Go Ask Alice

Since the recent shootings in Aurora, CO and Newtown, CT, I have been trying to understand why in the last 25 years or so we are seeing an increase in the numbers of mass shootings in schools, malls, churches, workplaces and other public spaces. In the popular media there are several issues gaining traction in response to these tragedies; notably gun control and security. But focusing on the issue of more gun control legislation or an increase in building security of public places, suggests that we don’t necessarily want to look at the possibility of other causes for the increase in these types of tragedies. Do advances in gun technology or – as has also been suggested, a craving for instant notoriety serve as sufficient motivating factors to explain an increase in the frequency of these tragedies?

Perhaps typifying the corruption found in our current economic system of crony capitalism,  connecting and publicizing  the perpetrators to their known use of psychotropic drugs (aka, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and anti-mania drugs) are under-reported in the media. Yet the use of prescription drugs with their documented list of harmful and sometimes deadly side-effects on users – along with attempts by the pharmaceutical companies and the FDA to underestimate their harm or cover them up entirely, should be considered when examining the motives of the perpetrators in any of the mass shootings.

Pharmaceutical companies enjoy an elevated status from our healthcare providers and protection from the media as both parties continue to make billions off of suggestive and easily marketable common human conditions such as anxiety, depression and mood disorders. How many television commercials do we endure telling us to “ask our doctor about…” any of the many chemical concoctions now available to fix everything from an ailing sex-drive to sleeplessness to metabolic problems, many of which are caused by our lifestyles, or are inevitable consequences of aging?

We have been repeatedly warned that marijuana use may be addictive, lead to a desire for stronger drugs and is a public safety hazard. As studies show, those very same dangers are proven to exist with all psychotropics. Not every individual is at risk, but the same holds true for marijuana users. So, how is it that we should trust the experts who warn us against the harm in marijuana use yet still believe in the safety of prescription drugs that carry similar risks? To be sure, many prescription drug deaths are from pain killers. These deaths are just as tragic, and understandably can occur when someone with chronic pain accidentally overdoses.

Studies have found that many of the psychotropics tested against a placebo are no more effective in treating the so-called illnesses they claim to treat. And if the drugs caused little harm, who would care? But most of these drugs can and do cause harm and there’s no way to predict who will be adversely affected, although children seem to be at greater risk.

You may know someone who has been helped by these drugs, or perhaps you yourself have benefited by their use. My aim here is not to challenge the veracity of your experience but to challenge the idea that continued use always equals a positive outcome, and that therefore the use of psychotropics is safe. It is not reasonable to conclude that drugs are safe just because the healthcare industry promotes their use. Your doctor may be well meaning, but s/he may be trusting the pharmaceutical companies because s/he thinks they are the experts. Many doctors do not have degrees in pharmacology.

I am no doctor or professional and there is plenty of information available on the use of psychotropics on the internet. My hope is that as the number of Americans using psychotropics continues to rise, the pharmaceutical companies will be challenged by every incident of psychotropic use that harms someone and that the Experts, calling the shots in our culture, including those who are infiltrating public schools with screening programs will come under greater scrutiny for their ties with the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA and the industry’s desire to expand their profits and legitimacy in spite of the harm they sometimes cause.

For further study:

http://ssristories.com/index.php?sort=date&p=soldier

http://www.encognitive.com/node/886

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jun/23/epidemic-mental-illness-why/

http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/25/3/635.full

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jul/14/illusions-of-psychiatry/

Thank you Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane for the post theme song:

“When logic and proportion
Have fallen SLOPPY dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen’s LOST her head
Remember what the dormouse said

Feed your head” Grace Slick

49 Reasons Redux

It’s hard not to be emotionally touched by the tragedies of this past week, even though most of us do not know the victims, survivors or the criminals. In that way we all share in the very impersonal nature of the mass shootings in nearby Clackamas, Oregon and far away Newtown, Connecticut. I think the impersonal nature of these crimes wants something from us and beg for some sort of understanding. We cannot look to reason though to explain them, nor to seek an end to them. For these crimes are not reasonable, for it is not reasonable to murder strangers, especially children.

The next few days will be filled by our mutual attempts to understand and to fix this cultural problem, however we each come to define that. I too am guilty of wanting to know… something, anything… that will help me to reconcile raw feeling to desire for reason. My curiosity tends to revolve around finding out about the killer. I can’t help but to want to know more about him, to try to make sense of how someone reaches a point in their life when murdering strangers ends up on their “to do” list. But all of my attempts to know the killer have not yet led me any closer to understanding something tangible about their motivations for such heinous actions.

The media will flood us with images- tempting each of us to fill the hole in our hearts left by utterly incomprehensible events. The political football will be thrown back and forth to score points for legislative solutions. I believe our troubles go much deeper than that. It is as if we have fallen into a deep, dark well and have lost our sight. Perhaps where there is no light we must first learn to live in the dark. For now I think I’ll try to live with the sadness as best as I can and, as the Benedictine monks say, “To keep death before one’s eyes daily.”

I realize too, that I share in the guilt of our dying culture, even or especially as I make these reflections public. For the record, it’s worth noting that I don’t see what I offer here as a solution, but more as an acceptance of my feeling of powerlessness over the very big picture of our place in time. Below is the post I wrote after the Aurora, Colorado movie house murders in which I speak to the attack these crimes bring on public places:

Of course we want to know why anyone would plan and execute a horrific mass murder of strangers in an American movie house. We want to know why so we can understand it, fix it, and not live in fear for our lives and the lives of those we love.

But senseless murders happen all the time, and to strangers, so what makes the Aurora, CO shootings so different? I suggest that crimes of this nature, those that take place in colleges, schools, fast food places, churches and now movie houses, destroy our expectation of safety in the most public places our culture. These are the places in which we gather for safety, or entertainment and to enjoy the experience of otherness. They are built, preserved and used by and for all of us- our much needed common ground.

I would even go so far as to say they are by modern standards, sacred places. It is their very sacredness that makes the crimes committed in these places all the more horrific. As much as we are horrified by the senseless loss of life, we also feel terribly violated and shocked because of where the murders take place. Killings of this sort are not only targeting people, but the places and our expectations of what those places have come to mean to us.

These crimes have a very impersonal sense to them. Maybe that is why we keep telling the stories of the victims and the survivors. The psyche insists on personifying the act in which the killer attempts to depersonalize, which is demonstrated by his capacity for murdering strangers. We cannot allow, nor should we let the killer’s real crime, his failure of relationship, to have the last word.

There is no reason you can give to explain the motives of someone who is not only killing people, but killing places and killing our culture. It is not reasonable to intend to kill people whom one does not even know. We cannot look to reason to understand mass murders of strangers. The killer, oddly enough, resists personifying and even through the notoriety that the crime brings remains unrelated; a stranger.

Perhaps, to begin to understand what is changing in our culture that might be decreasing our capacity for relatedness we can look to the dark side of modern technology with its increase in mediating our interpersonal experiences- in which we do not have to relate to others, face to face, with flesh and blood humans that talk back, disagree, love and hate us. As it becomes more and more possible to live life without having to truly engage each other in the struggle for survival- we need to remember what our face to face need for each other does for us, how it tempers our sense of self and our world with the one thing we can never live without – otherness.

“Forty nine reasons all in a line
All of them good ones all of them lies.” Stephen Stills

1) He was born that way

2) He was abused as a child

3) He is mentally ill

4) He was heart broken

5) He was evicted from his apartment because he couldn’t pay the rent

6) Not enough gun control laws

7) Too many gun control laws

8) Obsessed with video games

9) He was on drugs

10) He wasn’t on drugs

11) White male privilege

12) He was rejected from a job with the police

13) He was rejected by women online

14) He had a desire to achieve noteriety

15) Unable to form satisfying sexual attachments

16) He was the Joker

17) He thought he was in the movie

18) He was a classic lone wolf

19) He was having problems with his studies

20) He was clinging to his guns

21) He was a Christian

22) He was not a Christian

23) He struggled to find work

24) He was a member of the Tea Party

25) He was a member of Black Bloc

26) Too much violence in the culture

27) He chose to do it

28) He was young and male

29) He does not have a conscience

30) He is a rampage killer

31) He is autistic

32) He was bullied

33) He is a Trekkie

34) He has crossed the Fourth Wall

35) He has identity confusion

36) He has Borderline Personality disorder

37) Urban life has messed him up

38) He is the face of the Constitution

39) He is the product of a sick and twisted society

40) He wanted to wake us up

41) He was a Psych major

42) He has Asperger’s Syndrome

43) He loved all the villains

44) He suffered academic frustration

45) He’s a terrorist

46) He wasn’t progressing

47) He was used as part of a conspiracy to justify UN arms treaty

48) My reason: See above post

49) Your reason here: ________________

Thanks to CSNY for 49 Bye Byes

49 Reasons

Of course we want to know why anyone would plan and execute a horrific mass murder of strangers in an American movie house. We want to know why so we can understand it, fix it, and not live in fear for our lives and the lives of those we love.

But senseless murders happen all the time, and to strangers, so what makes the Aurora, CO shootings so different? I suggest that crimes of this nature, those that take place in colleges, schools, fast food places, churches and now movie houses, destroy our expectation of safety in the most public places our culture. These are the places in which we gather for safety, or entertainment and to enjoy the experience of otherness. They are built, preserved and used by and for all of us- our much needed common ground.

I would even go so far as to say they are by modern standards, sacred places. It is their very sacredness that makes the crimes committed in these places all the more horrific. As much as we are horrified by the senseless loss of life, we also feel terribly violated and shocked because of where the murders take place. Killings of this sort are not only targeting people, but the places and our expectations of what those places have come to mean to us.

These crimes have a very impersonal sense to them. Maybe that is why we keep telling the stories of the victims and the survivors. The psyche insists on personifying the act in which the killer attempts to depersonalize, which is demonstrated by his capacity for murdering strangers. We cannot allow, nor should we let the killer’s real crime, his failure of relationship, to have the last word.

There is no reason you can give to explain the motives of someone who is not only killing people, but killing places and killing our culture. It is not reasonable to intend to kill people whom one does not even know. We cannot look to reason to understand mass murders of strangers. The killer, oddly enough, resists personifying and even through the notoriety that the crime brings remains unrelated; a stranger.

Perhaps, to begin to understand what is changing in our culture that might be decreasing our capacity for relatedness we can look to the dark side of modern technology with its increase in mediating our interpersonal experiences- in which we do not have to relate to others, face to face, with flesh and blood humans that talk back, disagree, love and hate us. As it becomes more and more possible to live life without having to truly engage each other in the struggle for survival- we need to remember what our face to face need for each other does for us, how it tempers our sense of self and our world with the one thing we can never live without – otherness.

“Forty nine reasons all in a line
All of them good ones all of them lies.” Stephen Stills

1) He was born that way

2) He was abused as a child

3) He is mentally ill

4) He was heart broken

5) He was evicted from his apartment because he couldn’t pay the rent

6) Not enough gun control laws

7) Too many gun control laws

8) Obsessed with video games

9) He was on drugs

10) He wasn’t on drugs

11) White male privilege

12) He was rejected from a job with the police

13) He was rejected by women online

14) He had a desire to achieve noteriety

15) Unable to form satisfying sexual attachments

16) He was the Joker

17) He thought he was in the movie

18) He was a classic lone wolf

19) He was having problems with his studies

20) He was clinging to his guns

21) He was a Christian

22) He was not a Christian

23) He struggled to find work

24) He was a member of the Tea Party

25) He was a member of Black Bloc

26) Too much violence in the culture

27) He chose to do it

28) He was young and male

29) He does not have a conscience

30) He is a rampage killer

31) He is autistic

32) He was bullied

33) He is a Trekkie

34) He has crossed the Fourth Wall

35) He has identity confusion

36) He has Borderline Personality disorder

37) Urban life has messed him up

38) He is the face of the Constitution

39) He is the product of a sick and twisted society

40) He wanted to wake us up

41) He was a Psych major

42) He has Asperger’s Syndrome

43) He loved all the villains

44) He suffered academic frustration

45) He’s a terrorist

46) He wasn’t progressing

47) He was used as part of a conspiracy to justify UN arms treaty

48) My reason: See above post

49) Your reason here: ________________

Thanks to CSNY for 49 Bye Byes