Contributed by Adam Carlton
The senseless shooting and killing of at least 58 concert goers in La Vegas and the wounding of 500 is a tragedy, according to the latest news. One can hardly imagine the suffering is has caused to all concert goers. Many are likely to end up with post traumatic stress. Families of the dead and seriously injured will keep on suffering for years.
The horror has gone down as the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history.
Something is clearly wrong. This one marks 272 shootings so far this year alone. There is nothing short of a senseless war going on in American streets and it happens in no other country.
Stephen Paddock, a resident of Mesquite, Nevada, perched 32 floors above them in his Mandalay Bay hotel room. He had been able to easily bring in 19 rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and had no trouble hauling them to his room.
Critics have suggested that he could get away with it because he was white and not black or a Muslim. If he was, he would have been under much more scrutiny in American society.
This difference also tells something about the reaction after the deed was done. An act carried out by an identified black or Muslim will instantly raise the demand from headline and pulpit, for immediate and effective action by the political establishment.
When the perpetrator is not one of these, the deed is often transformed into a “lone wolf” incident. When it’s a black of Muslim, the same thing is called an act of terrorism.
Calls for a to limit the flow of arms, or even for the restriction powerful high-speed weapons have trouble getting purchase.
Donald Trump, the president who likes to tweet about everything is almost silent for a change. He has tweeted his condolences, the words were few and emotionless. There was no promise to act. Perhaps he dares not anger the gun lobby or it could just be that Trump is an incarnation of this negative side of American culture.
Action to put an end to the easy availability of guns may have a limited effect. Limited because it does not tackle the core problem.
Violence is everywhere in American society. This has its roots in history and has been re-enforced by a hyper commercialised culture that makes everything disposable, including human life, from Hollywood to the marketplace in general; a country that has for generations been on a constant war footing against real or imagined enemies and where there is a penchant for handling differences by striking out.
A correlation exists with Washington’s gunboat diplomacy, the Mexican Wall and the violent suppression of minority communities by law enforcement agencies. Gun toting police, shooting first and then asking questions is part of the package.
The United States is a society, where the gap between the haves and the have nots is becoming much wider and many of its citizens live in Third World conditions, without security, without income and left with the option of crime, as a means of escaping the hopelessness and poverty of existence. This is a form of violence that generates more violence.
The callous indifference from the President towards the crisis in Puerto Rico, caused by the devastation of Hurricane Maria is just one example of an attitude that it doesn’t matter unless you are privileged.
Over all rides an environment where extreme individualism is valued as the prime virtue and the dog eat god mentality takes centre stage. In this there is little room for sentimentality. Sentimentality and giving are considered weaknesses.
Not everyone thinks in these terms. This is obvious and has been graphically shown by those prepared to put themselves at risk to help others. But this does not deny that is sickness permeate from society’s institutions and political leadership, that extols ruthlessness as the means to success and rewards it.
The enormous stresses of what counts as success in American society are bound to result in a mental health problem, especially for who are branded a failure by the standard.
To put an end the “gun toting, shoot em” side of American life, there must be a fundamental cultural shift. Away from seeing violence as a virtue, replacing extreme individualism with acceptance that human beings create the best outcomes by working together and that human interaction is more than a commercial transaction.