The latest Florida mass shooting once again has the world thinking; what is the real cause of the problem? Is it the easy sale of guns? Or is it mental illnesses? Could that be due to lack of law enforcement or gaps in police intelligence? It is obvious that the reason lies in something deeper, as similar incidents occur too often. What about the culture of hate and how the media persistently glorifies violence?
Surely, there are many factors associated with such brutality and addressing each one individually could be a method for seeking a resolution. But, one crucial point seems to go unnoticed most of the time: unresolved anger issues. The traces of this disturbing trend can be spotted in a variety of settings; in peaceful street protests that suddenly turn violent, at schools where teenagers suddenly break down simply because someone looked at them the wrong way, or in a checkout lane in grocery stores. What is the reason behind this intense anger? What makes a person snap and commit an act of violence? The perpetrators of shootings and any kind of assault are divorced from all aspects of good morality mainly love, compassion and mercy. They view the world as if it is a bloody arena where they have to survive by implementing brute force, might and ferocity.
What makes these youngsters turn into vicious murderers is the indoctrination of materialism that has consistently washed away the morality of people and their joy of life. They are encouraged to be selfish, greedy and taught to pursue their own interests at the expense of others. They are driven away all the beautiful moral virtues such as love, compassion, forgiveness and understanding. They are made to believe that it is ‘them against the world’ and that there is no one they could truly trust in a world that is supposedly about a constant struggle and fight. When a person grows up with these messages, and worse yet, when they begin to believe them, how can that not translate into anger?
So it shouldn’t surprise us that after decades of this materialist indoctrination and the resulting culture, the world faces terrible episodes of angry violence. From East to West, the people of the world seem to be gripped by a senseless anger that results in horrible scenes. It is so easy to spark riots with a single skirmish that would lead hundreds of thousands into massive movements of animosity. Remember the 2011 England riots; thousands rioted in various cities of England, including London, and committed widespread arson and looting. The riots resulted in five deaths. Remember how the Arab Spring protests turned violent and led to horrible civil wars. Even terrorism is an indirect result of anger. According to a neuroscientist who studied the reasons behind violent acts, anger is the root cause of violence around the world more than anything else.
Clearly, this is a serious problem that we need to acknowledge and address immediately. Recently, some people attributed blame to mental illnesses for violent acts, especially after the recent Florida school shooting. The fact remains that violent crimes are rarely committed by mentally ill people; the sad truth is that the mentally ill are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators. According to experts in the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Violence by those with mental illness is so small that even if you could somehow cure it all, 95% of violent crime would still exist.” Thus, finding a solution to such illnesses will not bring an end to the problem.
Another issue that comes to the surface is the ease of gun sales in the USA which only adds fuel to the fire. However, this does not seem to solve this problem since even if new laws were passed to restrict gun sales, criminals will still have access to them. Yes, there are quick, short-term solutions like reducing the number of bullets manufactured or assigning plainclothes police officers to patrol crowded places. Online surveillance techniques could be used to detect and intervene in disturbed individuals who threaten others and who have a high likelihood of committing violent crimes. Even if such measures are taken, these are not real solutions that will truly solve the problem because if a person decides to use violence, he won’t need a gun. What is most important is to prevent the rage that takes hold of the individuals that commit these crimes.
So, after these short-term solutions, let’s do what is more important and will be more useful in the long-term. Materialist culture, combined with a constant glorification of violence for the most part, has eroded love and compassion encouraged by divine religions. It is crucial that we reestablish a culture of love and bring moral values back to our world. In order to accomplish this, Christians should be more pious, Jews should be more religious and Muslims should abide by the Qur’an. “Peace” is the first and foremost call of God to humanity in all religions that guide people to love, compassion, trust, forgiveness and self-giving for all of His Creation. Thus, Christians, Muslims and Jews should remember the beautiful words in their Holy Scriptures:
In addition to technical measures, states should make an emphasis to educating the public with the morals of religion and NGOs may play a primary role in this great effort. Only by means of a full-fledged campaign that prevents the arousal of negative feelings of hatred and revenge, people may be saved from the faulty assertions of materialism that makes their lives meaningless. Bringing back and fostering the beautiful virtues promoted by religion will help save people from the snare of anger.
There are no winners in a culture of hate. While trying to preserve and improve the conditions over the world and consign its physical environment to coming generations, the last hundred years showed us the consequences of ignoring the spiritual world, which is the conscious and intelligent being in life. Only then our world will be a safer place for all.
—The author is a prominent Turkish writer. He blogs at: www.harunyahya.com