|Jared Loughner--Arizona Daily Star.|
A terrible thing has happened in Tucson, and six people are dead. Who's at fault?
Perhaps not the man who fired the gun, Jared Loughner, 22. It seems clear from what he has posted on Facebook and on YouTube that he was schizophrenic. He may have had no idea what he was doing. He certainly does not seem to have been motivated by any coherent, recognizable political philosophy. His main political concern seems to have been that too many people were illiterate.
But I do believe someone is to blame. As I have noted before on this site, there is some kind of “spiritual catastrophe,” to use Leonard Cohen's phrase, going on, since the Second World War ended, with rates of “mental illness” of all kinds ballooning. Surely, whoever or whatever is responsible for that spiritual catastrophe is responsible, at one remove, for this expression of that mental illness as well.
Jared Loughner, from the list of favourite books he left on Facebook, seems to have been an intelligent lad, and certainly ambitious to learn. Plato's Republic, Mein Kampf, The Communist Manifesto, Meno, Animal Farm, Brave New World; perhaps not ideal reading for a troubled young mind, but not light reading, in any case.
In Loughner's own mind, it seems, his beef was with the education system. Note his concern with illiteracy; a YouTube video he created also argues that the colleges are guilty of fraud and are unconstitutional. He was thrown out of college for disrupting classees.
I fear he may have been on the right track. It is disturbing on the face of it that such an apparently intelligent and eager student was not able to succeed in school. The schools and colleges no longer offer what he was apparently seeking: answers about life, about life in society, and about what is true. They either lack all awareness of such matters, or ban open discussion of them, and quite possibly look like exercises in mind control. At least some courses and some schools certainly are, self-consciously, exercises in mind control.
Would any of this bloodletting have happened had Jared Loughner received a proper liberal education, including a thorough grounding in some religious tradition and more broadly in the Humanities?
I doubt it, personally. First, I suspect that, being a bright lad, he would most probably have by now found the basic answers he sought. And he would have found them in the reassuring company of others also honestly seeking, and of benevolent authority. If so, I suspect he never would have experienced the horrifying visions and fantasies of schizophrenia in the first place. Had he, he at least would have been equipped with a decent road map and a moral compass to test each spirit and make sense of what he was experiencing.
Not to give this to our children is to throw them into the dark forest without the slightest basic training in survival. And the devil is real, and far more cunning than the Big Bad Wolf.