(Anthropological) Mimesis, Competition, #Newtown, and the Media

just a few thoughts. this is not an academic paper. just a series of thoughts that i may explore later. 

The ancient sages were correct to worry when they believe that poetry and the performance thereof could have dire consequences for society. I do not want to detract from the role mental illness played in this latest mass shooting, but I do want to note the role we as consumers are playing. Indeed, some of the most profitable movies and television shows are those that in some way take violence and turn it into something less than final or less than serious.

Let me first set some perimeters for this discussion. Mimesis is a multi-talented tool. We find it in science, art, and a mixture of the two, philosophy. Here, I want to focus more on the anthropological mimesis as modeled by René Girard, but with the idea of the meme theory and mirror neurons of Richard Dawkins’ fame. This is where competition comes in at. We are a species that seeks to compete both against ourselves, individually, and against others, especially those modeled before us. Competition is, as Girard has shown us, the very essence of our mimetic nature. Finally, I want to clarify what I mean by media. I do not mean the journalists who tirelessly work to bring us facts and write unbiased stories. What I mean is the media, as in the the way information is given to us, the medium of media.

The cable news fiasco on the first day of the shooting on body counts and the name(s) of the killer shows us just how easy bad information can be passed around. We see this as well in 2000 when the networks had declared George Bush the winner, sending thousands of voters home. The 24-hour news cycle has pushed us to releasing information early, too early, with retractions looking more like updated information than honest apologies. Further, it sensationalizes the news stories. value judgements are made about what the public wants to see rather than what they need to see. This is not necessarily glorification, but when you begin to talk about body counts as numbers and begin to rank the shootings from best to worst the media begins to build a social platform to compete. For a clear example of this, note how this shooter was dressed and how previous shooters have been dressed.

There is an impersonal message portrayed. We no longer talk about the names and ages of the children murdered, but we talk about how this ranks and just who this person was that could do such a horrible act. For example, when Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself, we are left with a media impression focusing on Belcher, not the clear case of domestic abuse. How many know the name of the young woman? We are going to see the same thing here, as well, that we have seen in Arizona and in Colorado, where we focus on the killer as if he is a side show attraction and thereby, we lose our connection to the victims. But, it begins with the need for a cable news network to always focus on stories that will entice the public. Then, there is twitter and facebook where we can turn to for a faster release of information, and a release of aggression. Our blogs, too, fall into this category. We can use all of these social media footprints to combat evil and to release a flood of endorphines. Or we can be careful and urge action through our various platforms and instead of being led, lead.

We have this need to compete. We also, I firmly believe, have this natural part of ourselves that tell us what is wrong and what is right. This empathy may not be natural or all, or it may be, rather, easily directed in some. The Greek sophists knew this. They could take the empathy of an audience and focus it in a direction they sought. This is a power that must have responsibility, the freedom of speech be damned. What happens, then, with someone who is mentally ill follows their natural impulses to compete? What would the mentally ill see? Someone who has gained international stardom, an international focus, and almost fame. Who many of us, after all, will remember the names of the school children — the names of the murdered in Arizona, Colorado — next week but will easily recall the killer’s name, image, and soon, motive?

Of course, there is another caveat to anthropological mimesis, the atonement. We have seen in recent years the rise in these types of shootings. Increasing, it is not one to one violence, but one to double digits. These is the marked increased in societiel violence that will, if Girard is correct, reach a breaking point in need of an atonement.

Before I scare myself, I will turn the floor over to you.

Here are the points, summarized. First, the media floods the airwaves with messages it wants others to see. Yes, it reports the news, but it does so in a sensational atmosphere. Yes, it is our responsibility to control what we watch, but we must also understand that there is a reason why trends develop patterned on tv shows and why advertisers pay the amount of money they do to air on television. We must be careful not to focus our attention on either the killer or how this shooting spree fits into a rankings chart — unless we carefully ask ourselves why in the world do we have such a chart in the first place. Finally, competition will reach a breaking point. It always has, always does, always will.

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Wait… what wasn’t well regulated in #Aurora?

Records show Fenton has faced some trouble in her career. She was disciplined by the Colorado Medical Board in 2004 for prescribing herself Xanax while her mother was dying, state records show. She also was disciplined for prescribing the sleep aid Ambien and the allergy medicine Claritin for her husband, and painkillers for an employee who suffered from chronic headaches.

The University of Colorado’s website identified Fenton as the medical director of the school’s Student Mental Health Services. An online resume stated that she sees 10 to 15 graduate students a week for medication and psychotherapy, as well as 5 to 10 patients in her general practice as a psychiatrist. Schizophrenia was listed as one of her research interests.

Fenton worked for the U.S. Air Force in Texas as an acupuncturist before joining the University of Colorado in 2005.

A 1998 Denver Post article quotes a Colorado acupuncturist named Lynne Fenton discussing how acupuncture could be used to enhance women’s busts.

via Details emerge on psychiatrist of accused Colorado massacre gunman | Fox News.

It would seem that the State of Colorado has not only allowed anyone to buy enough bullets to wage a small battle, but doctors to practice when they shouldn’t.

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Who paid for James Eagan Holmes’ gear? #aurora

James Eagan Holmes gear

This stuff isn’t cheap. From several reports, Holmes purchases this in the last few months, while being unemployed.

According to one friend of his, the height of his employment history is working at McDonald’s. That is minimum wage – this gear, at the very least, cost about $10,000.

Plus, we know that his home was booby trapped with explosives.

Where did he get all of this money?

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More Thoughts on the #Aurora Tragedy – Who can we blame? Blame Me. I helped

NRA Gun Club
NRA Gun Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d like to blame the NRA

Just last week LaPierre showed up at the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty here in New York and spoke out against what he called “anti-freedom policies that disregard American citizens’ right to self-defense.”  Now at least 12 are dead in Aurora, Colorado, gunned down at a showing of the new film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” a Batman movie filled with make-believe violence. One of the guns the shooter reportedly used was an AK-47 type assault weapon that was banned in 1994. The NRA pressured Congress to let the ban run out in 2004.

The NRA spends millions and millions of dollars on local and national races to insure that guns are accessible and that guns are protected by the U.S. Congress. I would not be surprised if they would actually support a national gun mandate, but… nothing on that front yet. (George Washington did that, by the way) The NRA’s money elects State officials, U.S. Senators, and U.S. Representatives. Wait… maybe their money doesn’t elect those people but we do. We actually go to the polls and vote for the finest ad on television instead of basing the decision on self-education. Fear and not facts is our lived motto. So, even if the NRA would spend 10 Trillion dollars, in the end, we are the ones voting for the Congressmen who vote for those laws. I would also urge you to consider the level of planning that went into this operation. If it wasn’t a gun, it could have been explosives or even a car. And for our European friends, don’t forget the child sex and kidnapping rings that have come to light in the last few years.

We could blame Christianity or the Presbyterian Church since he that is where he attended in his faith tradition. Perhaps it is something in religion that did this, because we know that no atheist ever committed horrible crimes. While he is undergoing a mental health evaluation, it should be noted that he had shown signs of struggling with mental health issues before. He was a noted loner, shy, and while clearly intelligent, unable to become the success that he should have. No, being introverted is not a sign of mental illness – believe it or not, I’m a bit introverted myself – but there are other signs to note. He left school in June for no reason and spent the rest of the time planning every detail. Could someone have noticed that he was experiencing problems? We have began to remove a focus on mental health in this country. Why? Because it is no longer a stigma. And, frankly, we don’t have enough money to help those who need it but can’t afford it. Sure, we are involved in two wars, with an expansive military budget, but we need that, not money for mental health initiatives.

NRA Tattoo
NRA Tattoo (Photo credit: drewish)

We are a blaming culture, aren’t we? We are blaming everyone else, but rarely look at what part we are playing in the entire thing. Our government wouldn’t be beholden to the lobbyists, gun or otherwise, if we paid more attention and voted for those who should be there rather than who pay to be there. Maybe if we did, we could redirect our tax dollars away from the military to those next door who need it. I don’t know about you, but if we have to blame someone, blame us. Or blame me if you are completely innocent. I’m sure you are. Why? Why should we blame us? Because next week, when this is over and out of the news, and Kim Kard-this-or-that or Tom Cruise makes another movie, silly tweet, or other nonsense, we’ll forget about it and move on. I already know the movies I want to see next month, after all, and I’m waiting to see if Tom Cruise gets another beard or not. We won’t remember this in November, that’s for sure. In fact, how many of us will look at the NRA score for a political candidate, see it is 100% and vote for them out of fear that the President will take away our guns? Or maybe, see that they have received lots of money from the NRA and decide not to vote for them regardless of their party affiliation because we cannot trust them to vote for sane gun control laws? Or, what about those candidates who support doing away with all social services provided for by the tax payer?  And in two years, if those I did elect did nothing, will I vote for them again? Next week, when local and national budgets are discussed, and someone suggests cutting the military budget or raising taxes to restore needed social services, such as mental health care, we will recoil in terror and suggest that the liberals just want to make us defenseless and start a class war. That’s why we should blame ourselves and not the actors on the stage. The NRA is the perfect actor that never forgets his lines but we are upset when he does what he is supposed to do. We are the audience that allows the actor to say his lines. If you don’t like the actor, don’t watch the movie. Otherwise, you are to blame for it. Or maybe, I’m the only one to share in the blame for this.

Just some continuing thoughts.

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The Lights of Aurora

Everyone expected a night of fun, not a massacre. Smoke bombs went off. A gunman stalked victims in the aisles, killing at least 12 people, including a 3-year-old. Witnesses said blood was everywhere.

The surprise, as well as the magnitude of the mass shooting, was enough to trigger post-traumatic stress symptoms in those who were vulnerable, said Dr. Jeffrey A. Lieberman, psychiatrist in chief at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center and director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute. (here)

I attended the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises last night and returned home to hear reports about a shooting in Colorado. Due to the intervening time devoted to sleep and work, I have been unable to express my sympathies. I have, however, been able to watch the drama unfolding on Twitter and Facebook and to that, my forced silence, I am most grateful as it has given me time to consider my own thoughts.

To my friends who will always be home in Colorado, given the fires and now this, my warmest thoughts are with you. If something like this had happened here and me so very far away, I would be miserable with grief.

To the others – who have blamed the Tea Party, the NRA, society, guns – let us not seek to cast blame just yet. Let us instead issue calls for compassion and consideration. The man was mentally ill. How else would you explain the premeditated murder? Had he not had access to a gun, would this not have happened? Not sure, really. We humans have managed to kill ourselves in large numbers before the advent of guns. No need to cast blame upon the tools of the act. This is no more the fault of the gun than it is the fault of God for those who do murder and injustice in His name.

But, with that said, let us also not forget that while we have lost more than ten people in one incident,  every day nearly 85 people are murdered with the tool being a gun. Considering that citizens of the United States own 90 guns for every 100 citizens, we should be so lucky as to not have more. But, more than that. Remember, we have and always will find a way to murder those around us.

But, for those that have no such impulse, for those instead with the impulse to help and to heal, let us be there now to stand in the gap, to give a full measure of our moral foundation. Perhaps it is Christian, perhaps agnostic, but we humans share something that no other species does – humanity. It is our very connecting tissue, to each other, to the cosmos, to God. Instead of casting blame, let us instead find the humanity in the situation, to realize that we must use this chaotic entropy to effect a better hope for security, for change, and to progress. Until then, let us not cast blame, but pray for the victims, that their spirits may be at rest in the Great Day of the Soul; that those left behind will mourn rightly and justly but not so much as to become a victim themselves of the crime; and to pray for the murder and his family.

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Prayers are fine, but the Colorado Wildfire victims need more than that – Donate

Here, donate:

• El Paso County Sheriff’s office: Large animal shelter at Norris-Penrose Equestrian Center needs volunteers:            719-520-7773      .

• The Red Cross in Colorado Springs is at            719-632-3563      .Those wanting to donate money to the Red Cross can go here.

• Help Colorado Now, a partnership of Colorado Division of Emergency Management (CDEM) and Colorado Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (COVAD), has alist of donations needed and Fort Collins location for drop-off.

• TheSalvation Army can take monetary donations; specify ‘Northern Colorado Chapter – High Park Fire’ or ‘Northern Colorado Chapter – Waldo Fire:’            303-866-9216      , The Salvation Army, 1370 Pennsylvania Ave., Denver, CO 80132.

Donate online to Larimer Humane Societyor mail checks to 5137 S. College Ave., Fort Collins, CO 80525. Society currently coordinating rescue of all animals in High Park Fire area, providing water to animals that have not been evacuated, reuniting owners and pets and sheltering evacuated animals:            970-226-3647      , ext. 7.

• Text HIGHPARK to 80108 to donate $10 for fire relief in northern Colorado through The mGive Foundation:mgivefoundation.org

Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire DepartmentDonations can be mailed to: RCVFD-Treasurer, PO Box 2, Bellvue, CO 80521.

Read more:How to assist Colorado wildfire victims, how to donate and help – The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_20935254#ixzz1z04AaHLC
Read The Denver Post’s Terms of Use of its content: http://www.denverpost.com/termsofuse

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