Michael Laitman, On The Times of Israel: “Mass shootings are the symptom, not the illness”
The recent barrage of mass shootings has emphasized the need for less tolerant gun laws and for other restrictive measures. While it is obvious that mentally unstable people should not be permitted to carry or own guns, it is also evident that gun restrictions alone will not abate gun violence. The whole society has become violent and aggressive, and people’s sensitivity to violence is decreasing. Today, people almost expect mass shootings to happen. Therefore, stopping it requires more than gun laws; it requires finding its root and plucking it out.
Even a few decades ago, people did not feel so removed from one another. Alienation in society has increased to such levels that today’s normal levels of antagonism toward society would have been diagnosed as narcissism at the turn of the century. Worse yet, the level of division and hostility in society is constantly rising, and at an accelerating rate.
The ego itself is not inherently corrupt. Our entire development has relied on our ego. As it evolved, it developed human society, technology, art and culture, and medicine. Were it not for our ego, we would not have civilization.
However, because the ego is the basis of our actions, whether we are aware of it or not, there are always aggression and violence between us. At times it is overt, and at times covert, but it is always there. This is why for all our efforts, we cannot create a just society.
Human nature demands superiority, dominion, prominence. As a result, as long as we do not change human nature, there will always be ubiquitous oppression and abuse in our society, in every conceivable and inconceivable form. We conceal that drive for superiority behind “benign” terms like “competition” and “motivation,” but underneath lies the same evil inclination that pushes us to climb to the top of the heap, preferably by stepping on everybody else’s heads.
Therefore, in order to curb violence, including mass shootings, we need to “self-reform” human nature. In other words, we need to decide that we must change ourselves if we want our lives to be safer and more peaceful.
Even more important, the urgency for change must percolate large portions of society because one cannot change one’s attitude toward society without a society that supports it and strives for the same goal. Therefore, once we decide to change, we must establish community-wide educational programs that will focus not on curbing violence, but on enhancing empathy toward others, on fostering solidarity and mutual responsibility.
In order to succeed in the transition from an alienated and violent society into a cohesive and caring one, it is important not to focus on the negative, but to enhance the positive. Because the ego is constantly evolving, focusing on the negative makes us try to suppress it until we are exhausted and it bursts out even more violently than before. In addition, we have wasted our time on futile efforts and did not build an alternative to violent egoism, so there is no alternative to choose instead of more violence.
To create a positive alternative to egoism and violence, we need to foster positive values in society so we can base the relationships in our communities on them. The more energy we put into nurturing positive connections among people, the more positive will be the atmosphere in the community. This, in turn, will diminish the overall levels of violence and aggression.
For any transformation to succeed, our rule of thumb should be enhancing the positive rather than constraining the negative. If we work in this way concerning violence in the community, we will succeed. If we settle for stricter gun control, matters will continue to go downhill.