Friday, 20 April 2007

The Virginia Tech Massacre is Collectively Insignificant

So it seems that someone has decided to shoot at fellow human beings and then take his own life. Have we seen this before? Yes, many times. We’ve seen it at Coumbine, at Port Arthur, in Jerusalem, in Iraq, in wars, and so on. What’s so special about this one?

Perhaps there is nothing special about it. On the contrary, this event already occupies a place in our consciousness. The event is covered in history, television, movies and in humour. Although it is a sad event, it is not alien to us. It has happened before and will happen again.

The reason that this event is not significant is that it will not change anything about our society. No large scale changes will be made as a result and therefore, this event is as significant as any other.

Suppose you were to argue with me and suggest that it is a significant event for the families of those killed or wounded by it. I would agree. This is as significant for them as it is for the families of people killed in war, or for the families of those killed by others in traffic accidents. But it is not significant for society as a whole. In fact, I argue that the net effect of this shooting at Virginia Tech is one of collective insignificance because nothing will change as a consequence. Gun manufacturers will not stop selling guns. People will not sell their guns for scrap metal because someone else has misused a weapon. The sword will not be beaten into the plow as a result of the Virginia Tech massacre and therefore it is an insignificant event.

Do you think that the size of the massacre makes a difference? Suppose we look at the number of violent deaths in Iraq this week. 200 from car bombs alone. Suppose we look at the violence in Darfur: hundreds of thousands killed and maimed. How about Rwanda? Millions. Have any of these resulted in collective change for humanity? No. Such violence has no effect and we, as a species, will continue to treat it as insignificant.

Prove me wrong. Beat your swords into plows. Pull your gun to pieces, run a grinder through them all and sell the leftovers for scrap. You won’t. No one will. That is why the Virginia Tech massacre is collectively insignificant.
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