There has been a lot of discussion this week about the end of last Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, titled “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” I have been thinking about it, so why not throw my own two cents into the shark-infested waters? Warning: Long post with spoilers.
OK, yeah, I get it, the UCSB shooter was mentally ill. But there are all kinds of mental illness and all kinds of mentally ill people, and not all of them commit crimes that are so clearly rooted in misogyny. You can’t just wave your hands and bury this under the rubric of “he was a nutjob” – he was a nutjob with a deep hatred of women and, more crucially, a deep sense of entitlement about women.
If you are a man, ask yourself: Have you ever thought, “Why do girls always go for the jerks instead of the nice guys like me?” Congratulations, you had the same sense of male entitlement that Elliot Rodger had. Have you ever been rejected and thought, “Well, that girl’s just a stuck-up bitch”? Congratulations, you had the same sense of male entitlement that Elliot Rodger had. And so on, and so on.
OK, so of course you didn’t act on it the same way Elliot Rodger did. Elliot Rodger’s feelings of entitlement got distorted through a lens of mental illness into full-blown, active misogyny, and yours don’t. But the sense of entitlement is still there, deny it however much you want. (I know, I know, “not all men.”) And maybe it’s a misnomer to call it “misogyny” when it doesn’t involve mouth-foaming hatred of women, but what is the right word for an attitude that treats women as nothing more than means to male ends and reacts negatively when women don’t respond accordingly?
So yeah, we need to have a discussion in this country about how to identify and deal with mental illness. We see that need, and we give it lip service, every time some dipshit goes crazy and starts shooting people up. But mental illness is only part of the picture. Just as we look at some mass shootings and see, for example, bullying as a trigger, we have to look at Elliot Rodger’s crimes and see that his views about how women and men relate were a trigger. And he got those views from somewhere – they were not just a product of his mental illness.
Our culture tells us, at many times and in many ways, that women are basically just adjuncts, meant only (or primarily, or naturally, or as dictated by God) to serve the needs and desires of men. That’s something we need to discuss.
This article in today’s Times got me a little riled up. Go ahead and read it, I’ll be here when you get back.
We are often told, by free-market and small-government advocates, that industry should be left to regulate itself, that responsible business leaders will by and large act appropriately. And that does happen – businesses develop codes of conduct and other self-regulatory mechanisms, mostly to avoid the government stepping in and imposing restrictions and codes (or to forestall more regulation than the government may have already imposed).
But what if an industry knows, to a very high degree of confidence, that it is unlikely to face government intervention no matter what? Where is the incentive to be responsible then? The arrogance of gun manufacturers is unchecked – with no credible threat of seeing laws to limit sales or to require them to assist law enforcement, there is nothing to prevent them from maximizing profits at any public cost. And any that do try to take a more publicly responsive and responsible tack are blackballed and pressured to reverse course.
It is possible to disagree about the causes of and appropriate responses to gun violence, just as it is possible to disagree about the causes of and appropriate responses to childhood obesity or global climate change. But in those areas, industry participants have shown willingness to self-regulate, at least in part, in relevant areas (such as not marketing sugary foods to kids, energy efficiency programs, and so on). The necessity and efficacy of such efforts is always subject to debate and discussion, but at least there is a discussion. In contrast, gun manufacturers simply wash their hands of the whole thing, denying any responsibility or even connection to the question of gun violence, and they do it with impunity because they know that Congress will never dare defy them with laws, or if such laws ever do pass, that the Supreme Court will negate them.
I don’t usually buy into the stereotypical image of “corporate fat cats” chortling over their martinis down at the Club as they regale one another with stories of buying a Senator or three and jamming their agenda right into the face of the commoners, but it’s hard to read the testimony of these gun company CEO’s and not see it.