There are no words that can adequately convey the deepest sympathy we feel for the families and friends of the victims of the latest mass killings and woundings by a young male gunman. Words are meagre symbols of an attempt to articulate feelings that cannot be properly articulated – feelings that include elements of empathy, sorrow and anger.
It seems such a short time since we were reflecting in this 3Di blog on the mass killing that took place in Norway, similar to the one before that in Scotland – cold-blooded slaughters of innocent young people and children. And we don’t forget the previous mass murders in Colorado – which took place at Columbine high school – just a few miles away from the latest tragedy.
We could also include in our recent memories the mass killings caused by bombs on London’s public transport system – placed there by crazed adherents of a psycho-political ideology with revenge in their hearts.
No-one will ever forget the mass killings of more than three thousand innocent souls in the twin towers of the World Trade Centre – which were also said to be in revenge for killings committed by armed forces elsewhere in the world.
Throughout the world, on a daily basis, innocent people are killed by cold-blooded murderers and by armed forces acting on behalf of cold-blooded governments. Gun ownership proliferates, as does the technology, the know-how and the materials of bomb-making.
Various reactions occur.
a) There’s nothing we can do about it. This is what the world has become. It’s a hostile and violent place. Get used to it.
b) Fight fire with fire. Buy guns and be prepared to shoot those who threaten you and your loved ones. Send our armed forces to kill those who would harm us.
c) Commit to pacifism, non-violence and universal peace, and also to due process through law enforcement to punish in the courts those who commit acts of violence and destruction.
Different shades of opinion will always exist. It’s not east to persuade a non-violent person to become violent, or to persuade a violent person to become non-violent. The gun lobby says, “It’s not guns that kill – it’s people.” The anti-guns camp says, “Ban all weaponry, including hand-guns, rifles, shotguns and attack knives.”
Unfortunately millions of weapons are already in private ownership, and those who wish to possess a gun or a knife will always be able to obtain one. And those who have access to deadly weapons will always consider using them as a means of expressing destructive emotions or insane thoughts.
So is there nothing to be done?
There’s plenty to be done.
If certain societies on this planet can create a culture of peace and non-violence then all societies can do so – if there’s really a public will for it to happen. It might take decades or even generations – but it can happen.
As you’d expect from educationalists such as ourselves we see education as the best hope for the world – the type of education that raises levels of personal intelligence, spiritual intelligence, social intelligence and instinctual intelligence, as distinct from a so-called education that considers the passing of examinations in academic subjects the absolute be-all and end-all. (See recents posts on this blog. See practically all of our posts.) We really do need to change the way we think about intelligence(s).
The young man who committed this recent atrocity had been a doctoral student. According to the criteria we commonly use to judge ourselves and our fellow citizens – academic success – he was by no means a stupid person. There appeared to be nothing wrong with his intellect, as such. So was he just sick, mentally ill, a psychopath? It’s too early to know. Like Breivik, he gave himself up and will now be assessed for insanity or criminality. It seems nobody who knew him or worked with him at school identified him as having mental or emotional problems.
People like this, however, are the tip of the iceberg as far as insanity and criminality are concerned. All around us are low-level criminals and others who are full of crazy ideas and half-suppressed destructive emotions – which erupt and cause mayhem from time to time.
We live in sick societies whose sickness is not helped by schools where personal, social, spiritual and emotional wellbeing are given lip-service (at most) by professional staff whose own wellbeing is constantly damaged and threatened by political agendas that serve to increase levels of alienation, frustration and despair.
And, as we keep on saying here, it doesn’t have to be this way.
From yesterday’s post on Singapore’s new approach to education and learning –
• We should teach more to prepare our students for the test of life and less for a life of tests.
• We should focus more on teaching the whole child, in nurturing him holistically across different domains, and less on teaching our subjects per se.
• We should teach our students the values, attitudes and mindsets that will serve him well in life, and not only how to score good grades in exams.
• We should focus more on the process of learning, to build confidence and capacity in our students, and less on the product.
Sympathy for Aurora’s victims should not stop us addressing the fact that more than 84 people are shot to death daily in the US
by Gary Younge
At least 12 people have died. Their families must be given space to mourn, and that space should be respected. But it does not honour the dead to insist that there must be no room in that space for rational thought and critical appraisal. Indeed, such situations demand both.
For one can only account for so many “isolated” incidents before it becomes necessary to start dealing with a pattern. It is simply not plausible to understand events in Colorado this Friday without having a conversation about guns in a country where more than 84 people a day are killed with guns, and more than twice that number are injured with them.
To claim that “this is not the time” ignores the reality that America has found itself incapable of finding any appropriate time to have this urgent conversation. The victims in Colorado deserve at least that. And these tragedies take place everyday, albeit on a smaller scale.
Gun control is possible. There are both a constituency for it and an argument for it. But it can’t happen without a political coalition prepared to fight for it.
This piece was written by one of Britain’s finest journalists, who has an American wife and currently lives in America, writing articles for the Guardian newspaper.
Whilst we have the utmost respect for Gary Younge, especially after meeting him recently at a Guardian event, we regret the single focus in this article on gun control – and the lack of focus on the long- and medium-term role of education in building a nation of more enlightened, more peaceable, more non-violent, more resilient and more intelligent individuals. In every country.
See also this very fine piece of commentary by Karen Wan on her blog Writing Your Destiny (Uplift Your Life and the World Through the Power of Your Words) –
Creating an Enchanted Oasis in a World Where Violence Too Often Occurs
With the latest tragic gun violence in Colorado last night, it seems inappropriate to talk about the challenges of daring to live an enchanting life when we live in a world that is filled with injustice, tragedy, and senseless actions of the few that affect the many.
Whether we see senseless violence in the world or ongoing injustices, we can feel that creating peace and beauty for ourselves is frivolous or a way of burying our heads in the sand.
I felt a tinge of guilt for my own prosperity when I was reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity – a book by the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Katherine Boo, about life in the slums of India. She spent four years observing Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As I read the book, I couldn’t help but be struck by the injustice of so much wealth juxtaposed next to such dire poverty. For most of us, the way forward is not to all become impoverished but bring balance to our abundance and prosperity.
Yesterday, I heard a riveting radio program that talked about research that has shown that countries where income inequality is high experience increases in a large number of undesirable effects including mental illness, while countries with greater income balance experience more of the good things we all want. In my other blog, I wrote about the increasing amounts of data pointing to the societal problems caused from income inequality in America and other countries around the world. You might be surprised to find how poorly America shows up on the income inequality scale, or maybe you wouldn’t if you have been paying attention to what has been happening in this country during the last 30 years.
We are living in a time when the questions for all of us include:
How do we keep our heart and mind open to the injustices and tragedies in the world, at the same time that we allow ourselves to experience and create enchantment in our own lives?
Can we use positive thinking and prayers to change the inequities in the world around us?
Is there a change we feel called to make in our own lifestyle?
How can we improve lives for ourselves and help others when we live in less than ideal cultures and social systems?
Can we do something to change the inequalities in our own world?
When I hear or read about a tragic event like the shooting in Colorado, I choose to focus not only on the causes of the senseless violence, but on the outpouring of the kindness of strangers to those who have been hurt. There is so much goodness in the world, and we need to remember that too.
Services are being held across Norway today to mark the first anniversary of the mass murders of Anders Breivik.
An American commentator on BBC TV this morning spoke about the Aurora killings as part of “an open wound in the American psyche”, and also pointed out that it’s time to address the sickness in modern societies where attention-seeking and the hunger for celebrity are very potent drivers of behavior.
It would be wonderful to think that out of these tragedies there could arise an international movement of parents, teachers, writers, artists, and young people that could demand changes to legislation and changes to education systems that would significantly impact on the sickness and violence in our increasingly desperate and competitive societies. Doing nothing is no longer an option, if it ever was.