The Newtown Slaughter of Innocence, philosophical insight into its roots, and some book updates

Friends, this has been an odd, disturbing and, for the majority of our nation, very sad last week. Personally I am still sick over the events of last Friday in Connecticut and, having children myself, the pure savage shock to my system is difficult to overcome, yet overcome we all must.

There seems to be, at least to my mind, very little comfort we can find from mere words as we gaze in empathy at the suffering of the families in Newtown. What can really be said to bring calming understanding in which to soothe the soul? Words fail, yet it is words alone that we’ve been left with as our tools to survive and perhaps one day understand what appears to be such senseless slaughter of innocence.

I will not belabor you with painful descriptions of what I and everyone else must be feeling, nor will I offer explanations of cause and blame, for the causes are probably many and still deeply misunderstood, and there will be blame aplenty in the coming days, blame which, to my mind, really serves no good purpose other than a momentary rush of resentment and righteousness, the shitty effluence of people who care more to criticize than embrace, especially those now in agony.

I would, however, like to offer a more general, wide-scope philosophical observation concerning these and other recent shootings:

These despicable and cowardly murders, now occurring with increasing frequency, are committed at the hands of young, single men, often described as loners, losers, outcasts or guys that were rejected repeatedly from whatsoever group or institution had been their aim. While psychologists lament their poor upbringing and parental abuse/neglect while fidgeting uncomfortably over the levels and dosages of the vicious mood-altering drugs they’ve cruelly prescribed (which no doubt contributed), I am a Student of Philosophy and as such, my job is to observe, understand and outline certain patterns as they appear, patterns which can then be understood, if nothing else.

Thus, it is my firm contention what what we are seeing is the fruit of a lost generation of young men. There are, of course, many reasons for this and while it’s easy to say, “Blame the feminists for emasculating men!” it isn’t quite so easy nor as simple as that. Though it is certainly true that, for over 20 years now, our American Education System has decidedly swayed away from empowering young men and instead, has turned its focus on uplifting and encouraging young women to follow their dreams and find themselves in society, there are other factors at work here beyond that which is learned in the classroom.

More and more, men are simply finding themselves and their long-valued skill sets not only deficient but obsolete. Jobs and trades which once were passed on from father to son are no longer, and those that are inherited are soon abandoned as men move from rural traditional farm and labor jobs to life in the faceless city. Further, without firm parental models from which to view and emulate both right and wrong, male or female, and with no reliable male figures to guide them, the bulk of this generation of young boys are set adrift early in life and essentially told they must take a backseat to their sexual opposites, girls. Thus, with little encouragement to succeed coming from their educators and parents, and with messages constantly pounded into them that there is something essentially wrong about much of their instinctual behavior (boys’ tendencies to play at war or employ violence as a problem solver, for instance), young men are increasingly just giving up on themselves and any thoughts of working towards some tangible, eventual goal.

I say this with certainty, for I am an educator myself, an English teacher in a local high school who must deal with these lost boys every dang Monday morning, when they traipse into class and we momentarily re-live their weekend adventures, adventures which never cease to horrify me, yet evoke barely any response from their jaded, seen-it-all-yesterday peers.

Try as they might, the majority of the boys I see simply don’t give a shit anymore. Where once kids raced home after school to engage in whatever after-school activity they preferred, buoyed by that youthful sense of enthusiasm, that attitude has markedly waned in my students. There is a general listlessness in all but the very few achievers and top athletes, those Winners out of the mass of mere Other-Rans (I speak extensively on this in my book), and it is palpable.

Young boys have nothing driving them now, other than the few hours they steal, hidden away from reality battling space aliens or whatever imaginary foe they’ve set up before them so they can act like every other damn boy who has ever come upon the planet. Young boys need challenges, horizons they can visualize, even vaguely, and then set out in pursuit of. There are almost none of the aforementioned horizons facing our boys today. For many, they can’t even join the military as my generation once did as its last resort, and there are few enticing options in education (which career do boys see right now that appear even remotely appealing beyond ‘rock star’ or ‘celebrity bad-boy’?).

I do what I can, of course, I encourage my boys, and this may shock some, but I always tell them, especially those approaching graduation, “Take a year or so off and travel, go to Brasil or Europe, Thailand, somewhere where the language and the customs and the people force you to adapt and look at yourself differently; then, after such a trip, come back and enter college or chase the career of your choice, but you need some perspective on how the rest of the world lives, because it ain’t like here everywhere else!” I pepper my encouragements with my own world travels and stories true and imaginary, and I’ve actually seen more than a few take up my challenge and thank me afterwards: once forced to adapt to new conditions, the kids always thrive and soon found that Life itself has pointed them in the direction of their desires.

But not enough young boys will challenge themselves in this manner, and very few of them are even presented with the idea that they can and should travel the world as an option to just finding any old job and digging in mundanely. I don’t believe in being mundane and I constantly push my kids, boys and girls, to be bold, to try things now that they’re young and see for themselves how they fit. The girls are easy to fire up; the boys, well, you can often see the look in their eyes after one of my passionate harangues, “Yeah right, Quibner, I’m sure I’m gonna just get on a ship and got to South America, I just can’t!”

“I can’t”: the worst, most debilitating and inhumanly cruel phrase in the English language.

I also do what I can to encourage young boys to read, and not just magazines, comics and Internet porn but real reading. Livy, one of my favorite historian/storytellers, tells us, “The study of History is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in History you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warning. Fine things to take as examples, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid.”

I try my best to blend both history and philosophy, so kids can get a glimpse of both the external events of human importance, and the internal motivations and principles of the people who ‘conspired’ to create those external events. In a group of 30, I may infuse 5 with this infection, and maybe 3 carry it onward, but hey, I’ve reached 3 at the very least.

I will continue to my work, you couldn’t stop me if you tried, but for one young man in Connecticut, neither I nor any other adult could reach him, and that, my friends, is the real crime: like it or not, Society failed him.

~

I had planned to post more book news along with several provocative emails and my responses this week, including a very surprising admission from our friend, Eythor, but I will hold off. The slaughter of innocence has cast a somber pall upon my house and, as we await whatever may befall this coming week and especially Friday the 21st, I will conclude this post, adding my new audio introduction clip for your perusal and to say I’ve got a cool Facebook Fan Page that Seaburn Books has set up for me which I really hope everyone will get a chance to head over to and not only check out but leave a comment or a ”like’.

On this coming Friday, I will post a special December 21st, 2012 message to all of you, which I hope you’ll check out.

In the meantime, and as so many have said, hug your loved ones extra hard in the coming days, take the time to force your self to enjoy them and their wonderfully human idiosyncrasies, and know that there is an unseen hand, a pattern out of all this we may yet one day understand, though perhaps not today…

drawing 2

drawing1

http://youtu.be/xZ6GHYaQDqo

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