The generalized astonishment which greets each new episode of mass murder and random violence in this country is remarkable. One need look no further than the societal disintegration and disconnection occurring over the past five decades to understand how this can happen.
The nuclear family with intact structure and intergenerational contact provided a framework and model for learning and adapting to social connectivity and socially appropriate behavior. This has largely fragmented over time. Respect for authority has become a joke with the help of TV sitcoms and disparaging cartoons, as well as a communal approach to discipline largely limited to “time outs” and counts which never quite make it to “10.” Add to this the very real fear that a vengeful youngster will alert authorities to investigate “bad treatment” by an adult and the inadequacy of safeguards and supervision to modulate behavior is multiplied.
Is it really so hard to comprehend the desensitization to violence and the emotional detachment from reality that we see in the perpetrators of these horrific crimes? Stop and consider for a moment the social changes described above and add to that the inundation of young impressionable minds by explicit and graphic video games and movies coupled with the isolation such preoccupation may bring. In this era of “ME” rather than “WE,” social mores blur. The concept of right and wrong becomes relative rather than absolute. Societal disintegration of family, religion, respect and responsibility for one another leads to loss of one’s moral compass. The real conundrum we face is how do we bring that moral compass back to “True North?”
Kenneth S. Wayne, MD