I’d think the sky was falling, if…

NOTE: I have no solid answers here.  I’m not even sure I’m asking the right questions, or if I am, if they are of value. But our children’s lives are at stake.   It feels to me that there is a pattern that recurs between individuals and societies, between different groups defined by race, gender, and politics.    Its not surprising if I’m not smart enough or have enough data at my fingers to back this up and nail it down.  But the first thing for me to ask it: does it make sense? Am I thinking something useful here?   THAT is the first step. Strategies and tactics will be emergent qualities of determining “what is true?” and “who are we, as human beings?”  It is in that spirit of inquiry that say the following.




I woke up this morning thinking “I’d bet not many of those mass shooters would be first-day viewers of  Wonder Woman  or  Black Panther.”  There was something about that thought that stayed with me, and drifted into speculations about  mass shootings, and the gun control debate, and how gridlocked it is.  I thought that instead of playing tug-of-war with a Gordian Knot, it might be useful to ask a different set of questions, to motivate a different discussion.


Here’s what I think my brain is playing with: for the sake of discussion, remove the politically motivated people, those who are part of an organization of some kind.  Maybe even those with a rational agenda at all (whether I agree with the agenda is a separate issue).


That rather than a broad political agenda like trying to change behavior (terrorism) it is a sense of shock or displacement. The world in general has changed or disappointed them in some massive way, or they have experienced a personal issue that breaks their connection to consensus reality (at least regarding the value of  human life, and whether others are as human and ‘real’ as they).


Of those, my morning thought was motivated by the  sense that a very large percentage are feeling shock on the basis of demographic change or gender role change. That fear or resistance to change in one or both of those areas will be found in an extremely disproportionate selection of these people. Now, one can BECOME political as a result of some racial or gender-based animus, of course. But so many of these people seem to have no political intent that it almost seems useful to look at the core disconnect before asking if there is a political component.


The greatest problem in relationships is failure to meet expectations.  The greatest personal stress is a gap between expectations and results. Some of the greatest fear is ego-death, the collapse of the sense of self, when under stress you discover that you are not who you thought you were.


Since 2000, it feels to me that there have been massive shifts in a few basic areas in America:  They include but are not confined to:

  1. Changing  demographics and interpretation of America’s racial history (racism)
  2. Shifting gender roles (misogyny)
  3. Shifting attitudes toward homosexuality (homophobia)
  4. America’s shifting role in the world (xenophobia)
  5. Pot legalization (!)
  6. Rise of Atheism (Challenging  core existential beliefs into question)


Imagine someone who is rigidly adherent to three or more arenas in which serious change is occurring.  How much damage could their egos take, how much change, before it feels like death itself?  Before the urge to strike out, or take the rest of the world with you, or punish the world for your pain might overwhelm common sense, fear of punishment or morality?


Everyone has a limit.   Some would collapse internally and suicide. But others will strike out and fight back…even against the innocent. Some of course, would just want to watch the world burn.  Burn it all down, start over.  Or collapse into chaos, which would be better than THIS, dammit.


What makes people self-destructive?  Violent and murderous?  I suggest that psychology is quantum sociology, sociology macro-psychology in some important ways.


That there are personal and social triggers, private and systemic triggers.  The PUNISHMENTS might be the same (I’m not suggesting that understanding requires tolerance.  Not in the slightest), but the potential PREVENTATIVES would be very very different.


The gun control debate is a part of this, but there is nothing I’m going to be able to say here that will break THAT logjam.  And yet I believe problems clearly defined can be solved.


LOGJAM: Both “Second Amendment” and “Gun Control” people believe their solution will make the country (or themselves and their families) safer.   Arguments make people rigid.  Under pressure, therefore, no answers will emerge.


ANSWER: Ask the next question.  If the “How” is jammed, the  “Why are we afraid?” might be lower-hanging fruit.     “Why do these people (mass shooters) take these actions?” is another.


Some will be professionals in nature, just doing a job to create a logically chosen effect. But I think most of them are not that.   Violence is motivated by anger, anger by fear.     SOME of that fear is non-negotiable: you cannot and should not attempt to put the “genies” of racial or genderic equality back in the bottle (and yes, there are other issues, but I think these are easy to look at, and important.)


So long as one believes in equality, these are pointing the way to a better future.


The “RPM” system of goal setting says: WHAT do you want, and WHY do you want it, before you ever ask HOW will you do it.   The guns are “How.”   If we’re logjammed there, we can back up and look at the other elements.   Agree, for instance, on the “WHY” and ask if there is something we can do there.


Is there?  I DON’T KNOW.  But if there is, the only way to do it is to agree that it can and should  be done.


And…if FEAR is a factor that triggers the shootings, and also freezes the discussion of “what to do about guns” then if we don’t admit that, none of our behaviors are addressing the cause, and some of them actually make things worse.


It’s a “what if?” I’m asking.   What if this is true? What if there is something going on here?  I don’t like the term “toxic masculinity” unless you also go for the Yin of “toxic femininity” to create a Tao of “Toxic humanity.”  I’ll discuss THAT.


And I won’t go for a discussion of Bad White People, unless we take the position that, given the same historical circumstances and social pressures, Black people would do the same.   That’s the position I’ve insisted on dealing with damage in the inner city and crime statistics.   It would be dishonorable  not to extend the same courtesy.


So folks…if you don’t like my refusal to condemn men across the board, better not get in my face unless you also want me to condemn whites across the board.  And if you do? Sorry, but you’ve excluded yourself from those I’ll discuss race with.


Yeah. Catch-22.


Bite me.




In about 2010,  I remember saying “Man, if I was a white heterosexual Conservative male Christian beer-drinking American, I’d feel like the sky was falling!”


Hah hah.  It never hit me how fucking serious that statement was.  That I was listing a series of positions which, to the fragile, might well seem under attack.    It didn’t hit me that our egos can only take so much before the world seems like a distorted fever dream.


If America is going through a massive change right now, then consider that almost anyone is in  ONE of those categories.  (And yes, there are other stressors.  But some of those are in my blind spots. I openly admit this).    What if we gave each of those stressors a value of 1-10?  There are seven factors.    What if we say that if you are feeling real stress for a total number of points of over 50, you are under MASSIVE stress, with danger of it becoming strain?


And if you don’t have mental health resources, healthy relationships, a sound self-image, faith in the future, or trust in your fellow man..?


Well, now you might have hooked up your WHAT and your WHY, and start reaching for the HOW.


There are countless people arguing about that “how.”  I see no value in adding my voice to a topic on which I have no expertise.  But this?  The reasons people do what they do?


Here, I just might be able to do some good.








One comment

  1. Thoughts:

    * “Of those, my morning thought was motivated by the sense that a very large percentage are feeling shock on the basis of demographic change or gender role change.”

    Yes, absolutely.

    * “In about 2010, I remember saying “Man, if I was a white heterosexual Conservative male Christian beer-drinking American, I’d feel like the sky was falling!” Hah hah. It never hit me how fucking serious that statement was. That I was listing a series of positions which, to the fragile, might well seem under attack. It didn’t hit me that our egos can only take so much before the world seems like a distorted fever dream.”

    Here’s the import bit here: “seem” under attack. This is revealed by polls which ask whites:

    A. do you believe there is systemic bias against whites
    B. have you experienced any systemic bias because of your race

    And (A) is getting higher and higher responses, whereas (B) does not. It reminds me of a quote from a paper on “white fragility” (Robin DiAngelo, International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3 (3) (2011) pp 54-70): “I am a white woman. I am standing beside a black woman. We are facing a group of white people who are seated in front of us. We are in their workplace, and have been hired by their employer to lead them in a dialogue about race. The room is filled with tension and charged with hostility. I have just presented a definition of racism that includes the acknowledgment that whites hold social and institutional power over people of color. A white man is pounding his fist on the table. His face is red and he is furious. As he pounds he yells, “White people have been discriminated against for 25 years! A white person can’t get a job anymore!” I look around the room and see 40 employed people, all white. There are no people of color in this workplace. Something is happening here, and it isn’t based in the racial reality of the workplace. I am feeling unnerved by this man’s disconnection with that reality, and his lack of sensitivity to the impact this is having on my cofacilitator, the only person of color in the room. Why is this white man so angry? Why is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why are all the other white people either sitting in silent agreement with him or tuning out? We have, after all, only articulated a definition of racism.”

    Whites have lived (and to a very large part continue to live!) “in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress”. Likewise, men have lived (and to a very large part continue to live) in a social environment that protects and insulates them from gender-based stress.

    We are seeing the tip of the iceberg, the smallest, *perceived* introduction of such stress into our society. I fear things are going to get a lot worse before they get better — the rise of nationalist fascism is yes very much a racist ideology, but I think we have been underestimating how much of a mysoginist ideology that it is, and the motivations of fear, anger, loneliness, and resentment behind it as well. It is, as you put it, a disconnect between (incredibly entitled!) expectations and perceptions of reality.


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