. Their book was inspired in large part because they couldn’t understand how a son raised by former hippies like them could understand this kind of violence. “People your age don’t know anything about this or why these shootings keep happening,” he tells them. “No offense, but you’re too old.” If America is truly prepared to change the culture of mass shooting, then we need to listen to the people who at least have some idea of what’s going on."
2015  malcolmharris  violence  generations  thematrix  fightclub  videogames  culture  society  gender  boys  schoolshootings  us  competition  children  youth  education  schools 
december 2015 by robertogreco

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