The State of Cannibalism Today

Note 2: Columbine High School. 4/26/99

Two events occurred on Adolf Hitler's birthday this year, one intentional and meant to commemorate, if not celebrate, his birth; while the other was purely accidental and had nothing whatsoever to do with Nazi genocide. Everyone in the "universe," who can be said to be "wired," is aware of the massacre at the high school in Littleton, Colorado. Probably no one at all, wired or not, is aware that the other event occurred on that same day. In Chiapas, Mexico, a truck bringing Mayan people back to their village from a medical clinic, where they had gone to receive vaccinations against various kinds of deadly diseases, ran off the road into a ravine resulting in the deaths of 45 men, women, and children. Apart from the meaningless fact of their temporal juxtaposition, these two horrific events have nothing much else in common. An intentional act of mass murder, which claimed the lives of 13 innocent people and the 2 murderers, cannot be compared to an accident in the remote jungles of Central America where three times as many people died through no fault of their own or anyone else's. Time alone, as it were, puts them together in a structure of this and that, here and there, same and other, since they are as opposite as two things can be, which then invites an evaluation of how these two dissimilar and unconnected human catastrophes are perceived by media organizations dedicated to bringing such things to the attention of the population at large. In an event were 45 native and tribal people lost their lives in an accident, the media finds that a small print article in a newspaper is sufficient to recorded and disseminate that information. Where 13 non-native people were murdered by two others of their own kind, there is not enough space (in "print") and time (on "air") to exhaust the telling of the details of that occurrence.

In many ways, of course, this disproportionate attention to detail is determined by perfectly understandable concerns. In the case of the Chiapas accident, for instance, while certainly terrible in itself, there is no particular mystery surrounding how the event occurred. Mechanical failure, driver error or incompetence, bad weather, bad roads, could all be a recognizable cause which explains the event and exhausts anyone's interest in it. The fact that it happened in Mexico, to people no one in North America is likely to know, unless there are relatives of the people affected living here, which is quite possible, creates a distance between the event and the apprehension of its horror that makes it pass along the surface of the general awareness of such things without leaving a lasting impression on anyone's consciousness. The news media in this country gave it the attention it deserves.

With respect to the event in Colorado, one could argue that a completely different set of circumstances has rightly and justly created the explosion of attention drawn to the events which have transpired there. The circumstances surrounding mass murder, in and of themselves, generate an interest, if not a fascination, for the particular details of how and why such a thing could happen that cannot easily or quickly be satisfied. The fact that similar, and in some cases worse things than this event have happened recently in Chiapas, where elements of Mexico's army and government have murdered equal numbers of Mayan peasants in its struggle against the Zapatista rebels there, does not distract anyone's attention away from the 13 innocent victims of the latest high school, middle school, elementary school massacre in America's heartland. Genocide against native people does not rise to the same level of horror that genocide against descendants of Europeans does in Eurocentric consciousness because what happens to white people, even when caused by members of their own culture, is always going to be more significant than what might happen to people of color who live in places no white person has ever heard of, imagined, or visited. That is only natural.

I do not want to say anything about the events in Littleton, Colorado, because more than enough has already been said and done by the media to make the horror of the murders there little more than commonplace events that we all collectively share and expect to happen again. Endless repetition of details, even of the most horrific kind imaginable, eventually reduces them to the level of just another media event that draws enough interest and viewership to pay the cost of covering it in the first place. One aspect of that observation is confirmed by the fact that Dan Rather was in Belgrade covering NATO's war against the Serbian people on the day the massacre in Colorado occurred. He was in Littleton the next day, suffering from jet-lag apparently because he could not coordinate what he was saying to the video that was running on the television at the time, because CBS must have decided that one kind of genocide (domestic) was more viewer-intensive than another kind (foreign). Putting one's best face forward in the context of visual media, even if there really isn't much to see except the talking face of Dan Rather, has always been a primary motivation in the business of generating and reporting news.

To say that we have too much public exposure of private grief in our culture is only to acknowledge how little genuine value is attached to human life in our times. That excessive media attention is bound to stimulate more mass murder in schools and elsewhere probably should go without saying but the media itself refuses to assess, much less address, the worst and most lasting effects of its own obsessions with power and wealth--not mine nor yours but theirs. Public curiosity is always blamed when someone suggests that private affairs should be allowed to remain outside the view of every living person on the planet, especially when public exposure has only a single purpose; namely, to serve the financial interests of the individuals who own the news generating apparatus. Unfortunately, when money is involved, network news does not see any difference between what people need to know and what morbid curiosity insists they be shown.

My own feeling of not wanting to talk about this incident is driven by a determination to avoid a similar kind of exploitation. Using such horrific events to fabricate a mere philosophical point about the nature of contemporary European civilization, seems equally to (dis)miss the value and significance of the lives that were lost to the Nazi-inspired gunmen in Colorado. At the same time, however, simply because Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were inspired by Adolf Hitler makes it both fitting and necessary that I offer an observation or two about the culture and causes of the crime they have committed as latter-day saints in the service of Judaeo-Christian hegemony.

That sounds, even to me and even as I make it, like a totally ridiculous statement; yet, if anything I have said in these pages strikes even a tiny fragment of the truth, then Harris and Klebold acted out of motivations taught and practiced by Christians everywhere for the past 2000 years. I started out by suggesting that media coverage of events like this one are primarily motivated by profit margins and a desire on the part of media owners to maximize their "take" at the expense of everyone else's privacy and piece of mind. I would also argue, at the same time, that the murders in Colorado were also caused by the fact that Christianity has never been able to reconcile its basic condemnation of the world, the flesh, and the devil, with a parallel, but hidden, or unspoken, motive on the part of most Christians to extract as much wealth and power from the world as is humanly possible before "God" decides to destroy it in His promised Apocalypse. Greed really is a mortal sin but most of the people it kills are the ones who stand in the way of those who exercise it for the sake of their own profit and benefit.

Harris and Klebold were acting out in response to what they perceived as being their parents' greed. What I have seen on television and read in the newspapers during the past week convinces me that the parents of Harris and Klebold were committed to providing the best and highest standard of living they could possibly manage for their children and for themselves. Our society, in every message it sends out, demands nothing less from any of us. This is perhaps the epitome of what all references to family values means in America today without respect to which side of the political divide such exhortations spring; far right, far left, and everywhere in between, most responsible, white American mothers and fathers today want only what is best for their children. Unfortunately, in today's market economy, providing what is best for children requires that both parents work, forever and a day, full-time outside the home to earn enough money to buy what our society perceives as constituting the highest standard of living possible. To a neglected child, who perceives him/herself in that light simply because his/her mother and father are never available to address his/her most simplistic needs, being at work all day in order to earn the highest standard of living possible does not seem to be a positive value at all but instead spirals down to the absolute and irrevocable cause of the neglect the child experiences. No child who is neglected by parents too busily engaged in earning the highest standard of living possible sees anything except greed-driven indifference on the part of his/her parents and no such child sees anything in the future except more of the same in a endless life of misery, loneliness, and neglect.

The fact that such children are more and more driven to commit horrific crimes against other children, with a few randomly selected adults thrown in for good measure, does not obscure the fact, or should not obscure the fact, that the target of the rage is, and will always remain, the parents of the children who commit the mass murder. Harris and Klebold were punishing their mothers and fathers for neglecting them, on the one hand, and failing to protect them from their abusive peers, on the other. Our society so strongly condemns matricide and patricide that people who feel an irresistible need to murder mother and father have little or no recourse but to turn that raging passion against any conceivable number of others who might happen to occupy their visible, and highly videoed (as it turns out), landscape. Our culture has always encourage rage, coupled with homicidal action, against the other and in this case what happened is only what one would expect to have happen when disaffected teen-agers with unlimited access to lethal weapons of every stripe imaginable begin to stalk whoever it is they identify as their tormentors. Harris and Klebold would probably deny it was mother and father they meant to kill but one inescapable fact that no one can overlook here is how thoroughly and absolutely they managed to do just that. What parent, after all, can live comfortably with the knowledge that their parenting skills created a mass murderer who, without show of pity or compassion whatsoever, butchered 13 innocent children to commemorate and honor Adolf Hitler's birthday? The fact that Klebold's mother is Jewish makes his act that much more horrifically directed at her specifically.

Two things take my notice in this incident. The marketplace of contemporary Eurocentric civilizations will sell, and sell out, any commodity that produces profit without restrain and with complete disregard for the damage it may cause to both the human and natural environment of the world. This economic principle, vilified by Marxian ideology as originating in bourgeois society, is in fact much older in its genesis. Francis Bacon, for instance, equates the magnetic properties of the compass needle, only recently discovered in Europe at the time, with an essential advance "in the state of treasure, commodities, and navigation" (In Praise of Human Knowledge). That navigation, the true and only actual function of the compass's use, finishes only third to the acquisition of treasure and commodities in Bacon's mind suggests that getting to the colonized world of the Americas is only of secondary importance to the desire for the plunder that can be gained by going there. That same theme of exploitation of the other through colonization is also clearly expressed in Tertullian's Treatise on the Soul in the third century of the first millennium, making this conceptualization of (wo)man's exercise of greed as much a Christian ideal as anything else.

The point in bringing the history of this ideology to the foreground here is to suggest that what occurs in places like Littleton, Colorado, as much as Europeans might wish otherwise, happens precisely because of the nature of the civilization in which they live. America, as it stands today, was built on a foundation of massive and unrelenting genocide against the other, against the native population that occupied this land when Europeans invaded it for the sake of their own profit and because of the unbridled greed for fabulous and unmeasurable wealth and power they saw as their natural right of acquisition. Anyone who believes that crimes of that magnitude go unpunished and unrevenged need only contemplate Columbine High School to get a proper perspective on what the future of Eurocentric culture in the Western hemisphere looks like. Welcome home! Welcome to the America you have built! Native America will live to see you in the dock and on your way out of here.

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