April 23, 2007
PROTECTING US FROM HOMICIDAL PREDATORS: THE CASE FOR MORAL FIERCENESS
The authorities’ response in the last several mass killings was less than perfect: What is the core problem here?
AVOIDING THE NEXT GLORICIDE
Gloricide is the new ongoing threat. [This is my term for the homicidally evil predator who intends to defeat capture by staging a glorious, self destructive exit, stage left.]
All explicit threats of homicide can and should trigger an invasive investigation. The fourth amendment can handle it. Ultimately, if no weapons or planning evidence is uncovered, the threat itself would not necessarily be punished, but the incident would be logged and the suspect flagged. Anyone dumb enough or so loosely wrapped that he/she spouts murderous threats, has forfeited her/his right to be left completely alone.
People at all levels, institutional and personal, are entirely too passive about this kind of thing.
Even without new legislation, the latest satanic little creep could have been detained briefly for questioning at any time before the killings. A detention of someone like him often yields more. For example, his possession of firearms with serial numbers effaced might have been discovered. [A federal offense in his case.] He could then have been arrested. Once convicted, he could have been placed under surveillance.
More to the point, we all could do much better in following up a “mere” murder. In the Virginia Tech massacre, the authorities had two full hours. I’m sure someone saw this shooter. There would have been a description, a composite drawing; we all know the drill. I suspect that they were suffering from “TPS” (see below).
The current atmosphere of multiculturalism and moral ambivalence seems to generate a state of “TPS” (threat paralysis syndrome). Even when temporary, TPS can be very deadly. When crippled by TPS, the authorities, the media and the rest of us seem unable to deal effectively with nihilism, even when it is coupled with an armed and angry predator bent on homicide and “gloricide”.
As a direct result, we suffer too often with the tendency to “medicalize” evil. No, I’m not advocating that we ignore the insights into the mental cesspool of a dangerous killer that psychology can provide us (as in my earlier discussion of malignant narcissism), but I am advocating that we not shrink from the clear obligation to make the appropriate and obvious moral judgment: This is evil.
[For these purposes, here is a quick definition of evil: Any anti-moral agenda, course of action or purpose (almost always anti-life at the core) that is real (as opposed to hypothetical) such that all moral agents are called on to condemn and effectively oppose it with courage, intelligence and implacable resolve. For more, go to the essays on the topic on The Policy Think Site. In my opinion, any moral system that is unable to identify evil in its clear and extreme forms is fatally incomplete.]
AMBIVALENCE AND NIHILISM
Complacency and moral ambivalence are mutually reinforcing root causes of Threat Paralysis Syndrome. One obvious sign of TPS is the inability to quickly prioritize public safety resources and danger-abatement activities when confronted with an existential threat. It should be obvious, for example (but evidently is not) that when a truly dangerous killer is on the loose, a public protection imperative must immediately kick in: The overriding task of preventing murders should trump public convenience and political correctness.
Nihilism has a field day in any morally ambivalent, security complacent environment. I agree with the many who have observed, that nihilism (in its soft and more blatant forms) is on the rise in our culture. Like an opportunistic infection, nihilism tends to take root in that “God shaped” hole in the human psyche when (as is the case all-too-often) it is vacant, or when certain faux religious ideologies have prepared a nihilist-friendly environment.
For the people who “get it” that “hole” is filled with a healthy, fierce moral sense. This is our true inner conscience, the sense of rightness and wrongness, the normative compass that is rooted in something beyond our mundane perishable experiences. We don’t necessarily have to name our Ultimate source of moral authority or link it to a particular view of the divine to acknowledge its necessity and deep reality.
A final note: Robust self defense is a form of altruism whenever fleeing would only save the immediate victim but aggressively stopping the assailant would save many future victims. Authentic morality comes with a simple, oft ignored injunction: When confronting true evil — Be fierce!