Getting to the root of the problem

TL;DR: Gun violence is awful, but terrorism/domestic terrorism/mass shootings may be caused by social failure to incorporate men rather than by access to guns.


I’ve been thinking and feeling a lot of things about the Las Vegas shooting, the situation and response in Puerto Rico, and our lack of good leadership. I see the flags at half-staff and feel that they mark not only the loss of human life in Las Vegas but the loss of everything good about the US. Like many of you, I suspect, I’m caught in anger, sadness, and despair…despair that this will just keep happening.

On the one hand, I want to destroy the NRA and the ammosexuals and their pet Congressmen. I am a gun owner, I even have an assault rifle (an AR-15, like many other Americans), but I don’t think it’s a right. Guns don’t give me a chubby and I’d be happy enough without them.

I’m not illiterate; the Second Amendment reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” I absolutely support the right of any American to keep and bear a single-shot flintlock or musket, assuming they can prove membership in a well regulated militia.

Heck, I’d be willing to concede that the Framer’s Intent is to ensure that citizens can fight back against an over-reaching government. So if the US limits the military’s equipment to what a citizen can obtain (cause ain’t no amount of AR-15s or bump stocks going to help if the President busts out the US military on Americans), and also requires Americans to show proof of membership in well regulated militias in order to keep and bear arms, I’m down with that. After all, I’m a technologist and futurist, and technology advances. I believe our founding fathers knew it did too – I mean, look at Ben Franklin.

So that’s the Second Amendment part of the discussion. Now what about the NRA/Congress part? The NRA has also changed; it’s no longer about anything except making money for weapons and ammunition manufacturers and sellers. It is completely, unforgivably, evil and craven. As I said, I own many weapons and have never and will never be a member of the NRA or give them one penny.

I don’t know how you teach empathy and responsibility to people who were born without either. It’s firmware, not software you can install once someone reaches adulthood lacking a soul. However, they do care about money, and their pet Congressmen care about money, power, and face. So I would like to see European-style bold, public, and over-the-top protests targeting both. Perhaps drones dropping animal blood equaling the amount of human blood from victims of gun violence in the US on NRA HQS, or on the Capitol building. Or red paint to avoid the biohazard. Get a truckload of dolls, one for every man, woman, and child who had their life ended or irrevocably damaged by gun violence and dump it on the Capitol steps or the front lawn of Congresspeople who take money from the NRA and vote accordingly. Project images of the dead on the homes of the Congresspeople. They bear some of the responsibility for each death.

I’ll stop short of going full Hammurabi and suggesting that NRA members, executives, and NRA Congressmen lose a family member each time their weapons kill a person.

Another way to hit Congress is in the pocketbook and power zones. If people stop going to nightclubs, stop attending college in their states, stop paying to attend large outdoor events like music concerts, sports, or inaugurations, business owners and local Chambers of Commerce will change out the elected officials.

In short, there’s still stuff you can do.

But the title of this post isn’t “Raq demonstrates that she’s a Slytherin.” It’s “Getting to the root of the problem.”

I own an AR-15 and a Sig Sauer P226. My son has a Ruger .22 boys’ rifle. We have a Remington 870 shotgun for home defense. I’m from New Mexico, for Pete’s sake. I knew many people who had been shot or shot themselves by the time I was 18.


Every other weapon in our safe is a collectible/antique from WWII or earlier, though, so a lot of ammosexuals would say that doesn’t count. We are also hardcore about safety – the weaponsmithing workshop has layers of locks and security and the best gun safe you can buy. The Remington is stored elsewhere but likewise secured with multi-factor authentication (something I know, something I am, and something I have).

I would happily get rid of all of them if it would save a life.

But (again). A lot of Americans have a lot of weapons, and while those are unquestionably a factor in far too many deaths, I’m not sure the guns are the root cause of mass shootings like Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Columbine. Lots of Americans have lots of weapons, and hundreds of thousands of us never go out and shoot people. And yet, at least annually and sometimes more, a (usually white) man between teens and geriatric age will do just that. Why?

Let’s look first at history: as humans, we’ve always had problems with violent tendencies in the male half of our population. We used to be able to give them a release valve via hunting, tribal conflict, war, exploration and pioneering, or just allowing men to be violent and awful. However, it turns out that that last one is really counter-productive for society, so we’ve as a group agreed to constrain those actions. That social change came about much later than the evolutionary one that selected for aggression and violence, though, and not all men can shift those tendencies into sports, business, or becoming online trolls.

We can no longer exile these problem cases to lives of piracy on the open seas, and lives of cyber-piracy on the open Internet doesn’t scratch the itch for them. Plus you need skills for that, and most of the domestic terrorists lack skills (a point for more discussion). We can no longer exile them to the Wild West or send them to slaughter Lakota (but their ancestors did that; so many shooters come from Western states).

Possible solution: Get that Moon base and Mars colonization going. Start undersea exploration and use wildcatters for it.

Possible solution: Rework our educational system to be better suited for boys. Completely undo the factory-like approach we use now. Teach skills. Maybe actually invest in an educational system.

I don’t know though…I’m still not convinced.

Let’s look next at who DOESN’T do the mass shootings. Women. Men between the ages of puberty and senility who are minorities, and/or come from rough backgrounds (like, oh, New Mexico). White men who are Jewish or Catholic or Hindu or Mormon.

That suggests two different veins of psychosocial ore to mine: one, men who get a certain level of violence in their daily life don’t need to go create more, and two, what do all those groups have in common?

Looking at the first one, if it’s the case, then it would suggest that we could end domestic terrorism and mass shootings by ensuring that everyone grew up in economically strapped, prosepect-poor, violent communities. I don’t recommend that. Also, if we consider global terrorists like ISIS as well, many of them came up in underprivileged and violent societies and still turned to violence. They just aren’t female, Jewish, Catholic, Hindu, or Mormon.

Another approach might be to work to end all economic and educational disadvantage and then just deal with the spasms of the annual mass shooting.

Maybe, if we somehow get amazing leadership and amazing unity, we could end all economic and educational disadvantage AND screen for men who are going to crack and kill. Or remove all weapons. And then we’re in Logan’s Run and let’s face it, we’re more like chimps than like bonobos. I’d rather work on possible solutions.

So here’s my thought, and also where I piss of my agnostic, atheist, and white evangelical friends (if I have any of the last group left).

I think it’s a failure of communities to teach social responsibility via coming-of-age ceremonies.

Women get coming-of-age no matter what religion or culture, because you start your period and you start getting raped (or men at least vocally indicate the intent). Women are also more socially responsible by nature – give a girl a bunch of toy trucks or guns and she’s likely to decide they are a family and will go on adventures together or play house.

Both women and men in black American cultures have some coming-of-age elements. Black men get told “you are a man now” and given the list of expectations about what that means. It’s not always great, and can be overwhelmed by other social pressures.

Same for Latino men, who are largely Catholic and get it through the Church. Confirmation in the Catholic church happens in early adolescence, when young men and women are able to understand the laws of God, and it comes along with an understanding that you as an individual must observe and uphold those for the good of the community.

Same for Judaism, with bat mitzvah and bar mitzvah, and Hinduism. Coming of age ceremonies signify that a boy or girl is mature enough to understand his responsibility towards family and society, and they provide a powerful psychological ritual that members of the religion can use as a foundation throughout their lives. You belong, and belonging means that you have a responsibility, and your community says that they trust you to uphold it.

Perhaps Islam and evangelical Christianity, which both lack coming of age rituals and lack that messaging, are what we need to change. Perhaps if the underlying message in both moved away from the selfish and self-centered, away from the “you aren’t responsible” and towards the “you are adult enough and strong enough to be responsible for your people, and they tell you this via this ritual,” the puberty-and-up men of those groups would start acting like adults.


Security via clarity

Check out this NYT article about yet another person who was erronesously placed on an USG watchlist. In this case, he exonerated himself to the FBI by providing them an abundance of information about himself…then kept that going.

“You want to watch me? Fine. But I can watch myself better than you can, and I can get a level of detail that you will never have.”

This is probably an excellent answer for people who can be open about their identity, only have one identity, and would like to make sure that they aren’t confused with any of the other 7 billion people on the planet. For those who need to maintain multiple identities without making it clear that they ARE maintaining multiple identities (like, oh, FBI agents), I’m not sure that the level of effort required here would be feasible.

Persistent identities

Ryan Estrada made this image and shared it on Google+.

Just like in real life
Just like in real life

Kee Hinckley commented: “The irony of hating obviously fake names (which is basically what Google’s policy is attempting to police) is that you are encouraging people to lie about who they are, and encouraging them to create throwaway accounts instead of having a persistent identity with a reputation that they care about.”

So true.

If someone is created a brand for himself, why should anyone, person or company, care if that brand “sounds realistic” or not?  I mean, Mark Twain?  That’s like calling yourself Dow Jones…just because we’re used to thinking of it as a name today doesn’t make it “realistic.”

I note that Google+ seems to be OK with Lady Gaga going by Lady Gaga.  Presumably they’d be OK with Christopher George Latore Wallace going by The Notorious B.I.G. (although if someone’s posting as him today, there’s another issue with veracity).  So if everyone knows me as Raq Winchester, even if that’s not on my photo ID, we should be cool, yeah?

There are cultural issues, also. I had to be “officially male” in Malaysia once (long story, women can’t pay taxes or sign for rebates), and the guy said “It’s not like anyone will know – I mean “Rachel” could totally be a guy’s name.”

So suddenly you find yourself in an ad for their sister site, KinkedIn

So I was wondering about some weird LinkedIn emails, but they seemed harmless.  However, Steve Woodruff, Connection Agent, found that some of LinkedIn’s recent changes are far more obnoxious.

Apparently, LinkedIn has recently done us the “favor” of having a default setting whereby our names and photos can be used for third-party advertising.

*UPDATE: After you finish with Account, check the new default settings under E-mail Preferences (such as Partner InMails); and Groups, Companies & Applications (such as Data Sharing with 3rd-party applications). It’s a Facebook deja vu!

I was pretty much done with LinkedIn as I’ve seen no value from it in three years, but had kept my account due to inertia.  That’s changed.

Go and check your settings:

Controlling your identity

Blogging about the Web 2.0 connected classroom has a good post about how to take care of your digital self.


Google Yourself- Take a few moments and Google yourself. You might have a common name so use different variations. Add your middle name, location or something else that might provide some hits. I had the honor of speaking to a great group of educators this week at the New Literacy Institute at NC State University. One of the activities they were involved in was looking at their digital self and the first thing they did was Google themselves. It was fascinating to watch the reactions across the room as they found information about themselves they didn’t know was online or information they they thought was private on Facebook or other social networks. You don’t know if you don’t Google. And this isn’t a one shot deal. Google yourself often to make sure the information that is out there represents you in the way you want.

Establish A Brand– This sounds complicated but really it is easy as figuring out what name you use across all that you do on the web. My brand is my name (Steven W. Anderson) and my Twitter (@web20classroom). I use the middle initial in my name because my full name is pretty common (doctors, laywers, even an actor, and some not so nice folks). So in searches done on those 2 brands the information comes back to me. The point here is to start using the same identity across multiple services so solidify yourself. And try to use your actual name or a simple variation.

Get A Space Of Your Own– You are going to need a place of your own to let people know who you are. I chose to use Twitter and a blog. These are places where you can further establish who you are, what you are about what what you want to say. Those are just two ways. It could be something simple like an page. Again, your are further solidifying yourself on the web. What’s great is you can control how much information you put out there and what information you put out there; all in an effort to control your identity.

Stay On Top Of Things– Google Alerts might just be the best way to keep track of things easily. You set up some keywords to search (so you would do the name you have been using to Google, your brand, blog, Twitter, etc), fill out how often you want to get the alerts, an email address and boom! any page on the web that mentions any of the data you submitted lands in your inbox so you can know who is saying what about you or your brand.

the Fake Mark Zuckerberg?

Those of us who made it into the Google+ beta before they shut down invites (or got hacked into it afterwards) had a good laugh when we discovered that Zuckerberg was in the beta.

There was instant doubt.  Is it really him?

I think it is – I mean, why wouldn’t he?  If I were him I’d be in the beta.  But I think it’s interesting that the reaction is immediate suspicion of identity.  “Fake until proven real” seems to be the rule for folks who spend a lot of cycles on social media.

Sadly, “real until proven fake” seems to be the starting point for everyone else.