The news lately has been unremittingly bad – one attack after another.
Mass murder by truck, mass shootings with guns, killings with bombs, a stabbing here, an axe attack there, aeroplanes disappearing with all on board … the list goes on, the images get ever more lurid and are constantly repeated, the whole sorry saga drummed into us relentlessly.
One could speculate on what sinister motive may lie behind this endlessly reinforced view of a violent world spinning out of control, but for now I want to look at another orchestrated theme behind all this: the constant search for a terrorism link. We all know it – every time there’s another horror, the first response is to seek what jihadi-style group might be behind it.
There is no doubt that there are groups out there who are dedicated to doing the most harm possible for the cause of some intolerant ideology they wish to impose. (Not the way to win many friends, I would have thought, and since they too must know this, it leaves an uncomfortable credibility gap. If what you’re doing is only strengthening the opposition to your notions…?)
But many of the stunning killings appear to have no such links at all (other than those that unite all angry and often disenfranchised men, radicals or not). What this desperate search for a scapegoat who is ‘other’ suggests, is an unwillingness of our own society to look at what it is spawning inside its own fold.
Maybe if we cannot blame the terrorists, perhaps the fault lies with Mental Illness? Now here’s a cool thought! Of course, that nice man from down the street isn’t responsible for what he’s just done – how could he be?
The poor lad had a horrible childhood in a dysfunctional home … maybe that drove him to get high on ice … and then he was depressed and had a stay in the mental hospital … got left by his girlfriend … was over-mothered by an anxious woman … or brutalised by a drunk father.
I do not wish to minimise the wonderful advances we have made in understanding our mental and emotional states, the very real effects of PTSD, and the sad consequences of loveless homes. We are privileged to live in an age where counselling help can be found and many such wounds healed or at least acknowledged and supported, and much is now known about early intervention and prevention.
So why, when things should be starting to improve, are we overwhelmed with one horror after another?
Perhaps what’s finally coming home to us is the result of 50+ years of frenetic and unrestricted ‘freedom’. Is it really likely that the constant playing of ever-more violent video games is not going to have dire consequences?
Or the uncensored viewing of ‘adult themes’, horror movies, chainsaw massacres, explosions and shoot-ups, and even the daily news with its gory images? Us oldies who grew up with the cutie-sweetness of the early Disney films can clearly see the increasing violence – not to mention sexualisation – of these supposedly children-orientated movies.
Toys that mimic war machines build up the hype – yet parents buy them for their children. What message are they setting in place?
The corrosive effect of pornography is by now well-known, but nobody is willing to restrict it. It’s all about: “what I want, I shall have, and nobody is going to tell me otherwise.” The USA wants its gun laws, no matter how many kids are killed in the schools.
Corporations want their profits at any social or environmental cost, and no government is game to place restrictions on them.
Politicians will cheat and lie and allow appalling corruptions, just to stay in the game.
It is a sad fact that man is shown throughout recorded history as having a tendency towards violence, disruption and lack of respect. Endless wars, wipe-outs of the indigenous, the ruthless slave trade, suppression of women, land grabs and more, all document it beyond any doubt.
Now and then, there have been moments of enlightenment, periods of stability when wise and just laws were enacted, wars were put aside in favour of the arts, trade regulated, urban environments cleaned, controlled and roads made safe.
This generally happened under strong leaders, religious or just plain benevolent, and the influence of such times is with us to this day.
History also tells us is that power corrupts.
Never have such glorious periods lasted beyond a few generations. But what has kept societies functioning was the common man’s understanding that those wise and just laws actually work for everyone’s benefit, even if that meant putting aside one’s personal wishes for the common good.
Sure, there were always some who tried to circumvent such inconveniences, overtly or not, but as long as the broad sweep of society adhered to the conventions, this could be managed.
So what happens when that broad sweep of society no longer believes in self-control for the sake of the common good?
Well, we all know what happens. We see the broken homes that result from ideas that marriages are only valid for as long as they please us personally.
We see our broken kids go onto the streets and get fuelled up on alcohol and ice.
We allow them to fill their minds with an endless run of violent games and brutalised sex. We show them how we spend massively on self-indulgence: the latest world trip, the newest gourmet restaurant, a car way beyond the actual requirements of basic transport, attendance at one distracting entertainment after another … all needing a punishing work schedule that keeps us away from home and the children in care elsewhere.
We want our fun and we’re having it at any price.
And if we can’t self-control then we also cannot hold our governments to account. We can’t take the time to inform ourselves about the real issues and insist our MPs do something about them. It’s much easier to just keep on electing them. Just as it is much easier to blame someone else for the mess our young men are now in.
But don’t worry. We can always put it down to our faulty genes. Not our personal responsibility after all! And anyway, it’s all too hard to think about. Let’s have another drink and see what’s on the telly, shall we?
*Elizabeth Fleetwood ‘is of European origin and has lived in Tasmania for nearly 35 years. Ran two dairy farms in the NW, then two retail businesses in Burnie, raised a family of three children there; moved to Hobart 17 years ago and ran a tourism business for 10 years before selling and ‘retiring’ recently. Initially an unwilling immigrant, it was not long before the (then) pristine beauty and extraordinary history of this Island exerted its influence and created a campaigner for the preservation of this unique place. To see it being destroyed, along with the values that once made Australia a truly special place worth coming to, is a matter of great concern for this ordinary citizen, whose grandchildren will one day ask: why did you let this happen?’