Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

What Happened In Florida Was Only One Person's Fault

Created: 15 February, 2018
Updated: 21 November, 2022
3 min read

What is very strangely missing from nearly every discussion in the aftermath of a mass shooting in America is a fundamental belief about ourselves that I thought we had all settled and agreed to as a civilization and codified from the highest philosophical abstractions to the most specific legal applications: The belief that people bear individual, personal responsibility for their actions.

What happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida was only one person's fault. And that's the person who made a choice yesterday to do something so extreme in its wanton cruelty and destructiveness that the next ten thousand people you walk past will never consider doing anything like it in their lifetimes.

Almost everybody in the world finds it just as unthinkable as you do.

Although it seems like mass shootings are incredibly common because of the intensity of the media coverage when they do happen, they are an extremely rare aberration from the norm.

It is the fact of their rarity, how shocking, unusual, and disruptive they are, that draws our sustained attention to them.

So it's very strange that when these extremely abnormal individuals commit a mass murder, everyone wants to talk about everything but the individual person who actually did it, as if there were no individual person responsible. As if the most puzzling and important question isn't: Who is so wildly different from millions upon millions of us, that they could actually do this?

Murder is one of the worst things people are capable of. Thank God it's really not very common.

Homicide is at an all-time low whether we zoom all the way out to a world-historical time scale or look at FBI statistics in America over the last century.

Anthropologists estimate before the advent of civilization, our hunter-gatherer ancestors had murder rates ranging from 2% to potentially as high as 30%(!) among some groups.

Even at the lower end of the range, a 2% homicide rate would be a completely alien universe to people living in America today where the homicide rate is 0.000049%.

On a more local time scale, homicide in America is at a 51-year low, according to FBI crime statistics.

So even though it's easier to feel more unsafe than ever today with the ability to watch any tragedy happening anywhere in a vast universe of 7 billion people live on your phone – we are actually safer than we have ever been.

But don't be tempted to think for one second that you could design any system that could prevent any murder or act of terrorism or anything bad at all from ever happening again.

And don't think you or the most experienced lawmaker could make a serious attempt to do so without causing more, worse problems that you and the lawmaker couldn't have even imagined.

People pick some of the most inappropriate times to exercise massive amounts of seriously obscene hubris, and I think after a mass shooting like yesterday's is one of those most inappropriate times to start spouting off about how you think our entire society should be completely reconstituted.

Yes my thoughts and prayers are for the victims and their families this week, and for all of us on this planet together.

I love everybody and want everybody to be good.