I can’t fail to notice how events like mass shootings continue to capture the public imagination, as though they come out of nowhere and are one-off occurrences. Nor can I fail to notice how each time one occurs, the masses of the citizenry are more than eager to define the perpetrator of such an event as “mentally ill”, even though they, along with most professionals in the field, have no concrete knowledge of precisely what a mental illness is.
But what if the lines cannot be so easily drawn? It is a well documented fact that many of the people we revere in our society have the very same personality traits as the clinically diagnosed psychopath. Which leads me to the question: what if the perpetrator of mass shootings is operating on socially sanctioned dark urges, that for whatever reason become concentrated in his psyche? What if the act of the individual in a society is actually a reflection of that society? Who then are we to blame in the aftermath of an event like a mass shooting?
The very same symptoms we associate with the mentally ill – denial, repression and dissociation – also operate on the social level. The very same social forces that keep the hierarchical, power-over structures of the patriarchy in place also operate inside the individual psyche. And the means we use to gain and maintain the outer power structure of empire are the very same ones used by the individual to maintain theirs.
We, as a society, would afford ourselves a far better understanding of mental illness, as well as the acts that occur as a result of this, if we studied mass psychology rather than the aberrations of a single individual.