Wednesday, September 24, 2008

School shootings, youth violence and depression

OK, I have to be very blunt here and explain some societal changes that are now coming back to bite people very hard, especially young males. We have just had the shootings in Finland. There is a pattern of emulating Columbine and other shootings, with grievances, fascination and lack of fear of death, a dark seething rage, access to weapons that enable those with no impulse control, networks of like minded youths including the problem of gangs, and last of all, fueling addictions such as alcohol, drugs, pornography.

Now, why are so many youth, especially young males, seething and detached from the joys of life (often totally numb to them) and unable to have patience and fortitude during their youth and difficult times? I bet you expect me to say the absence of fathers and the breakdown of the family, but that is not what I am going to focus on, although obviously that has had a terrible effect. Yet, we see these problems even in families that seem traditional and content, or at least adequate, on the outside.

No, I have to get a little Freudian and also social scientist to explain to you what has happened. Humans have evolved over millions of years to have peak sexuality and lots of energy when youth, particularly men, are in their late teenage years and into their twenties. That is how the human species is wired to survive. Young men have maximum energy to reproduce and take on great responsibility in their teens, though they lack the finishing gloss of maturity, which they get in their twenties and thirties. So here is how humanity used to do things. Young men could look forward to being sexually gratified in their late teens when they were married and became heads of new families (under the watchful eyes of their parents). Young people were paired up in arranged marriages for thousands of years, around the world and in all society, rich or poor, of all faiths and cultures. This way no man or woman was left without a spouse, giving sex when the young man is most driven to obtain it, and also giving him a piece of adult responsibility with marriage. For example, a typical young man would be matched to a young woman in their village and they would obtain a piece of land from the parents to farm. The young man would have sexual gratification, the woman would have a provider, and both would be able to start their own journey into maturity.

Today we have claimed that society is "liberated" and men and women can be intimate with whoever they want. But the result is that as our society has become more highly sexualized (as if humans needed help in that regard) yet access to regular, stable loving sex has been destroyed. Without the pairing that used to take place through family alliances, matchmaking and other customs, many youth are overstimulated and yet excluded from a stable sexual situation (marriage) and also a share in taking on adult responsibility (farming or having an apprenticeship or share of a family trade). As a result we see two extremes in young men. We see a violent seething under culture fueled by alienation, loneliness, repressed sexual needs, inability to be physically and mentally matured by parental and grandparent role models.... or you have the drugging and dummying down of male youth in order to make them feminized and compliant as they work their way through seemingly endless schooling and then into a desk job.

Traditional human culture was much more compassionate in this regard. You did not have many "bachelors" or seething male youth because villages and communities ensured that all possible compatible matches were made. So there was no young man or woman "left behind" because they were not popular or pretty or "hot" enough to get laid or to be matured in a structured way, such as apprenticeship. That is why I have said kind things about arranged marriages, and I know a very content couple who were married in the traditional way. By the way, I'm obviously not talking about "astrology" and "fortune telling" matches. Those were the minority of one society I could mention. The rest of the world through the centuries just cared about "compatibility" and ability to support a family.

As a result we now have two generations in a row of seething, under served (in the sense of being stewarded and ushered into meaningful adulthood via family, community and society), over stimulated (hormones plus all of the agitating addictions and instant gratification society), rudderless (thus vulnerable to depression) youth who are both tossed out on their own earlier than they should be AND infantalized in areas where they should be given adult responsibilities. People used to be matched, married young and given adult responsibilities (trades, farming, apprentice, etc) and now they lack all of that while at the same time being over stimulated in their senses and expectations, fueled by the unreality of life as portrayed in the media, and often aggravated by broken families and low impulse control. For example, a young man used to be introduced to weapons, such as guns, in the context of hunting for food for the family. Now a young man is introduced to guns in TV violence (the previous generation) and with this generation, video games and weaponized "superhero" mentality. This is why even youth from traditional families are vulnerable to the pressures of depression, lack of sexual gratification within a timely marriage when they have peak urge, and dark nihilistic "seeking" of "meaning" and worse, glorifying the lack of meaning. All this is happening in the same evolved biological human bodies that are programmed to "expect" sex and family responsibility by the late teens or early twenties and have an excess of energy that used to be used in sheer survival skills, such as hunting, farming, home building and the military. Now many youth have to sublimate their human "birth right" into alienation, longing, bitterness, depression and hostile escapism. What a terrible problem this is and people need to get real about what humans are really like and what is the healthiest for them in their genuine natures and not in fantasy.

Obviously there is more to say and an awful lot of damage to undo, but I truly hope this gives you, especially the young people, a more generous perspective of the potentials and problems of humans and their human nature.