Whatever Happened to the Search for “Root Causes” of Crime?

CNN Breaking News of Oregon college shooting

In the 1960s and 1970s, it was fashionable, at least among intellectuals, to search for the “root causes” of crime.

The term later became something of a joke, and with largely good reason. The “root causes” of crime, it was allegedly discovered, resided in poverty and inequality. As a result, laws against violent crime were relaxed and social welfare spending massively increased during this period. Crime subsequently went up, as never before. Oops.

Since that time, the shift among intellectuals has been towards a fixation on gun control. “Gun causes crime. Get rid of guns, and you will get rid of crime.”

It’s magical thinking in the extreme, and it’s as unintellectual and anti-intellectual as anything could be.

Such naive and simplistic thinking might be expected from the unintelligent, uneducated or genuinely unenlightened. But it’s today’s hard left, intellectual and government establishment who calls for gun control or gun bans.

It seems to me that an honest and objective intellectual would be looking deeper than guns.

For example, a scholarly (or any intelligent) person should be asking questions like:

Why are we seeing more and more shootings with violent, lone killers than ever before? Most of the killers are young people, and most of the shootings are in educational settings. Are they trying to tell us something?

Whether you call it mental illness, craziness or evil — why are there more of these things than ever? This, not the presence of guns, is the variable that seems to matter most. Or at least it should, to the people we count on to provide us with intelligent insight and impartially applied facts.

Consider some facts about the latest killing in Oregon, orchestrated by Christopher Mercer, age 26. The shooter was apparently anti-Christian, to the point of singling out Christian students to kill. He also reportedly left behind writings that showed animosity toward black people.

Mercer was, like most of the previous killers, an avid collector of guns who was fascinated with violence. He had an online blog where he appears to have favorably cited the violence at the Sandy Hook CT school shooting, and where he also urged readers to watch the online footage of Vester Flanagan shooting two former colleagues on live TV in Virginia.

Another of his blog articles reportedly lamented materialism as preventing spiritual development. He probably did not like capitalism, since he condemned materialism. People who detest capitalism tend to detest America most of all. They see millions of others having a reasonably good time in a cultural and economic environment they consider rotten to the core. In some, the festering hatred turns to violence, but the hatred towards America (by Americans, especially younger ones) is probably more widespread than most of us realize.

Mercer was also willing to be a martyr — for whatever cause he upheld in his own subjective mind. No matter how irrational, disturbed or evil he may have been, he must have known he would confront a shootout with the police, one that he would almost certainly lose, as he ultimately did. They all do.

Step-sister Carmen Nesnick said the shooting didn’t make sense. “All he ever did was put everyone before himself, he wanted everyone to be happy,” she told KCBS-TV.

Mercer’s step-sister (like most people) thinks self-sacrifice is a virtue. But when you have no rational concern for your own interests, you don’t have much of a life, you possess no self-esteem, and you have nothing much to live for; mix those qualities with a tendency and fascination for violence, and you’ve got a recipe for tragedy.

Mercer may have been an anti-black racist, as well as an anti-Christian. Public schools and education as we know it teach children to learn and think more by consensus than by reason. Rational objectivity is largely passé, and group-think is primarily the way minds are trained. Such a mentality fosters looking at people not by their individual traits, by their membership in a racial or religious group. [Source: Thomson/Reuters, Newsmax.com 10/2/15]

Is such a mentality healthy? Is it really fair? And if one has a propensity for violence, what do you think these group-identity mentalities foster and encourage? Anti-materialism, anti-capitalism. Anti-individualism. These are the dominant themes of many public schools and certainly most of academia, with regard to philosophy, culture, social/behavioral science and the humanities. Could these ideas be toxic and unhealthy? Not as an excuse for violence, but as an explanation for mental unhealthiness which only varies in degree from one young person to another, unless they reject those ideas?

These are questions worth asking and investigating. Instead, uncomprehending anti-intellectuals including President Obama stand up like strident schoolmarms, attempting to shame us into supporting some sort of a restriction or ban on guns as the only and obvious solution.

Guns are used to kill people by individuals who wish to use guns. You can outlaw guns, but you cannot outlaw the wish and desire to use weapons against innocent strangers.

It’s crucial to understand what ideas are making violence seem more and more reasonable to record numbers of young people. Because even when guns are finally illegal, these same violent people will be fascinated with and fixated on the use of force. And they will still be using force against others, whether guns are legal or not.

Again and again, these shooters are young men who seek out educational settings. It’s almost as if they’re trying to tell us something, in a dark and twisted way: “The ideas you’re teaching us are wrong, toxic, silly and unfounded. See what you’ve created?”

How about some inquiry into root causes of violence … real ones, this time?


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