Friday, June 1, 2012


You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

The world is a scary place.  It's dirty, loud, sexy, overwhelming and violent.  It has always been violent.  It will always be violent.  Nature is violent, and as much as we'd like to separate ourselves from it, and kill it off around us, we are part of nature, and are ourselves violent.

We are not, however, getting more violent.  In fact, in the West, the stats would argue that we are getting less violent.

Despite internet videos showing a dude killing and dismembering another dude, and then mailing pieces of this dude about the nation, despite a couple kidnapping and killing a little girl, despite a guy eating bath salts and then a human face, the world is not getting any more scary.  And I think we need to keep calm and carry on.

I agree that this Magnotta thing is gross, gruesome, gory and ghastly.  I agree that the Tori Stafford thing was horrible, horrifying, harrowing and hideous. (I've got my alliteration hat on today.)  But, to quote the Barenaked Ladies, Everything Old is New Again.  There is nothing new under the sun.

We need to get a grip.  Horrible killings are not that uncommon.  City squares in Saudi Arabia have drains in the centre to assist in cleanup after public beheadings.  Drug dealers have given us the Columbian necktie.  Landmines are designed not to kill troops, but to maim them, because caring for injured troops drains military resources.  The US, who are ostensibly supposed to be the Good Guys, gave us Gitmo and used waterboarding liberally.

Horrible killings are not new.  We've worked hard to come up with really great ways to kill each other.  Creative, innovative ways, to make dying take a long time, and be really painful while it's happening.  And while the internet is fairly new, finding ways to share how nasty we are is not.  We've all seen medieval woodcuts depicting the Inquisition, or hell.  If they had had google images during the Dark Ages, they'd have passed these scenes around:
Look, I'm not saying these events aren't horrible.  I'm not saying they're not scary.  I'm not saying don't be offended.  But we really nead to dial this public hysteria back a little bit.  Most of us are grownups.  We can handle this.  And panicky horror is not the way forward.  I doubt we'll ever be rid of the lizard brain that makes us violent.  I don't think we'll evolve past being horrible to each other.  At root, we are primates.  Smart, hairless, languange- and tool-using, but primates still.  And primates are animals.  But we can be better to each other.  We can be humane, as well as human.  "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" as Browning put it.

At root, I have faith in us.  Sure, we invented Zyklon B, jeggings and lolcats.  But we also came up with sonnets, calculus, pecan pie, soccer and The Blues.  We have found amazing ways to be horrible to each other, and amazing ways to justify it, but we also have humanism, justified with or without faith.

Magnotta is a monster.  But he's not that exceptional.  He's sick.  I don't even think he's evil.  And even if he is, evil is banal.  It's common.  And it's natural.

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