This is not about gun control. Or passing more laws – or having more control over society. It is so much more incredibly broad than that. And it’s so much more incredibly personal than that. It’s about the fact that there has been a qualitative break down in the structure of our society. It’s about the compromised mental health of generations of people as a result of a dysfunctional environment that we have all had a hand in creating. It’s about the deep isolation an individual experiences growing up and existing in a culture that values money, appearance, talent, performance, output, and material possessions so much more than the human being. It’s about the fact that some children spend more time with their televisions and phones than in their father’s arms and hear more music through their i-pods than instruction and love from their mother’s voice. It’s about the fact that children watch movies and play games littered with immensely violent and sexual content rather than learning to interact with their peers in positive ways that uplift and affirm. It’s about the fact that although we are more “connected” to others via technology, we haven’t a clue who our neighbors are. And subsequently, who we are.
How can we expect our children, ourselves or others to be happy, healthy members of society when at every turn our culture is making us sick? The media encourages us to live at a surface level – think more about what you’re wearing or the shit you own than about your impact on others, the earth or future generations. We are steeped in denial about the effects the characteristics of our culture have had on ourselves, our behavior and our children. Please, don’t get me wrong – when I say ‘culture’ – I mean us. When I say ‘media’ – I mean us. We created this mess. Also, don’t think I mean that it’s all bad because of course, it isn’t.
We have become one of the world’s most creative social entities through our ever-advancing contributions to the sciences, technology, humanities, the arts and virtually every aspect of life and thought. Unfortunately, we have also created some of the most socially accepted forms of discrimination, isolation and destruction that have ever existed. The bullying – the rates of suicide, depression, and anxiety among children and adolescents. The unprecedented low self-esteem of our youth and the general malaise and existential angst being “experienced” by an entire generation trying desperately to ignore it. We keep our minds occupied with sports, politics, religion, work, alcohol, our differences, music – anything. With all that we have experienced, learned and attained, our culture has lost, in an unimaginable way, the ability to recognize the social ills being perpetuated by our outrageous individualism, our capitalistic greed, and our collective narcissism – all veiled in the socially appropriate packaging of independence, self-reliance and determination. Because each of these are so engrained in and valued by our society, they seem more ‘natural’ than they are. These are not normal, healthy processes of human beings in the twenty-first century – at least not to the extent to which we’ve embraced them.
We are better than this. We are valuing all the wrong things and it is beginning to take its toll. One of the only things in this world worthy of trying to idolize and unabashedly value is the wonder of the individual. The true worth of a human being – that part in each of us capable of immense creativity, connection, strength, love, forgiveness and healing is by far the most profoundly beautiful, misunderstood and untapped resource the world has ever seen. Once we begin to realize this and to understand the deeply engrained weaknesses created by the faulty idols we’ve created, our collective future will be much freer. We’ll like ourselves more. There will be less road rage and more kindness. Less judgment and more understanding. Our children will feel more empowered – more optimistic. They’ll be less anxious and less depressed. Less likely to need Xanax before they enter the first grade. They will be safer – both emotionally and physically – so will we. And, tragedies such as this will be much fewer.
It isn’t guns or more laws – it’s a culture within which it has become increasingly difficult to exist as simply as one can, and still feel worth, love and acceptance. We must demand more from ourselves and from each other. Put down your god damn phones and sit next to another human being. Look into their eyes and converse. Volunteer instead of going out on a Friday night. Read a book that changes the way you see the world. Start with ‘Mans Search for Meaning’ by Victor Frankl. Challenge yourself. Challenge each other. Let’s all expect more. Let’s all do more. Let’s be more engaged and invested in the lives of those around us – the children around us. Let’s give a damn about the “troubled youth” – let’s care enough about their struggle to live in this incredibly difficult age to do something about it. This is where effective change lies. Valuing others. Putting people before product. Before profit. Before your prejudices and your judgments. Before yourself. What needs to change for unspeakable tragedies like this to stop taking place? Not laws. It’s us. We need to change.
Sending all the love I can to the families affected by this horror.