On desirable and unwanted adaptation strategies by the losers in competition
School shootings: Normal insanity
School shootings are discussed in the public sphere as “individual acts.” It is said that such acts stem solely from the “sick brain” (“psychosis”) of the perpetrator. It has nothing to do with the psychology of normal people in this society who believe that their life and happiness is all about winning the competition in capitalist society – that’s the message. This will be disproved in the following.
1. Competition in school
Competition in school carries out a selection process for later allocating young people into careers. Because human resources are also – and primarily – needed for the “lower” occupations, schools produce losers. If losers were not a desired result of education, competition would be a completely inappropriate means: losers as well as winners are the inevitable result of any competition. Competition in school is organized as a comparison of supposedly in-born abilities: one student must be better than the others. On the basis of fixed standards, or grades, students compete so as not to be counted among the losers. Grades are not simply an indicator of whether a student has understood something correctly, but a comparison of whether they are better or worse than the others. In the end, they are irreversibly subjected to the results of this comparison.
Schools identify the results of this selection process with the students themselves and their personality (“lazy,” “impossible to teach,” etc.). This gets it backwards: as mentioned, schools directly intend to produce losers. However, if there are losers, school is not criticized, but rather the losers themselves. Teachers talk about the differences between their students as if some are more talented than others – there is a best and a less capable, “smart” kids and “dumb” kids; this ignores the fact that the differences are not nature-given but the outcome of schooling itself (it’s really the same as the racist belief that slaves are not slaves because they are forced into slavery, but because it is in their nature to be slaves).
Students also do not criticize this competition, but take it as a chance that depends on their willingness to compete. They then compete on the basis of this criteria and make their place in the competition all-important. Instead of criticizing competition, how they are treated, they accept the criteria and believe that their grades are what matters. They blame their teachers for treating them unjustly; there is a constant fight between students and teachers about fair grades. They think it is more important to get good grades than to understand something. They say the subjects they are interested in are the ones they get good grades in. They accept the racist judgement of their teachers and internalize it: e.g., they think they are incapable of understanding math because they don’t get good grades in it – and they define themselves accordingly (“I am not a math person”).
Students interpret their own capabilities as school defines them. They take the outcome of competiton in school as proof of their self-esteem and value themselves accordingly – this goes as far as suicide or seeing oneself as a “born loser.” Grades are the proof. Among students, this stress on self-esteem becomes detached from grades and creates its own fields of competition: how good an athlete one is, how sexually attractive, how high one’s IQ, how fashionable one’s clothes – all this proves their superiority over others. They want to see themselves as special, honorable, and to take pride in themselves. This belief in oneself not only rests on the real competition in school or fields of imagined competition in psychology. All these fields have in common that self-esteem is not only held in one’s own capabilities, but is a claim that the community must agree with. The community must respect one’s self-esteem. This becomes a demand. People fight for their pride, their honor.
2. The homicidal maniac’s position on this judgment
The homicidal maniac does not accept the judgment that he is one of the losers. He neither adopts an I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude, adapting himself in this way, or objectively analyzes the competition in order to criticize it. He is not so much disturbed by the material harm resulting from the judgment given about him, but feels insulted in his desire for recognition; it wounds his self-esteem. He compares his place in competition, including the corresponding judgment about his personality, with his self-image as a personality worthy of respect, and comes to the conclusion: “I don’t deserve this!” This is not a deviation from normality – completely the opposite, even self-esteem is a goal of education. In the end, people are supposed to be satisfied with themselves, completely regardless of their success in competition. A desired form of this is, for example, to consider oneself “poor but decent,” since here one resigns oneself to poverty, which is imagined to be caused by one’s own behavior. This makes one commendable, despite one’s lack of success. Another tolerated form is the search for confirmation of self-esteem in the sideshows of private competition: the greatest sexual prowess, designer clothes, the most beautiful lawn …
3. Thoughts of revenge
The school maniac holds firmly to the desire for recognition, but does not see swaggering with material goods as the means to realize it. Instead, he transfers it to the desire for demonstrative revenge. He does not want to let the school’s finding of “failure” apply to him and turns it back on the school, teachers as well as students, who in his view have refused to show him the respect he is really entitled to. The logic of this revenge thinking replicates the suffered injury. Instead of trying to understand it and rejecting it, he seeks compensation for it by replicating it. He has the the right to obtain a higher status. Others are responsible for the injury and are to suffer injury.
These revenge thoughts are also normal in this society and can be found in the criminal law. The state damages criminals by punishing them because they have violated its legal system, hence must be damaged. And crime victims can be pleased about the damage inflicted on the criminal by the punishment and see it as compensation for the damage they suffered from the crime.
4. The difference: the transition from thinking about revenge to practicing it
The above does not explain a massacre, but its basis. The homicidal maniac does not only have simple thoughts of revenge (“I’ll show them!”) – he also puts it brutally into practice by killing others. Although the psychology of self-esteem is normal to this society and everyone demands respect, the homicidal maniac takes the liberty of a further step. He not only disregards the state’s monopoly on violence, but copies it. He takes it into his own hands. He knows he is acting against the law (thus he is said to “lack any awareness of right and wrong”), but regards this as an injustice. The maniac is no longer asking for respect – he is finished with that. He makes a conclusion: his right to respect is not accepted by the community, therefore the community is defined as the enemy. He executes his negative judgment by demonstrating that he is powerful despite it all – he is capable of killing to demonstrate his superiority. He is entitled to take revenge.
The idea of revenge is not what is unique about the rampager, but that he then not only talks about it but goes on to execute it. This demonstrates a sense of honor so important that he sacrifices himself along with the others. He accepts the criteria of competition by creating his own in the field of psychology; if society does not give him the feeling of being superior, he will brutalize others and himself. He does not deserve the judgment that others have given him; he is powerful, capable of deciding over their lives or deaths. He permits himself this transition because he makes the question of recognition central to his life. If he re-establishes his honor only by killing others, then his own life is all the same to him, which is why he kills himself as well. He finally fulfills his life’s meaning with the restoration of his honor.
5. All because of “abnormality”?
Up to this last step, the practical execution of revenge, all the steps which the homicidal maniac carries out belong to the normality of this society. To this extent, one can grasp the homicidal maniac as an unwanted result of the adaptation that this society desires.