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December 17, 2012 at 1:35 PMComments: 3 Faves: 3

Greetings from Earth, 2012: A Grave New World

By Kyle McCarthy from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Culturology Blog Series

"Democracy don't rule the world, you'd better get that through your head. This world is ruled by violence, but I guess that's better left unsaid." - Bob Dylan

Originally, I’d planned on writing about Wikipedia being the scourge of modern civilization for today’s blog. An informed colleague and I were going to take opposing viewpoints on the community encyclopedia in a fun little exercise aimed at debating 21st century conceptions of “fact” and global information sharing. Maybe we still will at some point, but, today, it feels kind of subordinate to the unfortunate exercise of being a human.

While I was uselessly (and ironically) attempting to research Wikipedia, my focus started to drift, and I began actually using the site for its (unspoken) intended purpose: wasting time. My brain was in a fog, but I just chalked up the haze to my weekly case of the Mondays. I was jumping around from articles about Terry Nichols, Japanese-American internment camps, and the Khmer Rouge, when I suddenly located the true source of my stupor; I’d somehow forgotten that a lunatic shot and killed 27 people in Connecticut last Friday morning. Which brought me to a profound realization the likes of which Wikipedia could never fully impart on a functional human being: civilization is the illusion of the recklessly optimistic.


I wonder if aliens murder one another with photon guns or laser beams when they feel disenfranchised?

Anything Less Would Be Uncivilized

The world isn’t going to end on Friday, but, at this rate, maybe we’d all be a little better off if it did. We so badly want to believe that a socially constructed (and thus, infinitely fallible) system of law and order can reduce our twisted base instincts, but there have been too many examples lately directly opposing this flawed belief. Contrary to popular opinion, we’re not a civilized culture; we’re a massive, loosely-assembled collection of inarticulate fools releasing our aggregate violent rage with semi-automatic weapons.

We don’t like something, so we throw a fit, and not the kind you threw when you were a kid. There are no folded arms and furrowed brows; no whining objections or pleading tears to pull on the heart strings of our supposed oppressors. Instead, we now throw our tantrums with guns blazing and bombs detonating. Why express yourself by writing poetry or painting a landscape when you can walk into a crowded room and fire off armor-piercing hollow points indiscriminately?

A friend of mine recently told me in all sincerity that she had absolutely no desire to bring a child into this world based purely on the evils inherent in our society. At first, I thought this comment seemed a little paranoid, and I casually brushed it aside and attempted to push the conversation forward. Over the weekend, however, her words continued to echo through my mind like a mantra implanted by Belial, himself. Who would want to risk raising an infant in a world where people have devalued the worth of human life to the point of complete and utter disregard?

A Grave New World

Just take a look at the first twelve years of the new millennium. Globally, the 21st century has seen escalated conflict in the Middle East, African genocide, and, the most recent trend, seemingly random mass shootings inflicted by vicious sociopaths on innocent people.

So far this year, there have been 16 mass shootings in 15 different states throughout the United States, resulting in 88 deaths. These shootings aren’t isolated to any core demographic or region. They are widespread and defy simple categorization. Motives incommensurate with the carnage have been reported, but no trend has emerged among these. Gun shots have erupted at soccer tournaments, at universities, and at shopping malls; innocent, unsuspecting blood has been spilled in coffee shops, movie theatres, places of worship, and, now, in kindergarten classrooms. Kindergarten classrooms.

No End in Sight

Modern advancements have enabled us to zone out on our smartphones, get 50 MPH highway in our Smart Cars, and read this largely inconsequential blog on the Smart Living Network, but Americans are increasingly dumbing ourselves down. Our education system is crumbling, our prisons are swelling, the fiscal cliff looms on the horizon, and no one cares about any of it just so long as you don’t take away our extra large sodas or our assault rifles. As if we needed any further distractions, now Americans are murdering toddlers.

I can’t believe I’m even writing about this. It’s all just too damn sad. It’s literally overwhelming. A few months ago, I wrote a piece discussing the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado in which I posited that this new violence was more about dealing with mental health concerns than stoking the gun control debate. I still believe this to be true, but I’m no closer to any solution than I was then.

It’s not as if we can effectively take preemptive measures against potential psychopaths. We can’t just lock up people we suspect of being homicidally violent. So how do we attempt to curtail the senseless deaths that are accumulating faster than the national debt? I’m not going to get into a lengthy political rant, but isn’t it just possible that the Second Amendment needs to be revisited? If you don’t think so, that’s fine, I respect your right to exercise your freedoms without restraint, but your six-year old probably wasn’t brutally murdered last Friday.

Oh, by the way, I think I should mention one last tidbit. Since this has become the norm, it won’t make national news, but approximately five miles from where I sit, a man just shot and killed two women outside of a treatment center before taking his own life. When I informed a friend of the shooting, he hinted that he was going to look into applying for his concealed weapons permit.

Civilization is the illusion of the recklessly optimistic.


Brenzing, Bob. “Police Respond to Shooting on the Northeast Side.” WZZM13. 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

O’Brien, Michael. “Obama Vows Action on Gun Violence: ‘These Tragedies Must End.’” NBC News. 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Zornick, George. “Sixteen US Mass Shootings Happened in 2012, Leaving at Least 88 Dead.” The Nation. 14 Dec. 2012. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

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  • Ever the pessimist, aren't we Mr. McCarthy?

    I agree with much of what is written above, but I still ascribe to hope in terms of civilization. Time and again history wipes the floor with pompous nations who think that violence is an appropriate basis for building a nation. Well America, time to reap what we have sown. People are falling through the cracks and they are turning their anger towards those broken promises of American dreams and civil prosperity.

    I wonder when we will start to figure out that jamming millions of people into a confined space leads to self-extermination. EVERY TIME.

    Well put informed colleague. I still look forward to our discussion.

  • While I understand your despair, I don't think adopting a doom-and-gloom attitude is ultimately helpful. True, it's hard to imagine anything worse than a young man gunning down children and teachers in cold blood...but I hardly think that we'd be better off if the world did end on Friday.

    Consider this: according to some stats (if such things can be measured in stats), 2012 was the best year in the history of the world. Read this article:

    Bad things happen. They will always happen, and we'll be left to mourn them and try to do something about it. But though things seem grim, on a global scale, many things *are* getting better.

  • @ Neal: I don't necessarily think of myself as a pessimist (do any pessimists think of themselves as such?), but I am completely overwhelmed to the point where I'm choosing to ignore the veil of etiquette and decorum that we choose to drape over reality in order to call ourselves civilized. It's pure artifice. Things like this wouldn't happen on a daily basis in a civilized society.

    @ Laura: Great article, Laura! Thanks for sharing. I especially like the figures about large economies growing, while reducing their fossil fuel consumption... Inspiring read, to be sure.

    My comment about the world ending was meant to be tongue-in-cheek in an effort to comment on how just low we've sunk. It's true what The Spectator says about the fact that the survival of any government is predicated upon its insistence that the state is broken, but it just so happens that, in this case, events like these continue to prove that point.

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