The Clare Spark Blog

October 2, 2015

Unasked questions about Chris Harper Mercer and Barack Obama

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:07 pm
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HarperI am scratching my head in wonder that the press, fixated on the Oregon shooting (October 1, 2015) and all those that preceded it (committed by white boys in their late adolescence or early adulthood) is not asking the most obvious questions.

The first of these would focus on his specific family history, the most relevant being his half-black inheritance (as the Daily Beast and others mentioned). Where is his father? The media have mentioned a mother living in California, but we know nothing about her: her work, her values, how she raised her only child. How was he punished growing up, and who was responsible for disciplining him: the mother or the father? Did the father use corporal punishment? Or some other method, such as threats or grounding. Was there a divorce? Was mom even ever married?

I have an idea why such obvious questions are not being asked. The Right insists on the father-led nuclear family as the ideal unit to lift the masses out of poverty (and even the Moynihan Report did this with respect to blacks, and Moynihan was a staunch liberal). They also imply extreme sex-role differentiation. Supposedly, males are rational, females are irrational and likely to spoil the child, even feminize him.

Second, was it simply chance that Chris Harper Mercer chose a science classroom to embark on his killing spree? The first victim is said to be the science teacher. The hostility of some “Christian” sects to science is too well known to dwell upon. [Update: it was an English class, not a science class as had been reported earlier. Thanks for the correction, Jon!]

And who were Mercer’s victims? Were they all white people like himself? Or might there have been a sprinkling of Asians (at UCLA, nearly all the students studying science were some variety of “Asian”). [Also now irrelevant as the shooter was half black.]

Finally, we come to Obama’s almost instantaneous response to the event, not to speak of his startling passivity in the face of concrete threats to the nation. The media have emphasized his “passion” and opportunism. What if he is not merely a “narcissist” as even Krauthammer insists, but enraged about gun ownership because it signifies the rage at having been abandoned by his real father, and who knows how his grandparents disciplined him?

I attribute these glaring lacunae in the press coverage to the abandonment of depth psychology. Instead of taking specific family histories, noting traumas where they exist, mental health professionals are dedicated to downplaying the permanence of trauma, let alone such antique notions as Oedipal rage. It is all happy talk now along with CBT, in the short, cheap cut to rewiring the brain through the power of positive thinking, or maybe prayer: we should beat the Devil within all of us in this fallen world.

Don’t expect anything to change, or a return to supposedly discredited psychoanalytic explanations for deranged mass shooting events by young males, or even more obvious ones, such as adolescent rebellion against authoritarian parents. We are too dumbed down for that.

Our society indulges in escapism even as it fecklessly searches for a “motive.” Those who love “families” but refuse to look too closely into their inner dynamics, are bound to fail. (See related blog: https://clarespark.com/2013/01/17/bondage-and-the-family/) Or, since NPR is touting the (loveless, hence hate-filled) “loner” theory out for fame/revenge: see https://clarespark.com/2012/07/24/the-cracked-and-cracking-loner-as-mass-murderer/.

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July 24, 2012

The cracked and cracking loner as mass murderer

Today is July 24, 2012. The Aurora, Colorado massacre happened early Friday morning, July 20, 2012, and we know almost nothing about the perpetrator’s past; his politics, if any; or how his brain works; but already writers for mass media and on the internet are abuzz with diagnoses suggesting the following: James Eagan Holmes was an inexplicably evil person, perhaps possessed by the devil, as (the Promethean) Lord Byron was supposed to be by his antagonistic contemporaries; Holmes was a “loner” who “cracked” or “snapped”; his crime was ideologically driven as an Occupy Wall Street anarchist (a photo purporting to be Holmes taken from Occupy San Diego has been circulating on the internet); he is a malignant narcissist; he carried the sociopathic “violence” perpetrated by “Hollywood” [a.k.a. the Jews]. In time, I suppose the Holmes story will be assimilated to the mad scientist narrative so popular after the French Revolution.

The loner as a force for disequilibrium. Here is a side of the “classical liberal” F. A. Hayek, generally regarded as a major anti-collectivist economist, that makes me uncomfortable. It is not without relevance to the diagnoses or quick assessments made by pundits in the wake of the “Movie Theater Massacre.” What Hayek does is deny the existence of an individual able to stand outside himself and man-made institutions to make sweeping statements that have truth-values: Hayek’s is a demon whom we have met before in the history of the West. The following quote from F. A. Hayek was originally an endnote in my book on the so-called Melville Revival, for Captain Ahab has been read, especially in tandem with progressive capitalists going over to Keynesian economics starting in 1939, as precisely the type of loner/terrorist who is held to be on a monomaniacal crusade, in Ahab’s case, either to find the truth, or to “quarrel with God” and his surrogate institutions in the State:

[Hunting Captain Ahab endnote:] See F.A. Hayek, Individualism: True and False (Oxford: Blackwell, 1946) for a concise enunciation of the main principles of libertarian conservatism in which science is annexed to hierarchical organic conservatism and the rule of expertise. His recommended lineage for “true individualism” is Locke, Mandeville, Hume, Josiah Tucker, Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, Tocqueville, and Lord Acton. Hayek has undermined the search for legitimate authority based on common understanding and checks from below.  Man is innately incapable of grasping totalities; only deluded and false individualists would claim such an achievement. These include rationalist philosophes and utilitarians, along with the “original” German Romantics, similarly looking to coercive, bureaucratic state power to impose order, destroying checks and balances attainable through spontaneous voluntary organization at the local level. The only role for the state is negative: to prevent any one group from arrogating to itself the excessive power that destroys equilibrium. Describing the conditions that enable true individualism, Hayek explained: “[It is absurd to think that] individualism postulates (or bases its arguments on the assumption of) the existence of isolated or self-contained individuals, instead of starting from men whose whole nature and character is determined by their existence in society (7)…The willingness to submit to [flexible but normally observed rules that make the behavior of other people predictable in a high degree], not merely so long as one has no definite reason to the contrary, is an essential condition for the gradual evolution and improvement of rules of social intercourse, and the readiness ordinarily to submit to the products of a social process which nobody has designed and the reasons for which nobody may understand is also an indispensable condition if it is to be possible to dispense with compulsion…coercion can probably only be kept to a minimum in a society when conventions and tradition have made the behavior of man to a large extent predictable (23-24).” [end, Hayek quote]

When I did my dissertation research into the construction of the humanities curriculum between the wars in the 20th century, I noted that Marx was less controversial than Freud, who did postulate such a thing as the “observing ego” capable of standing outside itself to describe processes once thought to be mysterious or impenetrable in the world that was in reality held to be the Devil’s lair. Here was Freud’s unpardonable [Jewish?] hubris, for Christian theology insisted upon humanity’s weaknesses, not its strengths. Moreover, the scientific revolution of the 17th century created a rupture in human history that alarmed organic conservatives, along with such as Hayek or Edmund Burke, who looked to loyalty to traditional institutions and hierarchies in order to prevent revolutions (i.e. ruptures) from below. (And what is the Tory David Hume doing there? he loathed Locke, whose Two Treatises on Government later helped to legitimize the American Revolution, yet Hayek does not see the dissonances in his list of philosophic father figures.)

“Traditionalists” don’t like ruptures, and they don’t like loners, yet every major artist I have studied sought solitude, running away from censorious families to find and relay their own pictures of reality. And like Byron, they have been often vilified as violent abusers of their families, drunkards, dope fiends, madmen, you name it.

My heart goes out to these “alienated” figures, for they and their reputations have suffered much at the hands of conformists and other fearful persons unwilling or unable to look inside themselves, or taking the risk of massive retaliation by publishers and readers, to examine dysfunctional institutions and relationships, including the major violence we call wars, or the smaller, more subtle violence that we commit every day in relations with our closest friends and relations.

None of us knows what stirred inside the brain of James Eagan Holmes that caused the atrocity of June 20, 2012, an event that has stirred often well-meaning, educated writers to jump to conclusions. But I have no doubt that an understandably overwrought public will eat up premature ejaculations comparing Holmes to cold-hearted “isolatoes” or mass murderers of the past, who, like Captain Ahab, have failed to beat the devil.

Ptrick Stewart’s Ahab

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