I was thinking today about the murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward and the human detritus who killed them when this from Hamlet crossed my mind:
To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die- to sleep-
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d.
~ Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1
Vester Lee Flanagan was a fragile human being – not fragile in the sense of a delicate piece of china – fragile as a steel beam that was not properly processed. Like that steel beam, he was filled with internal stresses that had accumulated over time until he fractured along a stress riser and broke.
Society has created generations of pop psychology fueled intellectual and spiritual weaklings. We’ve tried to make sure that every person had a “healthy” self-esteem whether they deserved it or not – so we gave everybody a case of Dr. Feelgood’s Magic Elixir and sent them on their way. We sought to make them feel good by preventing them from ever feeling bad…but bad is good – it teaches us things like how to handle anger, adversity, insult and most of all, failure.
So many of society’s greatest successes have only come as a result of the most spectacular failures. Bad teaches us that while we have to own our failures, we do not have to allow them to define us. It tests us, it separates the worthy from the unworthy – and contrary to the pop psychology view, there are unworthy among us.
In a normal ecosystem, damaged organisms are challenged and tested, those found lacking are sorted out, segregated and expelled. Humans are the only biological entity determined to incorporate our own sicknesses, to treat aberrations as normalcy, because we believe we can cheat the natural world – that we are somehow not subject to its laws. What an arrogance – natural laws are immutable, they are like gravity – it doesn’t matter if you agree with them or even understand them, they still apply and they apply equally to everyone.
We created a generation of grievance collecting Incredulous Hulks, ready to turn green at every perceived offense. Their only reaction to all of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is “Hulk smash!”
The failure is not of the person, the failure is in the design – through righteous and rigorous defense from offense, we have designed people who are offended by everything.
Several years ago I wrote:
“As I read this, I couldn’t help but recognize how much society behaves like an organism. If you consider the human components of society, there are many similarities to the human body in that there are groups of people who perform functions much akin to human organs – producing, repairing, adapting – essentially providing the mechanical operations to keep a society “breathing”, to keep it alive.
Unfortunately, and I think undeniably, it would be an accurate observation to say that we also have people who are the equivalent of parasites, bad bacteria, viruses, cancer. These societal “parasites” exhibit a variety of anti-social behaviors that harm society…and before you think that I’m going all Aldous Huxley/Brave New World on you – I am not advocating that we separate society into Alphas, Betas, Deltas, Gamma’s and Epsilons – what I am saying is that I believe that this is exactly what modern social science is attempting to do…and failing miserably.
I would only state that my observations simply indicate in interesting illustrative parallel between human physiology and societal “physiology”.
If you see the same parallels as I do and accept my premise, then the hypothetical question I would pose is this: by trying to remove and eliminate all anti-social behaviors, especially in children, are we also eliminating valuable socialization learning opportunities, essentially killing the good “bad behaviors” and instead of “curing”, we actually harm society?
Are our attempts to eradicate behaviors that we have deemed “unacceptable” actually just putting the cork back in the Champagne bottle before we shake it?”
The implication is not that mental weakness should be segregated; however, mental fitness should be constantly challenged. Children should experience loss and failure through competition. It is better to teach kids the art of self regulation and self governance before they become adults. If we aren’t willing to do that, we can expect the numbers of monsters like Vester Lee Flanagan to continue to increase. Tragedies like Roanoke and Charleston are not a function of easy access to guns, it is that we are increasing the population of monsters in society.
Flanagan was no doubt mentally damaged – but we have many damaged people in society today whose main function is to collect grievances until the cork pops. Our society is building these monsters by shielding them from the natural processes that relieve these stresses.