“Focusing on symptoms is not just short-sighted and a waste of energy, but it’s also likely to lead toward more authoritarian solutions and tendencies over time. Misdiagnosing a disease can be as deadly for a civilization as it can be for an individual.”– Michael Krieger
As America grapples with the menace posed by mass shootings and (seemingly) random violence, it is worth noting that the phenomenon can be considered an indication that our society is sick. Sick, getting sicker, with no way to heal the body except for a dramatic transformation in the way we live. This is similar in scope to many physical diseases prevalent today, for instance, diabetes.
Think about the way modern society treats illnesses today. A person gets sick, goes to see a physician, gets a diagnosis, a prescription for a drug, an assurance that this will put her right, and goes home, trusting completely on the pill to cure the problem. Depending on the situation, the drug might or might not restore her to health. Quite often it only masks the symptoms.
In the case of diabetes, she contracts the disease, perhaps as a result of years and years of gorging herself on fast, junk food and a lack of exercise to work off the excess. There may be little or no attempt at all to lose the obesity or a change in diet to bring it under control. In situations like this, the medication is expected only to treat the symptoms by keeping the blood sugar at a tolerable level, but it is not meant to cure the underlying disease. It is essentially nothing more than a bandage over a hemorrhage.
(Note: Diabetes can be contracted by people who are serious about maintaining a healthy lifestyle through strict adherence to diet and exercise. This article is not meant for them. They have my respect and I wish them well.)
The approach to mass shootings is pretty much the same. Feed society on the idea that young men and women can join the military and shoot other people they don’t know. Feed society on Hollywood movies which glorify gun violence as a means of solving problems. Feed society on video games marketed to young children which depict gun violence as a pleasurable game. Feed society on the idea that if you wind up pregnant, you can make the problem go away by killing the unborn child. Feed society on the philosophy that all morality is subjective to the individual person and situation. Feed society on political divisiveness and hatred. Feed society on personal irresponsibility and refusing to teach children about the consequences of their actions or to hold them accountable from an early age.
I could go on, but you get the idea. These things (and many more unmentioned) are the junk food that America gorges itself on daily, year after year, decade after decade. Then, inevitably, when a symptom (mass shootings) shows up, address it by prescribing a treatment (background checks, red flag laws, gun restrictions, etc.) which have the effect of assuring the patient (society) that the disease (violent behavior) is being treated effectively.
This treatment, however, will have as much lasting effect as that of an obese, inactive person taking a pill to counter and control diabetes, while refusing to change her lifestyle in a meaningful, positive way. Modern medicine treats the symptom of the disease, but does not address the cause. So too with modern society.
An obese, inactive person can overcome diabetes by adopting a radical change in lifestyle. It will be difficult, but it can be done. It will require, not only the obvious changes in diet and exercise, but also the attitude of personal change—the idea that unless personal action is taken to correct the problem, nothing at all will change. Nobody else can do it.
So too with America. Because society is composed of individuals acting personally, society can be transformed by individuals changing their attitudes and lifestyles in meaningful and positive ways. It will take time. It will not be obvious immediately, but in the long run, it will be noticeable. And well worth it.
I can’t do anything about the random acts of violence which are perpetrated in society on a regular basis, but I can make the necessary changes to minimize and eliminate violence in my own life. This will require, first of all, a change in the way I think about myself, my relationship to other people, and my relationship to God. After that, it is simply a matter of living it out.