Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Motive for mass murder

The authorities in Nevada are said to be searching for a motive for yesterday's shooting, why a successful retired accountant with a steady rental income, whose only apparent flaw was an addiction to gambling, should have treated fellow human beings enjoying country music like targets in a video game.  I believe that the only answer is, that like our own Harold Shipman, because he could.

When I saw the pictures of the aftermath, of the position of the hotel in relation to the open-air concert, some dialogue from The Third Man came back to me. Holly Martins is talking to Harry Lime atop the giant ferris wheel in Vienna:
Martins: Have you ever seen any of your victims?
Harry Lime: You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don't be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare?

The more physically distant or more dissociated from their potential victims psychopaths (and there are rather more people with psychopathic tendencies around than one cares to contemplate) are, the more ready they are to indulge their fantasies. What deters them is the lack of means.

The US should learn from Australia, another country with a frontier, anti-colonial mentality, where guns were almost part of everyday life. A massacre in Tasmania twenty-one years ago caused the Aussies to take stock and to take action.

The Sydney Morning Herald is not optimistic that the US will follow:

We point over and over to our own success with gun control in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, that Australia has not seen a mass shooting since and that we are still a free and open society. We have not bought our security at the price of liberty; we have instead consented to a social contract that states lives are precious, and not to be casually ended by lone madmen. But it is a message that means nothing to those whose ideology is impervious to evidence.
You might think, from a distance, that this slaughter would at least dispel the myth that carrying a gun brings personal security. Even had every concert goer been armed, it would not have saved them from a killer 32 floors above them in a room full of military weapons. But history tells us Americans will learn no such lesson.
Even before the full scale of Sunday's slaughter was known, the US gun lobby was swinging into action, framing this as an event akin to a natural disaster, random and ultimately unpreventable. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin was one of the first, tweeting "To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs ... you can't regulate evil ..."
And he's right. You can't regulate evil. But you can disarm it. Once again we pray that the US will come to its senses and do just that. And once again, we are dreadfully sure it won't.

Sadly, I have to agree with them.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

Well, there we go. There was a familial risk of psychopathology. That is not to say that all inheritors of the gene turn out to be violent criminals, of course; it may express itself in a determination to be top in business or politics - or accountancy.