Unfortunately I have become totally drawn in to the Elliot Rodger killings.
I jumped on twitter on a sunday around noon to see opinions in full flight from many who comment on gender issues.
Because of his hateful attitude towards women, news of these attacks prompted many angry responses from feminists in particular, as well as the usual calls for gun control, and also a small strand of black activists pointing to the difference in reporting and reaction if the killer had been black.
This pattern reminded me that who you are, and your personal identity seems to frame your whole understanding of the information you’re being told and how you might be likely to react and interpret the issues here.
This tends to draw me in emotionally because I dislike emotional, alarmist hysteria that shuts down debate. We need to be objective and not fall in with the knee jerk reaction of the loudest voices. Yet there’s nothing to be gained in discussion with people who are so personally invested in their neat ideologically packaged solutions and buzzwords, so with no debate possible, no progress can be made.
I know my amoral stance is likely to be unpopular, so personally I feel it is better to say nothing and have people believe you agree with them than become bogged down in the finer points of philosophical discussion that only confuse and anger people, leading you nowhere.
The feminist commenters got started with a “Yes All Women” hashtag campaign against “rape culture”. I believe the concept was to challenge the common defensive argument that “not all men” are misogynists, because it is all women who suffer from misogyny, and therefore fighting rape culture was a responsibility for all men in the interests of safer, more respectful communities.
A screenshot of a series of ridiculously over the top misogynistic statements in agreement that women as a group were responsible for these killings as they had failed to provide sex for this messed up kid was retweeted a lot.
Following this, because of the focus turned on the Pick Up community through discussion of the Anti-PUA forum PUAHate, I began following their response. I am often interested in the opposing arguments between feminists and pick up artists.
Of course their responses ranged from the suggestion that if he had learned pick up skills with women, he wouldn’t have become a bitter, hateful, loser, thus “saving lives” . . . to suggesting he was possibly gay, the armchair darwins breaking down his lack of biologically masculine traits . . . to crackpot pro gun conspiracy nuts claiming a hoax.
It was only after I finally caved and watched a vlog on his youtube channel that I become drawn in by his character – effete, arrogant and yet eloquent and descriptive in his pathetic state of entitlement.
He seemed like an actor, it all seemed like a hollywood dramatization, shades of carrie, the scorned and vengeful misfit wreaking havoc on the pretty american picture, or some cartoon villian.
His tragic self image as magnificent and tortured was so ridiculous, it barely felt real, and yet the very reason why women wouldn’t go near him was plainly on display. He was desperate, sad, needy, whiny and entitled. All the tragic snapshots of that ugly side of white male privilege were alarmingly obvious in his whole manner and it was repulsive.
I was still irritated as usual that emotive online hysteria was framing the whole debate, forgetting as I often do, the great sea of apathy and indifference that the shouting voices never cross. Which is part of my frustration, there is no moving forward when there is no dialogue of co-operation between those who want to prevent tragic and harrowing outcomes.
After seeing his 141 page manifesto, I began to become drawn in even further. His writing was very good. His voice was very strong although his strength of character was weak – he was smart, and as he began to describe his rejection and loneliness in anguishing autobiographical detail I couldn’t help but sympathise with some of the thoughts he expressed about his early teenage years . . .
Kids really are so delicate learning about socialization and tweens and teens. Having to fit in as a small and articulate child with other kids and failing miserably. It brought back a lot of memories of various struggles – struggles I always overcame – to be accepted by other kids despite being small and quirky.
His fantasies of some consumerist concept of america’s teenage dream, bound to go up in smoke, a mirage, an illusion. The naivety with which we blame our parents for lying to us, simply for failing to inform us what seems obvious – the beautiful people on TV aren’t real.
The way he would go on putting beautiful women on a pedestal brought home to me how this trait in me had not made my 20’s easy. I was never as bad as he was spouting this sentimental rubbish revering blondes, but it made me reflect on this behaviour I had once indulged in. The pathetic entitlement of asking why women – pretty girls specifically – weren’t interested in him, without having the courage to face up to what the real answers to that question might be and do something about it.
The way he described listening to other people have sex in the next room in college also triggered bad memories, but really it was just the sting of seeing your own flaws made manifest in another. The self absorption. Self pity. The disbelief that others weren’t equally obsessed defining themselves through beautiful women, and sex as some kind of social currency.
These experiences of seeing a darker and unwanted side of yourself are possibly quite helpful for development, recognising your own flaws.
Many people are angry because they feel they haven’t had a chance, and that their innocent attempts to lead a normal life have been compromised. This is a issue that stirs up those feelings.
I skim read the whole manifesto, a sick and sad autobiography of a twisted little boy, and it was a gripping and dark tale of the poison fruit of america’s privileged roots.
Weedy white guys dependent on technology and digital entertainment for fulfillment, bitter and angry when reality cannot provide everything that modern privilege promised on TV.
But before I had reached this point of reflection, confronted by a darker side of myself, I wondered if I couldn’t help reach out to kids like this, use my enthusiasm for german philosophy to illustrate why letting these toxic thought spirals take hold will destroy you, and you owe it to yourself to become a better version of yourself, one who is above self pity and entitlement, one who earns responsiblity and privilege with pride, humility and respect for the greater mutual outcomes of humanity.
The love of a beautiful young woman is one of lifes sweetest, if not THE sweetest reward there is. There’s nothing to be gained trying to negotiate with what is meaningful. That doesn’t mean anyone is entitled to it, without doing what is required to earn such a privilege.
But surely a more ambitious and lofty use of philosophy can protect those who are lonely and alienated.
Reading the story of this sad kid who couldn’t overcome the deep challenges of our modern and privileged existence might give us a moment to cherish the money that we have earned with hard work in good faith, the lovers and friends with which we share joy and bonds of affection, and the power of art to help us negotiate with the universe and all that it demands of us by expressing ourselves.
Whether we are loved or not, we are lucky and should be grateful. There are worse things to endure than being lonely.
But what do we do to prevent this from taking place? If not fighting “rape culture” and fuelling hysteria, how do we oppose this kind of senseless violence and destruction? The only thing I’m left with is the imperative to create an environment of love, respect, and understanding where people flourish and thrive, not become twisted and bitter and rage filled, inspiring more fear, hatred and anger within a community dealing with futile struggles over power and responsibility.
Violence, shame and co-operation seem to be the only tools available to fix our problems by coercing groups into appropriate behaviours. But only one of these strategies offers a real solution. But all solution create more problems, so on it goes, bringing us back to the point where only love and respect and patience can save us.