Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’

Connecticut Shooting

After the Newton Massacre, the usual suspects are harping about gun control, but passions are short lived on this, compared to the passionate love of guns held by the 100mm plus American gun owners. Let’s hope no idiotic laws are created to harass an overwhelmingly law abiding cohort of American society.

Of course, the Connecticut shooting is an absolute horror show, beyond even the macabre horrors we’ve seen in other mass shootings.  It is beyond words really.  But this event does reveal a problem that is a little more complicated than Auster, for example, would have it.  I wrote some about it here.  In short, there are a lot of crazy people, most need help, and many are undertreated or imprisoned or homeless.  Yet it’s equally true that for every weird crazy kid who shoots up a school, there’s hundreds more whose only crime is that they weird people out and don’t altogether know how to behave.  We can’t simply imprison them all or throw more than a few in looney bins.  It’s costly and too wide a net. Even though there is a continuum for levels of institutionalization, more may not help because it’s not so clear we can easily identify the potentially violent from the merely annoying or self-destructive.

One important development  in the last 50 years is how our rates of mental health institutionalization has gone down as our rates of imprisonment have risen.  When both dropped in tandem, crime soared.  I’m sure these things are probably linked. And we certainly know a great number of mass shooters–Virginia Tech, Columbine, Jared Loughner, and even Charles Whitman–involved individuals who were clearly “off.”

There is always going to be an appropriate total level of institutionalization in any society in order to be safe, and ours is probably too low.  Unfortunately, we have yet to develop the technology or methods to predict crimes such as these in advance.  Any such regime would have a great many false positives.  And, for that reason, real freedom is at risk if we were to institutionalize more mentally people than we do presently.  And it is not even a randomly distributed risk.  There is a great deal of discretion and politics involved in who is declared unfit to live in ordinary society, and shifting contemporary values make it more likely that gun owners, opponents of gay marriage, and so-called racists and chauvinists would be in the pool of the potentially institutionalized than others with more favored varieties of deviant behavior and attitudes.

Conservatives should be especially wary of empowering the mostly leftist psychiatric community to lock up people whom they deem unfit.  Decisions require decision-makers, and the character of this group–who has done so much to make excuses for atrocious crimes and criminals, broken homes, and other evils for a half century or more–leaves much to be desired.

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During college, I took the dominance of feminism somewhat for granted.  It was very much part of the landscape both on campus and beyond.  What I have since come to appreciate is the way that conservatives capitulated to it.  I distinctly recall a class on Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France in the early 90s.  The professor–the estimable Ed Rosenheim, WWII veteran and all around great guy–asked specifically what Burke meant when he spoke of a “manly, moral, and regulated liberty.”  My classmates and I referenced Aristotle’s discussion of the natures of animals, men, and gods.  There was the familiar distinction of liberty and license.  After all this, the professor was somewhat amused; what good boys we all were.  (I think the class consisted entirely of men, in fact.)  None considered that “manly” might be distinguished from “womanly.”  And that “womanly” might be pejorative, as in hysterical, emotional, and weak.


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