Each day another culturally reduced group is stricken with abuse, panic, anger and driven to what seem fresh new demands for justice.
Black youths killed by police or vigilante bullets? Check. Women raped or physically abused? Check. Workers left jobless with no hope for the future? Check. Students wondering how to pay for an education that produced low paying work? Check. Immigrants supplying the economy with profitable cheap labor and treated as sub-humans? Check. Another crazed person imitating an army and killing many people? Check.
The latest murders committed by a tortured and demented person and media labeled a “rampage” or a “massacre” has once again brought forth calls for gun control – though three of his six victims were stabbed – attention to rampant sexism and abuse of women – though three of his victims were men – and more suffering and tears for parents, friends, relatives and citizens with new fears about where to walk, shop or just try to act like a normal person without worrying about being attacked by a stranger driven mad by demons of the mind, body and marketplace.
The Isla Vista slaughter seemed provoked by a young man’s deadly frustration at not getting any of the sexual commodities that we reduce women to, young and old, in the packaging and cosmeticising of them that we call the fashion business. The job we do on reducing women to painted objects squeezed into clothing that either makes them look foolish or is so revealing it provokes idiocy from men is enough to make Islamic fundamentalists who insist women be covered in robes before going out in public seem more concerned about their safety than western feminists.
Some years ago a very young child was murdered and many were shocked at photos of a sweet little girl tarted up to look like a desirable-to-perverts woman and entered into things called “beauty contests” for children no more than eight or nine years of age. The terrible crime and the attendant publicity may have led to a slight decline in this horrendous early packaging syndrome – not before at least one Hollywood production - but the trend was there much earlier and continues to this day.
We smile with favor on an economic commodity culture that strives to make women look like the most desirable sexual products available and then grieve when men taught to see them as glorified “hoes” act like crazed animals when dealing with them. That most of us – men or women - do not conduct ourselves as craven beasts or sexual sluts is no more indication of our individual purity than that we do not all bomb, stab, shoot and burn foreigners is an indication of our complete irresponsibility for the fact that our culture and political economy are profiting from such things.
Simply blaming everything on individuals, even the most demented – excluding, of course the truly powerful and most responsible - does absolutely nothing to bring about social change.
The same arguments being made about sexism and violence against women now were being made generations ago. The same outrage about racist murders is even older. Economic pain, debt, wars and environmental assaults on nature are hardly anything new, though their occurrence may seem more noticeable than ever before.
There are social roots at the base of all these things no matter how we are manipulated into simply identifying individuals as being the guilty parties, however profitable that may be to individuals on the other side of the moral ledger. The loss is something we all absorb whether we are taught to identify as male, female, persons of color, persons of no color, gays, straights, liberals, conservatives and whatever other special minority category or box we allow ourselves to be kept inside.
Our culture doesn’t just create sickness: it creates profit from sickness. Drugs, therapy and more drugs won’t help cure the loneliness, alienation, despair, frustration and vicious animosity that are byproducts of a system based on benefits for some only at severe cost for others.
We need to acknowledge social problems that hurt all of us in order to break the artificial barriers reducing us to minorities in order to become a majority that creates the democracy we need to benefit the same group. All of us.