Entries by Dr. Harriet Fraad (37)


White Men's Rage

By Harriet Fraad | Book Review | First Published February 25th, 2014 on The Indypendent

Angry White Men
Michael Kimmel
Nation Books, 2013

It's been a tough 40 years for working and middle-class white men in America. Accustomed to an exalted place in the social hierarchy, they have seen their wages stagnate and decline since the early 1970s. At the same time, women have gained unprecedented new freedoms and our society became more racially and culturally diverse.

Rather than adapt and change, many of these men cling to male dominance. Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology and gender studies at Stony Brook University in New York, journeys deep into the worlds of his white male aggrieved subjects.

Kimmel has produced a masterful account of white men's rage. He focuses on the sons of successful skilled craftsmen, small businessmen and small farmers disenfranchised by the corporatizing of America, mass production, outsourced work, mega-stores like Walmart and Home Depot and restaurant chains like McDonalds and Applebees.

Fallen Sons

The fathers and grandfathers of these raging men were the people who started and prospered in family businesses. They were the men who owned local grocery stores, hardware stores, mom-and-pop restaurants, and small farms. They worked hard and proudly supported their families in comfort. They expected to pass their hard-earned accomplishments onto their sons in the patriarchy that was America. That did not happen.

Their dispossessed sons and grandsons are confined to dead- end, low-wage jobs without recognition, prestige, comfort, social mobility or a family wage. The angry, dispossessed men Kimmel describes still define manhood through dominant provider roles, dependent wives and children and intact marriages. Those American realities have disappeared.

Kimmel also describes the rage of male blue-collar workers. Their work was outsourced, leaving them without family wages or the marital security those wages allowed. Their rage is fed by hate radio and TV, which transforms men’s sad confusion into hatred for feminists, gays and immigrants, à la Rush Limbaugh.

A Men's Rights Movement?

Kimmel introduces the reader to groups that flourish as these men founder.

Men’s Rights Associations lay claim to men’s right to stay married with regular access to their children. They rail against women’s rights to divorce, to paid employment and to child support when separated or divorced with children. These angry men do not seem to want equal roles in caring for their children, but rather the right to access women and children with male authority over them. They are differentiated from Father’s Rights groups, which struggle for legal acknowledgment of the active roles they play and want to continue to play in their children’s lives after separation or divorce.

Kimmel also explores what he calls, “The White Wing,” racist male supremacy groups like the KKK, the White Skinheads, White Aryan Resistance (WAR), and the Neo-Nazis that wish to avenge white mens’ humiliation and loss through violent combat against immigrants, minorities, Jews and feminists. They want to restore white male domination. They turn their rage against the corporate sector, which has outsourced their jobs and taken their livelihoods. They lay the blame on Jews who they see as corporate masterminds.

Although Kimmel does not discuss them, I would mention that there exist four other main bastions of male hegemony: the NRA, the U.S. military, Evangelical churches and heterosexual pornography.

The Role of Capitalism

The mass of Americans are mere numbers in the ledgers of big business. The decisions to outsource millions of jobs and to automate millions more are decisions made with profit as the sole consideration. Yet, Kimmel does not stress the role of corporate capital or capitalism itself in the problems he describes.

Wages stagnated in the 1970s when companies in many industries found they could profitably move production overseas and more newly empowered women and minorities began taking jobs in many fields that previously had been reserved for white males. In a job market where institutional racism and sexism had caused labor shortages, white males received one bonus for being white and another for being male. Since labor is now abundant, those bonuses are no longer necessary.

Profits continue to accumulate at the top. In 2013, the 400 richest Americans took in $300 billion and their total assets surpassed $2 trillion, more than the bottom 60 percent of the population. Corporate interests have tightened their grip over the media and many politicians. The system, in turn, diverts the anger of enraged white men who do not see that the problem is capitalism itself.

Organizing for economic and political democracy and the redistribution of wealth and power — and not simply a second New Deal as Kimmel urges — is necessary to address the economic sources of male rage.

Democracy in Relationships

There is a second part of a solution that Kimmel does not mention. That is democracy in personal relationships. The men he describes are unaware of what they missed. Their “manhood” left them out of touch with their emotions. They were robbed of tenderness, vulnerability and the right to perform daily care for their homes and children.

That caring and emotional labor teaches people invaluable lessons about the importance of sustaining life. Part of the anger of “entitled men” comes from their own limited definition of manhood. The only intimate emotional friendships many could have are with wives who do the emotional labor to with connect them. It is women who overwhelmingly do the social connecting that permitted these men to appear self-sufficient while their wives were caring for their children and maintaining connections with family, friends and community. Without husbands, women still maintain emotionally intimate relationships with women friends, children and families. Men’s “self-sufficiency” does not permit that.

What Kimmel’s good book points toward is that we need a strong, appealing, sensible Left that addresses the dispossession of America’s angry men and replaces it with a movement that respects their emotional, political and economic needs. It’s really up to us.


Why Are So Many White Men So Angry And What Can We Do About It

By Harriet Fraad | Book Review | First Published February 21st, 2014 on TikkunDaily

Michael Kimmel’s popular new book Angry White Men, describes the rage of American men who have been cast out of their dominant roles within the economy, the family and personal life. The book does not discuss mass murder, but the fact that men are killing large numbers of people in America indicates a level of rage with no socially constructive outlet. Kimmel correctly notes the way white men are demoted from the economic and social dominance they once had. He blames white men’s now lowered position on two developments. One is a vaguely referenced “neo-liberal agenda”. The second is the movements for economic, political and civil rights for women and minorities. The civil rights and the feminist movements permitted more minorities and women to compete for jobs formerly reserved for white males.

The book explores a wide range of white male attempts to recoup their lost hegemony. One is “hate radio” where voices like Rush Limbaugh’s channel men’s confusion over their changed roles into hatred for “feminazis” and minorities who take “their” jobs.

Another attempt to assert what Kimmel calls white men’s “aggrieved entitlement,” is the formation of men’s rights groups who fight for divorced father’s rights to their children. Kimmel differentiates Men’s Rights Groups from Father’s Rights Groups. Father’s Rights Groups are composed of men who actually want to be close to their children and spend time with their children after divorce. Men’s Rights Groups claim rights to children without caring for them. Men’s Rights Groups work to avoid paying child support as well.

Kimmel also explores the world of politically right wing men raised to feel entitled to inherit the small businesses that their grandfathers’ built and hoped to hand down to their sons and grandsons. The small stores, restaurants and farms those white men built are replaced by Walmarts, Home Depots, McDonalds, and huge agri-businesses.

Some of the men who have lost their inheritance join “White Wing” racist, misogynistic, Anti Semitic, homophobic, hate groups like the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) and the White Aryan Resistance (WAR). The White Wing blames their loss of male entitlement on women and minorities who now have access to “their” jobs. They blame large capitalist corporations for replacing their small farms and businesses. They blame international corporate capitalism on Jews who they imagine are in an international Zionist conspiracy to capture America. Kimmel does not directly critique White Wing logic. He exposes it as self evidently absurd. However, this reader can understand how the White Wing builds on people’s outrage at their dispossession by international capital. The dispossessed suffer from an economic system in which the only consideration is profit regardless of the damage that is done to people’s lives. The White Wing manages the same kind of bait and switch as the Nazis did. They take the fact that many Jewish people are involved in finance. They disregard the fact that Jews, a tiny percentage of any industry in America as in Germany, often entered finance because Jews were barred from agriculture and many other pursuits. White Wing members direct their anger at the religion of some financiers and bankers rather than blaming the capitalist imperative to accumulate profit regardless of consequences. In other words, the White Wing blames Jewishness for capitalist greed. Anti-Semitism combines with racism, sexism and homophobia to create enemies of relatively powerless groups who are safe to hate.

Kimmel suggests a general solution to the problem, another New Deal. He does not work out what that New Deal would entail and how it might work. Sadly, at this moment of US history, a New Deal seems impossible. First of all, the New Deal did not happen just because FDR was a nice, equality minded man. FDR ran and won on a platform of a balanced budget. Once elected, he responded to what was the combination of a crushing depression and also mass popular uprisings organized with the help and support of socialist and communist parties. The CIO with the explicit help of Communist and Socialist organizers organized millions of people into the CIO, the largest, most militant labor union America had ever or has ever seen. Hundreds of thousands marched in mass marches of the unemployed organized by the Communist Party. In places like Nebraska, small farmers organized to stop the foreclosure of small farms. At what they called, “Penny auctions” bidders were forcibly stopped from paying any more than a penny for anything being auctioned, thus denying the bank the money from a foreclosed farm while allowing the farmer to buy back his/her land and belongings. Judges who foreclosed small farms were hanged by angry, organized farmers.

FDR could go to US capitalists and get them to pay high income taxes and corporate taxes. Wealthy Americans and US corporations feared that the capitalist system was threatened. They paid in order to preserve capitalism itself.

Taxes on the highest earners rose radically almost to 100%in 1933 after FDR was elected. Those taxes began to fall radically when Reagan took over. The taxes on the wealthiest continued to drop. In addition to their lowered personal income taxes and lower corporate taxes, the wealthiest Americans, like presidential candidate Mitt Romney, can publicly avow holding millions in off shore accounts on which they pay no taxes at all. Wealthy Americans hire tax lawyers to find ways to avoid paying taxes. They pay for the campaigns of candidates who will not tax them.

The New Deal was possible because of the threat to capitalism waged by an organized mass of Americans organized by the CIO and socialists and communists. That is not our current reality. In current capitalist America, wealthy candidate Romney could brag that on the portion of his millions that were taxed at all, he paid a tax rate of 13%, less than half of what average Americans pay. Warren Buffet one of America’s richest men, pays lower taxes than his secretary.

There is a second problem with Kimmel’s idea of another New Deal. As soon as the New Deal was enacted, US capitalists used their vast money to begin to undermine that New Deal. At the moment, corporate capitalists are succeeding splendidly. It is not enough to pass new legislation if you leave vast money and power in the hands of those with every incentive and economic ability to undermine any legislation you can pass. Vague ideas of another New Deal are not possible for now. Organizing around economic and political democracy and equality and changing the wealth-power distribution in America is obviously necessary to make the changes will stop the rage of dispossessed while men which Kimmel so aptly describes.

There is a second part of a solution that Kimmel does not mention. That is a kind of democracy in personal relationships. The men he describes are unaware of what they missed. Their “manhood” that hey so treasure left them out of touch with their emotions. They were robbed of tenderness, vulnerability, and the right to perform daily care for their homes and children. That caring and emotional labor teaches people invaluable lessons about the importance of sustaining life. Part of the anger of “entitled men” comes from the level of emotional deprivation they have suffered since they were little boys having to “man-up and not cry. Their only chance to be vulnerable was through contact with the women they are now losing. Their limited definition of manhood prevents them from having emotionally close male friends in whom they confide and from whom they get comfort. The intimate emotional friendships many of these men could have are with wives or girlfriends. They allow themselves the need for sexual connections and hide their needs for emotional connection under their need for a regular sex partner. It is their women who do the emotional labor to connect them to the world of their own feelings. It is women who also overwhelmingly do the social connecting that permits these men to connect with their children and their relatives. Before women deserted them many of these enraged men managed the illusion that they were actually self sufficient while their wives were caring for their emotions, and their children, while also maintaining connections with family and friends and community. Without husbands, women still maintain sustaining emotionally intimate relationships with women friends, children and families. Men’s “self sufficiency” does not permit that. Fewer and fewer working class or middle class women are willing to get married to men who cannot support them and still demand domestic, sexual and emotional services at home. The angry white men Kimmel describes are losing their positions of dominance at home and at work simultaneously. Sadly, they look to reclaim their “manhood” through violence, and rage at women, minorities and gays, who are easy targets in our culture.
What Kimmel’s good book indicates is that we need a strong, appealing, sensible Left movement that addresses the dispossession of America’s angry men and replaces it with a movement that respects our needs emotionally, politically and economically. It’s really up to us.


Capitalism Works (or Not) for Me

By Harriet Fraad and Richard Wolff | First Published Friday, 18 October 2013 on Truthout.org

Curators of New York City's annual arts festival called us a couple of months ago. Would we be interested in having a public discussion with the artist, Steve Lambert, whose work was a major part of this year's festival? The festival's title is "Crossing the Line 2013," and Lambert's large neon-lighted installation (9 feet by 20 feet by 7 feet) says "Capitalism Works for Me." Observers can respond by pressing either a "True" or "False" button.

This work (like others Lambert has produced and shown across the country and abroad) aims to engage audiences in reflecting and then beginning to act on its message. As another way to reach that goal, the curators thought that we - a professional psychotherapist and a professional economist - might usefully talk publicly with Lambert about the work and responses to its outdoor installation in Manhattan's Times Square, where it would remain for several days.

We saw immediately that Lambert's artwork contributes to a conversation about capitalism's strengths and weaknesses. Drawing conclusions would follow next. For us, working in the domains of economics and psychology, such conversation, debate and conclusions were all absent, urgently needed and long, long overdue. We readily agreed to participate in the proposed public discussion.

Among economists, it remains largely taboo to question capitalism's negative effects and therefore desirability, let alone to debate its pros and cons vis-à-vis alternative ways of organizing production. Instead, liberals and conservatives endlessly celebrate capitalism while bickering over how government should relate to this presumed best-of-all-possible economic systems. Similarly, psychologists and therapists rarely admit or analyze how capitalism's particular features impact feelings, emotions and mental health.

Perhaps the world of art might lead the rest of us to see, reopen and engage debate over this economic and political system whose problems, crises and dysfunctions and their social and personal costs scream for honest questioning, now more than ever. Lambert's work and its reception in many venues already had succeeded in generating intense conversation around why capitalism isn’t questioned, and the work’s democratic impulse moved us both. We wanted to engage this question posed by an artist, much as we wanted our respective disciplines to likewise contribute to that evaluation. And so an early October evening of conversation among Lambert and the two of us was arranged and widely publicized. It took place in one of the multiple viewing rooms within (and donated by) an immense Times Square movie house (AMC).

The evening began with a short video made September 20, 2013, the installation's first day in Times Square. Individuals explained briefly why they voted "true" or "false" as their responses to "Capitalism Works for Me." A rich diversity of reasons emerged to support the viewers' individual votes.

The short video resonated with a young woman whose mother struggled to find the rent to keep her store (where she also lived when the bank reclaimed their home). Enrolled at Manhattan's Parsons, the New School of Design, she mentioned fellow students whose purses cost more than the monthly rent her mother finally could no longer pay. Capitalism, she said, bailed out the banks but abandoned her mother; it did not work for her. A man whose business was succeeding thought that capitalism worked for him. He said that it did not work for others, even some of the workers he hired. Some responders were so aggravated by publicly questioning capitalism that they punched "true" with such force that the button broke. Our discussion and the audience's questions combined to illustrate the power of this remarkable art and the intense responses it elicited.

The video showed, first, that the artwork succeeded in provoking thought. Second, individuals who had never before been asked this question quickly summoned ideas and arguments as they thought about how to vote. Perhaps questions provoked by the artwork had crossed their minds consciously or otherwise. Third, these individuals relished the opportunity to talk publicly about the issue, their votes and their reasons. Lambert's work found and activated a responsive nerve for many who viewed it. His art and popular response to it offered impressive evidence that Americans want to discuss and evaluate their economic system. Indeed, they want to do that at least as much and as passionately as they have debated the educational, energy, medical insurance, transportation and other systems that make up our society. Lambert's work exposed the disservice to democracy and people's needs performed by the mainstream economics and psychotherapy "disciplines" in their refusal to engage the issue of capitalism in relation to their thought and practice.

Does capitalism work? Like all great questions, it touches our intimate, personal, political and social lives. It is obviously important to ask and to engage. A young artist, Steve Lambert, found a new way to grasp and project that obviousness so that his audience might grasp it too. Courageous art curators in New York recognized Lambert's achievement and situated it brilliantly in one of modern capitalism's iconic locations. The many dimensions of this amazing artistic happening comprise so many windows to posing the crucial questions of our time and finding new solutions.

At the same time, Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art exhibited Rene Magritte's work. His art, from another time of capitalist crisis, also challenged received, hardened ways of seeing and living (and not seeing and not living). Magritte too opens our minds to what lies beyond today's narrow "realities" by inviting us to ponder "obvious" questions whose answers can transform personal and social life.


The Feminist Movement - What Happened and Why?

By Harriet Fraad | Blog | First Published on Tikkun Daily

There is much media attention on the 50 year Anniversary of Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique published in 1963. Friedan’s book is touted as the beginning of the “Feminist Movement.” However in the 1960s when second wave feminism was born there were two branches of Feminism. One, has been repressed. The other celebrated. One was Friedan’s and later Gloria Steinem’s. It was a gender only movement fighting for gender equality within the United States as it was, with its racial and class hierarchy. It was dominated by privileged educated women. The other branch of the women’s movement was the class conscious “Women’s Liberation Movement” which emerged from the radical Anti- War and Civil Rights movements.

The original Women’s Liberation Movement was a movement of both race and class integration, a vision of justice for all. It saw female liberation as the basis for social revolution. In fact, an article called “Female Liberation as the Basis for Social Revolution” appeared in one of the earliest publications of The Women’s Liberation Movement, “Notes From the Second Year,” issued by its founding group “Red Stockings” in 1970. Other statements of that period stressing the unity of race, class and gender oppression were issued by The Third World Women’s Alliance in 1969, and The Third World Gay Revolution (1969). These original documents are reprinted in Dear Sisters: Dispatches From The Women’s Liberation Movement (Baxandall & Gordon, Eds. 2000). Friedan was the president and a founder of NOW, the National Organization of Women which works for legislative reform. She also helped to found NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. Both groups demand legislation, lobby legislatures and endorse candidates. They stress particular projects to integrate women into an America which is increasingly stratified into a privileged 1% minority and a suffering 99% majority, in which the poorest people are single women of color with children. Women’s Liberation was a movement rather than a list of projects. It captured the lives of millions of women who mobilized in direct actions for child care, the end to sexism in and outside of the home. The original movement embraced race, class and gender.

What Happened?

One thing that happened was the enormous funding that the CIA allocated to its operative, Gloria Steinem. Although it is not discussed on US television, the net is replete with information about Steinem’s CIA employment from her days as a student informing on US students attending world youth festivals, to her gender only subversion of the Women’s Liberation Movement:

What Gloria Steinem, Henry Kissinger Have In Common: CIA Pay

Gloria Steinem discussing her time in the CIA

Inside the CIA with Steinem

Black Feminism, the CIA, and Gloria Steinem

The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America

As a founding mother of the Women’s Liberation Movement which was as enthusiastic as it was naive, none of us imagined the influence of the CIA on our movement. Through CIA subversion led by Steinem, and our naivete, the movement became a largely gender essentialist, set of projects within the capitalist system. It became an attempt to create equality for women with a system of ever greater economic and social inequality. These days people would be far more astute than we were.


Mass Killings: Why American Men Are "Going Postal"

By Harriet Fraad | Op-Ed | First Published in Truthout

Fraad reflects on the pervasiveness of mass shootings by white and Asian men and reviews some of the features that distinguish the US from other developed countries that may contribute to exceptional US gun violence.

Twenty-seven people were shot to death in lovely suburban Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. Newtown was the most dramatic of the mass shootings of 2012, a year in which 151 Americans were victims of the phenomenon.

A mass shooting is defined as a one in which at least four people were indiscriminately shot and injured or killed in a public place.

Why destroy the lives of strangers? Where does such murderous rage come from?

In order to try to engage that question we can begin by looking at the common traits of the murderers. Being male is something all but one shared, and being white - or Asian, in the case of two - is also something shared. That is a remarkable fact hidden in plain sight.

It is all the more remarkable because the race and gender of the perpetrators was not discussed. Surely, if all of the mass killers were African-American that would have been noticed. If all those people were killed by white women or immigrants, that too would have been a topic of discussion, to say the least. Somehow the fact that the killers were white men seemed unremarkable. That is a clue to consider.

What could make US white males so angry?

American white men and Asian men have lost the family wage and with it their hegemonic positions in what was once secure employment. The have simultaneously lost their dominant positions in intimate and family life. The key figure in the economic and social disempowerment of US workers was Ronald Reagan, who began his presidency by firing the mass of striking air traffic controllers and destroying their union. With the destruction of the Air Traffic Controllers Union, Reagan shot his first round into the body of labor. The chance to negotiate union wages and job conditions was gravely wounded. More shots followed.

Mass killings became a new phenomenon in the 1980s when Reagan's platform of disempowerment of white, male workers, began. Asian men had at that point also been largely included in the hegemonic gender.
It was the US Post Office workers who put mass killing on the American map. In 1986 the phrase, "going postal" was born when a postal worker named Patrick Sherrill fired 50 shots on his job site. He murdered 15 postal workers and wounded more. The first man Sherrill shot to death was his supervisor. Sherrill's second murder victim was the grandson of Reagan's hero, the football star Knute Rockne, who was the topic of Reagan's most famous movie Knute Rockne, All American. This was described brilliantly by Mark Ames, in Going Postal, a powerful and neglected book.

Reagan's "reforms" included changing the time-honored practice of promoting experienced postal workers to supervisory positions from within the ranks of the postal workers union. Instead, supervisors without experience in the postal system were recruited. They were characterized by harassment to produce greater productivity and a generally adversarial relationship to workers. Under Reagan, the postal system was changed from a social service into a supposedly self-sufficient or profitable business.

Reagan began the process of destroying the safe secure jobs that created middle-class families. He began a trend that has continued since, a trend of lowering real white male wages. Male wages have remained flat since the 1970s. White male mass killings have grown exponentially. Flat real wages wiped out the chance that a man's family wage could support his family. Millions of women were pushed out of the home and into the labor force. Women benefitted with independence, but also suffered with divorce and poverty. White and Asian men have lost their dominant position at work and at home. The rage of American white men may well have something to do with their humiliation and loss of dominance.

Four-fifths of the jobs lost in our current recession have been male jobs in manufacturing, construction and big-ticket sales. The decisions to export American jobs were based solely on corporate profit regardless of the extensive social and personal damages those decisions produced. Within capitalism that is how decisions are made.

With most jobs transported overseas for cheap labor, the labor market became based on those social services that are not exportable. The huge shift to a service economy privileged women who dominate the growth sectors in lower-paid health and food service industries. Women's skills in personal relationships, emotional labor, compromise and negotiation work better in a service economy, where aggression is unwelcome. Now, a majority of managerial positions as well as most professional positions are held by US women. Traditional males are dispossessed.

Industries stepped in to offer a refuge for men's wounded pride. Four profitable refuges emerged. Two of those relate to the phenomenon of the mass massacre. The wealthiest refuge for young men is the US military, a $711,000,000,000 industry that has grown by 81 percent since 2001. All of the above figures have their origin in SIPRI (The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). The military is the one sector in which the US has world hegemony. We have a bigger military sector than the other 13 most-armed nations combined.

Ubiquitous photos of children in villages reduced to rubble by our glorious military might testify to US war power. Fully 176 Pakistani children have been killed by our drone strikes in 2012 alone. Close to a million Iraqi children have been killed since the US invasion of 2003.

US killing is not restricted to war zones. The latest US figures show that 5,740 US children and teens were killed by guns in 2008 and 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available.

The military has the vast funds to buy our airspace, and advertise its ethos of armed force as a solution to national security problems. It advertises male might with guns as power. Ubiquitous military recruitment ads present young, muscular men called "strategic warriors keeping us safe". There are no mass ads promoting kindness and negotiating skills. No one is buying expensive space for that.

Closely related is our very lucrative private gun industry. As the Washington Post glibly noted , "The US gun industry has been one of the brightest spots in the US economy in recent years, even through the recent downturn. This year, it racked up $11.7 billion in sales and $992 million in profits." There is no equal time for peaceful solutions to either our national and international struggles nor the pain of fruitless searches for family-waged work.

The next most profitable refuge for wounded manhood is killer media, films, game boys and violent video games like the one on which Newtown killer Adam Lanza spent his days. Video games alone net $16 billion annually. Eighth-grade boys in America spend an average of 23 hours a week playing video games. Young US men in college spend 16 hours a week. Programs for young people in which they play sports and learn educational, recreational and interpersonal skills are cut to ribbons while the market provides violent, and very instructive killer entertainment.

How would this analysis apply to school shootings which are a relatively new male phenomenon? School shootings were put on the map by two very intelligent students at Columbine University who killed 12 classmates, a teacher and themselves in 1999. In Newtown in 2012, a similarly intelligent 20-year-old former student, Adam Lanza, shot and killed 26 elementary school students, teachers, a guidance counselor and the principal as well as himself and his mother.

They are joined by a nursing student at Oikos University, who killed seven schoolmates and administrators, as well as himself. Although the circumstances of each case differed, all of these mass killers saw no future or hope outside of revenge and death in a blaze of glory. The nursing student who killed seven saw that he was cheated by his expensive for-profit nursing program and would be saddled with debt he could not pay, and shame that he borrowed scarce money from his aged father. School debt now outstrips mortgage debt in the US. Jobs dwindle and debt soars. The future looks grim for millions. PhDs are on food stamps. The Columbine High School killers were gifted students who fit nowhere and had nothing but a glorious death to look forward to.

The men involved in mass killings are all described as mentally ill. Their mental illness somehow serves as an explanation of mass killing. Mass killers are presented as radically different from other American males, but are they? Mental illness is a question of degree, not of kind. It is disturbed people who act out readily available aspects of their culture processed through distorted personal meaning systems. The use of guns to solve to national, international and interpersonal problems is very much a part of US culture.

Leader in Untreated Mental Illness

The fact that the US leads the developed world in untreated mental illness is another contributor to mass killing.

Adam Lanza of Newtown had his own story. He was identified as a child, and then an adolescent, who had serious mental problems. He was also diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Asperger Syndrome alone would not be a massive problem. Since dependent children have so much in common with chattel, Lanza's mother could legally withdraw him from school, provide no help or treatment and isolate him at home where all day he played violent video shooting games in a windowless basement with no other contact but his mother. His only outings were to a shooting range with his mother. No one was allowed into the home. Adam's basement location was home to his survivalist mother's gun collection which included the assault weapon and pistol he used to shoot her in the face and kill 26 others. He was abandoned to his family as children are.

Fully five children each day are abused to death in America. We lead the developed world in child abuse.

The overwhelming numbers of child murders are committed by the child's family, to which they are abandoned.

I believe that Lanza murdered little children because he was murdering the child in himself. When children are cruelly treated, they do not necessarily hate their parents. Instead they hate their childhood needs that keep them dependent on the savage adults that surround them. Lanza hated his mother - but also his childlike dependence on her absolute power over him.

Adam Lanza points a finger at another barbaric aspect of American life. Here we assume that any and everyone capable of the biological act of conception is automatically capable of the exclusive 24-hour care of an utterly vulnerable life. There is no direct profit to be made from saving children's lives. As American's lives increasingly deteriorate, children increasingly die of neglect and abuse. Child deaths are mounting.

Mass murders beam a spotlight on the rage of American's dispossessed, our workingmen and our children who see no future. Profitable refuges for male despair are sold in war and related killing. We have limited mass progressive movements and no socialist power blocks to address American pain and direct it toward the corporate military powers that rule our lives. All other developed nations have mass movements and socialist power blocks to create hope, and a focus that makes anger into a socially progressive force. Here, we hold out big money refuges in the military, violent media and NRA machismo. Maybe that is why we have more than 35 times more gun deaths than any of our developed counterparts?


It is time to respond to our initial question: Where does the murderous rage come from? Why does the US lead the world in mass killings? Some have blamed popular violent video games of the type Adam Lanza watched almost continuously. However, Japan, to name just one major industrialized society, allows books, films and video games whose violence is at least on a par with what is seen in the US. Yet only in America do we see so many mass shootings.

A key difference between Japan and the US is that Japan has maintained a strong social safety net. Even with their 20-year recession, there is not the pervasive feeling of hopelessness that there is in America, nor has Japan abandoned men, nor is there a hopelessness that is all the more noticeable because of the centuries-old optimism that existed beforehand in America, and which is exacerbated because acknowledgement of its loss is censored.

There is a social problem in America that extends beyond video games. Video games feed a sense that violence is a way to recapture male power and return men's future.

Guns are a second culprit. However, guns alone cannot explain mass murder. Canada is a society in which private guns are permitted and massively owned. According to the UN, Canada has the third largest number of gun owners after the US and Norway. Neither Canadians nor Norwegians experience mass murder as an ongoing phenomenon.

Neither Canada, nor Norway has out-sourced its jobs to China. Neither has a mass of raging, dispossessed men living in a society that defines itself as one in which upward mobility is promised by the American dream. Neither country has seen its educated youth plunged into debt and on food stamps. Canada and Norway have vast viable socialist movements for political, social and economic equality for all.

Some have attributed our mass murders to random disturbed people. Although it is true we have a disastrous system of mental health care, there are some disturbed people in every nation in the world. We are the world leaders in mass killing. Emotionally disturbed, angry American men express their rage in a culturally available American form, gun violence.

There is an additional factor. America is the only wealthy Western democracy that abandons its children to families with no qualifications but conception. Our children are abandoned to the worst rate of poverty and governmental neglect among developed nations. Lost men and boys look for their power in the American way, through violence.

The blind rage of mass killings is a wake-up call. We have to look at the interaction of all the conditions of existence that combine to generate America's mass killings. At present, the US is home to a vast group of predominantly white, dispossessed, enraged men. We have a political system that permits vast money at the top to hijack our politics and culture with unlimited "gifts." Our airwaves are sold to the highest bidder. We have powerful lobbies that sell US militarism and gun ownership as refuges for dispossessed men. We have profit churning mass media with films, videos, and advertisements pushing violence as a solution to problems from intimate life to international relations. We have a dysfunctional public mental health care system. We have limited mass positive political and social movements, and no socialist power blocks to capture and channel rage at the grotesque inequality that dominates our nation and denies our young men.

We need to create a socially organized, positive Left voice for hope, equality and change. We cannot let big money decide our future. Our lives might depend on it.