I am not an engineer but I have had enough experience with things like household water heaters to understand the concept that the pressure relief valve in these appliances are the weakest point in the system. That is they give way and relieve pressure when the system has too much.
I introduce this as a sort of metaphor to speak of the horrible and tragic killings which took place yesterday some 5 miles from where I live.
A disgruntled student walks into the school from which he had been expelled (presumably for behavioral problems) and vents his anger by shooting 10 people of whom 7 have died.
This was not the attack of a Muslim terrorist, a Christian terrorist, a Jewish terrorist or, for that matter, a terrorist of any kind. This was the attack of a frustrated man with access to powerful weaponry.
The attack at Oikos University, whose name I did not even know til yesterday, was another in a series of such crimes committed by people who are not beholden to some religious or political ideology. This was without purpose at all really. This attack was the sign of a pressure valve bursting. But it is not without meaning.
I have worked for many years in the psychiatric field and am acutely aware that some people have higher frustration tolerances and some have lower ones. It is the group of people with lower frustration tolerances that I liken to the pressure valve.
Granted it is not a perfect metaphor but the levels of frustration over finances, prejudices, increasing lack of resources, lack of jobs, etc. builds to a breaking point. The scary thing is that no one knows their breaking point much less that of others. We look in retrospect and assume that someone who does such a thing must have been mentally ill. And perhaps that is so but as we continue to see such occurrences now apparently happening on a regular basis I submit that it tells us that our societal pressures valves, our weakest points, are going off and letting us know that there is too much pressure. It is a sign that we need to reduce the pressure because more valves will go off if we don’t and we risk the whole thing blowing up.
Yet, knowing this, we continue to seek to put more pressure on immigrants, the poor, minorities and the disenfranchised segments of society in an effort to solve this problem.
More pressure will only result in more safety valves blowing. Is this not obvious?
Apparently it isn’t.
I see the application of what I call the “if you just hit them hard enough they will stop” rule. More prison time, harsher sentences, racial profiling, increased bombings, increased surveillance, higher fences, mandatory strip searches, random drug screens, forcing teachers to reapply for jobs, defunding education etc.
At pretty much the same time as this tragedy unfolded both federal and local police were hard at work only a few miles away raiding Oaksterdam University, the medical marijuana school. Why this is such a focus is a mystery to me. And it’s timing which coincided with the attack only a few miles away puts it in a strange light.
But I am not writing in favor of medical marijuana or in favor of gun restrictions here. I am writing to say that the entire focus of our mechanisms of social control is wrong.
What we need are jobs, healthcare, education, equitable treatment, housing, et al. What we need is not a domineering society but a great society which takes care of its own people. We as Americans aren’t doing that. And it would appear that other governments are falling short as well. In fact I see this as a global problem. We see such safety valves going off everywhere in the world. Self immolations, political coups, genocide, etc.
What is the common denominator? Poverty. By that I mean poverty of wealth, poverty of mind, poverty of hope. Increasingly I see less reason to hope for change. I see wealth and power being diverted everywhere to the wealthy. You don’t see wealthy people going on rampages do you? And I, for one, don’t see that our sacredly held power to vote produces any real change.
And we know that the truly wealthy are denied practically nothing. They can have all the guns, drugs, sex or whatever they want. No one can take it away from them. But as the pressure valves continue to burst the wealthy are working to make sure that such violence occurs only among the disenfranchised. And we are complicit in fighting among ourselves right now. We as a society seem content to blame immigrants, minorities, poor people, crazy people, etc. I don’t know if we can change that. I don’t know if we can stop fighting among ourselves. I don’t know if we can cast the money lenders out of the temple and become a great society.
Perhaps these are the end times not in the sense of biblical revelation but in the sense of humanity having ultimately failed. As we continue to see more violence, less love, less care I see my optimism fading.