Society loves a winner, but sometimes a loser fails so catastrophically that we are awestruck by the scope of their mediocrity and our contempt is inflated exponentially on beholding the spiteful malice with which they seek to engulf others in their personal implosion.
The events surrounding Elliot Rodger’s actions two weeks ago in Santa Barbara, California, exemplify the most heinous realisation of such psychosocial cataclysm.
As we try to extract a modicum of sense from Elliot Rodger’s murderous rampage, in which he killed six people and wounded seven before apparently taking his own life, we engage in a collective rationalisation process. This ensues immediately after any public trauma, be it a suicide bombing, a natural disaster or an emotionally impoverished rich kid taking from others the life he had found could not be bought.
Even while everyone is still talking about the trauma, much occurs at an almost subconscious level. Our conscious aims to find out what happened and to stop it from happening again, which varies from our true motives.
What has outraged the global public (at least the growing part of it with an Internet connection) is not the bloodshed, or the victims, but the character of the killer himself. Elliot Rodger’s postings across various fora displayed a stunted personality, bristling with resentment and wounded narcissism. In all his rants and diatribes against women and people of non-white ethnicities, however, he comes across not as a lunatic, but rather as a really obnoxious kid in serious need of good kick in the head.
Just like so many other peoples’ kids.
He was diagnosed with high-functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder (till recently known as Aspergers Syndrome) and depression, but neither of these had as much to do with what happened as his neurotic self-loathing and misogynistic socialisation.
It is widely reported that Rodgers had refused treatment for his depression. This brings to mind something I heard another person with a mental illness say some years ago: “It is not my fault, but it is my responsibility.” This maxim has stuck with me ever since as an ethical framework for managing my own challenges, but if what we are being told is correct, this is not how Rodgers saw his world.
In fact, far from any sense of mutual obligation, Rodger was secure in his conviction that the world owed him.
Expecting a shocked public to come to terms with this atrocity from that angle rather than his mental health or neurological status would be to misunderstand the process at work. This collective rationalisation is not about him, but us. How can we be sure this was the work of a malefactor sent from somewhere else and not a Golem of our own making?
However it is asked, that is the question we really want answered. Not because it brings us closer to the truth, but because it will absolve us as a culture of even the most diffuse implication of responsibility for the preposterous sense of grievance harboured by this child of material privilege who found himself trapped in emotional poverty.
Why have so many of those reporting on these events latched on to his neurological and psychiatric issues when clearly his psychological deficiencies and malignant personality have far more direct relevance to the events at Isla Vista?
“The media”, this collective term we so casually use to refer to anything that carries information from one place to another, is of course not a monolithic entity driven by an easily identifiable set of interests. It is transcendent of the control of any individual to build and reinforce ideologies and perceptions. There are no headlines screaming for a pogrom against people with Aspergers, but to expect that would be to misunderstand the problem of placing so much emphasis on his mental health diagnoses.
The processes of semantic and semiotic evolution are both gradual and subtle but capable of imbuing words with enormous power. It is an arms race against the less noble side of our selves. Think of once-acceptable racial epithets like “negro”, “oriental” and “half-cast”; or terms like “retard”, “homo” and “hag”. Even as we come to recognise the toxicity inherent in the language of the past, presently innocent words and symbols develop venomous connotations.
The dictionary definitions of Aspergers, Autism and mental illness don’t need to change for them to be appropriated as Shibboleths of exclusion. This may seem a pessimistic outlook, especially given the preponderance of articles on the internet discussing Aspergers in relation to violence that explicitly refute any causal link. Unfortunately, a large portion of the public affirm this pessimism by their enchantment with the anti-vaccination movement and its portrayal of Autistic children as not being the “real child”, the real child’s personality having been “stolen” by Autism. I have no doubt such subcultures will draw what succour they can from this act of misplaced and disproportionate rage.
A sufficient mass of the public (in particular the so-called PUA community) are cowardly weak-willed maggots, who prefer the idea that Elliot Rodger is something completely different from them, rather than acknowledge that they collude in tolerating a rancid substrate of misogyny and male-entitlement that festers below the politically correct veneer. If that means demonising a vulnerable group of people for something that is not their fault, that they have no control over, and in fact does not actually have any real connection to the problem, then so be it.
I need not elaborate on where this negation of the basic humanity of Autistics may lead, for that horror has already manifested. This, however, shall be far from the last thing I have to say about it.
All of us have to answer for trying to make a monster of Autism, but only half of us have to answer for why Elliot Rodger thought he was being denied anything that was his by right.
If not now, when do we stop pretending there is no problem with the way we are and how we conduct ourselves? When do we stop minimising the threat? When do we stop trying to rationalise and make excuses for ourselves and others? Why do so many of us tolerate and justify other men’s words and actions that should be excoriated?
It is cowardice pure and simple.
There is something rotten in the state of men, a carpet of maggots writhing in the rancid flesh of a degenerate culture waiting to pupate in the next generation of sex pests.