Guyside: when we go wrong

Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Guyside, health, general, men, politics | 0 comments

Like most of North America, I was horrified to hear of the shooting / stabbing murders of six people in California. Those murders were followed by the suicide of the young man who carried out the mass attack, Eric Elliott Rodger. There’s been a million words said and written already about him, and I’m going to try not to rehash those.

Rodger left behind reams of video and writing about himself. He felt he was unable to “get women,” apparently. He hated women for their rejections, and hated the men who were able to “get” women for their “prowess.” He haunted “Pick-up Artist” and bodybuilding forums online, and seemed to boil with anger at those whose actions left him alone and miserable.

When I was a kid, there were people I went to school with who I quite easily could have seen carrying out an attack like this. Angry, obsessive about guns and violence, mercurial, bitter about women in the extreme. Seething underneath, their rage only surfacing when liberated by alcohol or drugs, even their jokes full of meanness.

None of the people I went to school with ended up doing anything. At least that spectacularly horrible. They drifted out of my orbit a long time ago, becoming the sort of people you only think about when something like this attack happens.

It’s difficult for me to make sweeping prescriptions about what would stop these attacks from happening, what might have stopped this most recent attack. I’m Canadian, and it’s easy — and dishonest — to be superior. We had our own misogynist tragedy in Montreal in 1989. That one left 14 women dead at the hands of someone who blamed “feminists” for his own failures. More recently, five young people were stabbed to death at a house party in Calgary, Alberta. The person charged is the young son of a senior Calgary police officer.

I’m not a parent, so I can’t claim I’m having meaningful chats with my sons about these issues, or caring for their mental health.

A Wikimedia image of the memorial to the 14 engineering students who were murdered in the “Montreal Massacre.”

So I guess all I can say is this: there are people out there who are broken. It might be they’re wired wrong; it might be that circumstances have conspired against them; it might be they’ve authored their own misfortunes. But they’re broken. Most of the time, these broken folk are more harmful to themselves than anyone else. But sometimes, and I don’t think any of us know how to tell when, they decide to take up arms against others.

So what can I, as a man, do about this? A few things, none of which make me feel particularly fulfilled. If there are younger men in your life — sons, nephews, friends — show them a positive model. If you’re concerned about attitudes or behavior that you see, SAY so. Reach out to them. If you see the corrosive attitudes which lay under Rodger, and seem to lie under so many of the perpetrators of this violence, say something about it; do something about it. Advocate for social changes you’d like to see with your political representatives. If I were in the US, I’d be talking about restrictions on firearms ownership and getting in trouble EVERY DAY. Here in Canada, we aren’t plagued by gun violence as our southern neighbours are, so I don’t feel that urgency.

We’ll never live in a world free of hatred, or of the violence that hatred can cause. But doing something to improve the situation is better than doing nothing.

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