The Flimsy Veneer of Civilization

Posted by: on Aug 3, 2012 | No Comments

We’re constantly bombarded with all sorts of disturbing newsflashes about wars, armed conflicts and violence throughout the world. Yet, when we receive news about a mass shooting like in Aurora, we are exceptionally perturbed. It keeps me thinking whether we are what we think we are.

July 20, 2012 was another black day in the history of mass shootings. In Aurora, Colorado, 12 people were shot and 59 were injured by one of our kind – a human being. The Aurora massacre is the temporary apex in a sad story of mass shootings here in the US as well as worldwide. Naturally, we are shocked and affected; we are sad and full of sympathy and compassion for the parents, sisters, brothers, and other relatives and friends of the victims.

But in all this ocean of sorrow, apprehension and anxiety, of teddy bears, lit candles and flowers we forget about what and who we really are. We are the most advanced and most intelligent form of predators, of creatures at the top of the food chain that thrive for influence and power just per se, just because we can, and just because we decide to do so.

A few thousand years of cultural development and socialization vanish in a blink of an eye when the brain snaps and somebody decides this world is unfair, violent, not the right place for them or everybody else and seeks revenge by mutating into a berserk, a beast that might as well lived in the stone age or even earlier. And I don’t think it makes a big difference here if somebody gone gaga just snatches a rifle and starts shooting randomly or if they’re planning a mass shooting or a terrorist attack meticulously in all details.

A very popular reaction in the “civilized” nations after such tragic events is the demand for more gun control. Are you kidding me? Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely support that nobody should have the right to carry a weapon. But even countries with way more strict regulations and gun control can’t prevent mass shootings as proven 2009 in Winnenden, Germany, or 2011 in Tyrifjorden, and Buskerud, Norway. Even if we would restrict the possession and use of weapons of all kinds to police and military – where there is a will, there is a way. It just would be a little bit more complicated to get a weapon. And who is going to stop a determined killer?

I think it’s human kind’s biggest achievement and disadvantage that we are able to come up with ways to figure out how to get what we want. And when we don’t get what we want, we can get pretty nasty. So nasty, that I’m sure we didn’t have one millisecond of peace – or shall we say the absence of violence – since begin of our civilization about 12,000 years ago.

Turn on any TV station and the news of war and armed conflict will haunt you the entire day. So why are we so dumbfounded when the nice looking guy sitting next to us pulls a gun and starts shooting some harmless movie watchers?

Because WE are the good guys. We enjoyed a thorough education, we have manners, we approach disputes with reason and common sense, we try to resolve conflicts quiet and peacefully. Are we? We elect or support or don’t withstand governments that do anything but.

We don’t have to point our fingers just at all the villains worldwide who are involved in wars among countries or civil wars. We can’t change things in a big bang, but we can do little things to make a difference. So, by all means, we need a much stricter gun control. We need to ask ourselves if the Second Amendment to the Constitution in 1791 was written with machine guns or modern weapons of mass destruction in mind. Do we really need to nurture a “shoot first, ask questions last” attitude?

Deep down inside all of us is the beast, the untamed animal that demands us to fight or flee. We would be well advised to hold on to this flimsy veneer that we call civilization and treat each other if not with compassion at least with respect… and maybe, in another 12,000 year we made it to real human beings, if we haven’t eradicated each other in the mean time.