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29 Apr, 2007

Virginia Tech Massacre: Double Standards in Analysing the Root Cause of Violence

Originally Published: 29 Apr 2007

In addition to the appalling death and carnage of the Virginia Tech massacre, perhaps the most disturbing aspect was the sharp contrast in the way America and indeed the rest of the world analysed and probed its root causes, as against the way acts of violence are treated when Muslims are the suspected perpetrators.

An analysis of this contrast yields plenty of clues as to why global violence has become a self-perpetuating cycle, with no apparent end in sight.

For the people of America, such catastrophes are a regular reminder that violence is just as endemic to their own society as it is to the “Islamist terrorists” they profess to be battling and whom their religious, political and media leaders constantly denigrate as being driven by a “creed of violence”.

The reports on the massacre involved a detailed, soul-searching examination of the killer’s psychological condition, his upbringing and background (the “root causes”) as well as the many early warnings accompanied by the usual hand-wringing about why all these “warnings” were not detected and acted upon earlier.

In reality, all forms of violence are traceable to these deeper root causes, regardless of the perpetrator’s caste, colour or creed. And there is no shortage of mind-twisting imagery in the US that feeds and nourishes it.

From the super-hero comic books to the thematic content of TV series and movies, (cowboy gun-slingers, high-tech “terminators”, martial-arts experts, boxers, gladiators, conquerors, etc), the aggressive form of American “football”, lax gun laws and videogames all the way to the macho military machine and a corporate culture that even refers to marketplace competition in militaristic terms, America’s glorification of violence seeps into every nook and cranny of life.

Right after Virginia Tech, an employee at the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) killed his boss for apparently nothing more than writing a poor work review. That’s all it took for this poor feeble-minded person to explode.

In today’s tense, unpredictable world, the very human characteristics of frustration, bitterness, anger, paranoia, insecurity, sexual inadequacy, envy, jealousy, low self-esteem, personal and professional grievances, humiliation and perhaps most important, injustice, can quickly metamorphose into a volatile, flammable cocktail.

At the other extreme, self-righteous violence is perpetrated by those with a superiority complex who see themselves as indestructible, invincible knights in shining armour, incapable of mustering the humility to even acknowledge a mistake, leave aside apologise for one. Considering themselves unaccountable only heightens that patronising attitude.

The fact that such killings keep recurring in the US means that no solutions are forthcoming in spite of their “root causes” being both well-known and thoroughly analysed following each killing.

Which raises the logical question: If the United States cannot address home-grown violence in its own streets, shopping malls, workplaces, schools and colleges, how does it expect to address violence and terrorism abroad, especially when American foreign policy often appears to be an extension of its domestic violence?

Had the killer been a Muslim, I wager that the reaction would have been anything but analytical and introspective. Instead, if history is any indicator, it would have been tinted with fury, outrage and horror.

President Bush would have been shaking his fist at “Islamic terrorists”, probably found some way to link the violence with that in Iraq and perhaps even pursued an opening to attack Iran.

US media commentators would have further denigrated Islam. Racial profiling would have worsened and there would have been revenge attacks on mosques, Islamic centres, homes and individuals.

It would have been an eye for an eye all the way.

Just like in an act of extremist terrorism, the Korean killer mowed down innocent people and sent video-messages to the media. Yet, his remarks about feeling “the pain of Jesus Christ” evoked little discussion in the mainstream media, which would not have been the case had he been a Muslim and made similar comments about “jihad”.

If the United States seriously examines its obvious double standards in the way it addresses both local and global violence and terrorism, it may make more headway towards alleviating, if not eliminating both.

Just as the Korean’s warning signs were ignored, so too, does ignoring the signs emanating from the Islamic world produce a similar result.

Over the years, Muslim leaders have repeatedly stressed that the acts of terrorism and violence also have “root causes”, with the Israeli occupation of Palestine being a key focal point.

As I have written before, readers should spend some time trying to survive in the choking, suffocating conditions of occupied Palestine to see how long they last before they, too, begin to tear their hair out.

Rather than take these warnings seriously and help resolve the issues fairly and judiciously, the response has been to place all the blame on Muslims, escalate the terminology to such explosive language as “islamofascism” and fight fire with fire.

As a result, a clear message of double standards and hypocrisy goes out to the Islamic world that it has to first conform with the rules set by the West and its supposedly “superior” systems, values and belief structures.

As is patently obvious worldwide, none of this has done an iota of good.

It is long overdue for America to start taking a more holistic approach towards addressing its local and global violence, set aside all this saber-rattling talk of “pre-emptive strikes” and “war on terror” and start focusing on alternative ways to create a new world order that is better balanced, less militaristic and more sustainable.

If the waste of life caused by the misguided and twisted state of mind of a lone individual can cause so much grief and horror, the far higher number of people dying daily as a result of misguided and twisted policies of national leaders should elicit a much higher level of protest and outrage.

So far, that is not happening. The violence will not abate until it does.