Saturday, December 15, 2012

On the Latest School Shooting: Guns and Mental Health

A follow-up to yesterday's more emotional post. I've seen the reactions to yesterday's school shooting in which yet another unmedicated psychotic used an assault rifle to massacre innocent children and their teachers. This being America, the automatic first response is: ban guns! or expand gun rights! My position on that, as a generally pro-gun liberal, is: you can't ban guns anymore, since not only is it the kind of prohibition that enables criminal gangs but 3D printers are making it easy to make guns in your home workshop; but civilians don't really need the right to buy combat weaponry at will. But though guns are one of the great American obsessions, what with the Wild West and all, the usual pro-gun/anti-gun screaming match hides what I'm convinced is the greater issue: the almost complete lack of a mental health system in America. Americans raised in a religious environment emphasizing sin and retribution have a hard time believing that there's any such thing as mental illness at all, and they have disproportionate power in this country. In fact, too many Christians are blaming the absence of God from public schools (and the constitutional separation of church and state in as such) for all school shootings: make God our dictator and stone the infidels, they insist, and America will be at absolute peace by definition. Also, we tend to have a raging hostility to government support of anything. As for the "crazies": lock 'em up in squalid old-fashioned madhouses and leave 'em to die! Did I mention that civilization tends to be lacking here in America? I'm supposed to be this anarchist, but I was a Buddhist for many years, so I believe in "expedient means" to establish, in this case, social peace. Karl Marx, though neither Buddhist nor anarchist, insisted that the expedient means of "dictatorship of the proletariat" (over the bourgeois aristocracy, he meant, not the protofascist perversion that destroyed the name of Marxism in the 20th century) had to be established before the State could wither away to anarchy. The expedient means required in this case is to use government to build a strong mental health system that will take in mentally ill people and help them at least start to heal before they can take out their frustrations and delusions on the general public. Nearly all these spree killers are mentally ill. So are their counterparts in China responsible for the wave of mass-stabbing incidents with knives over there. China too has a corporatist government, and it has no mental health system at all, since its Stalinist brand of corporatism, like our vulgar-Calvinist variety, denies that mental illness exists. We need to help these people before they turn on us — again.

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