Viewing the man who was in the courtroom today, the Colorado spree shooter, I was thinking how the answers for this actions, his plot, might be hidden within some lost and under-read comic-book where the joker appears. Why he committed the crime might seem pointless for many, but it’s just another event, just another depiction of utter madness, sadness, societal funk, that as a group of people we never address. I could go on and rant in this case and conduct some investigation to further predict what his motives were as good as anyone else can, but I’ve already done this over and over again. Here is a paper that I remembered writing when I was a senior in my undergraduate courses. This wasn’t for class, it was never assigned. I typed the section and it appeared in my first book called, Post Modern Artist in Exile. There are a few errors. I was much younger, but if you read my essay I think you will find aspect that are very sophisticated and honest. This was written in 2006.
Where do we go from here? A postmodern response in regard to the violence that is occurring in public institutions throughout the United States
Last semester in 2007 I wrote this paper for personal reflection about the constant onslaught of shootings that occur throughout the media on university campuses. I was going to include this in a class I was taking pertaining to media studies but changed my mind. Following the latest college massacre that took place around the Chicago outskirts I am going to post my thoughts in a more formal fashion. Some thoughts that I struggled with in my mind even seem radical in nature to me. But the fact that the blood filled events we exist in are being constantly manifested by the younger generation of our society the concept should be addressed by someone within that troubled generation. Few will listen but at least it was mentioned.
The news media is intertwined with various forms of media. From film to music the intertextuality of these concepts are stunning. For it has been said that in the postmodern world we ourselves are a form of media that is copied and edited as much as the visual pictures and digitized words that come out of our television screens. In this particular concept I found a strange ironic twist in the Omaha mall shooting spree. As details filtered out of the events about whom the actual shooter was a profile of the killer was painted for the viewer. Soon a suicide note was found in why Robert committed this disgraceful act of violence.
So why did a young man who was going through all the postmodern trials and tribulations that all of us in this overly mediated generation go through finally snap as he so emotionally stated? Two familiar phrases were found in his suicide note. Robert claimed to go on this suicidal killing spree in order “To be famous” and to “go out in style”. Yes, that is a good reason to shoot up a department store full of strangers, to “be famous”. If we as consumers of the news blame the media for framing this in his head then we are missing the point of why someone would want to be famous in the first place. Fame is of course a mediated concept. One becomes famous because they are manufactured into a consumer product. A person who is famous has to be a brand, and although a person could say that Robert A was in fact a brand used by the media he gained nothing from this fame. He was insane, a young postmodern man who lost it. Fame is not what he wanted at all. For him to be famous in the postmodern since his own words in his suicide note would mean that he wanted to be around to witness the fame. If he wanted to be famous he would have not of taken his own life. Robert killed himself and nine strangers because it was a pure act of greed and hopelessness. Perhaps fame was a minuscule variable that played into the killer’s motive, but there must be more underlining postmodern consumer concepts that played into this violent outbreak of human destruction.
More words and phrases came from the suicide note that shed some information onto why he might have committed this horrific crime. Robert said he did not want to be a “burden to anyone” and also that he could not stand his “meaningless existence” anymore. These two quotes shed more light on the state of mind that Robert was in. It was not so much fame he was after but rather the existence he was running from. Fame cannot be totally disputed as a variable of why this act occurred but the emotional response in the suicide note seems like a more accurate conclusion of why the crime was committed.
Humans are real, organic in nature and so is their existence. The postmodern world has assimilated technology into our lives and in many ways the postmodern human can be said to be a cyborg of sorts. One thing technology cannot interact with is two inherent human conditions which are birth and death. For when one is dead technology is no longer a solution for the pot holes that exist throughout our society. Fame may seek the dead, but the dead do not seek fame. Robert was running from his so called meaningless existence and through all the pain that most of his generation faces he admittedly snapped. Combating the American dream with prescription drugs he did what all cowards do, he quit. People don’t tell the truth in their suicide notes. He was a killer, albeit a conflicted killer that was produced by our society but a killer none the less. So why do we take it at face value when he said he wanted to be famous. Fame is not what he wanted, it was death. Why he took people with him is hard to decipher. I think the phrase “going out in style” has something to do with the crime. Now going out with style is different from being famous. If the media can be blamed for anything it can be blamed for the constant onslaught of horrific ideas that existed in this man’s head. In an all two cliché way in Robert sadistic media created imagination I do believe he thought he was going out in style in the most replicated counterculture way possible. The irony of this postmodern problem is that even his motive and supposed random and spontaneous crime is that it has been replicated countless times in the past in the fiction realm of the media. Robert was a carbon copy of a nightmare that exists in society. A nightmare we pay countless millions of dollars too for entrainment. It can be easily determined that the media as well as all other aspects of postmodern world had an extreme impact on the Omaha shooter. But if it had this negative impact on him, how does it impact the individuals of our society who don’t seek escape from our existence, however meaningless we may believe it to be?
Many underlining themes were apparent in the media frenzy that surrounded this particular crime. Language implemented in the media can be used for its repeated themes of moral behavior and act as a way to inform the mass public that the concepts of good and evil and fear and violence can happen to anyone at any time, as said, Consumers were, “shopping where they thought it was safe”, and .“never thought it would happen here”. These themes are reported over and over through the various outlets the media encompasses. From school shootings to terrorist attacks violence seems everywhere. Violence and fear are replicated through the very same assembly line techniques the media replicates our happiness.
The underlining themes of fear are produced through the multiple contradictions that exists in the text we as consumers encounter. The crime committed by Robert was spontaneous, premeditated, and it was random. It occurred at a place where it is not supposed to happen and the perpetrator was a white middle class chemically unbalanced boy. As a consumer I am scared now. I get it! Violence can happen everywhere or it can happen nowhere. Someone who looks like my father might either shake my hand or spill my blood. Replicated themes cause fear which creates the coehersion of the masses.
The events that occurred in Omaha Nebraska were tragic. I am of course not disputing that Robert Hawkins was a terrible monstrosity that destroyed multiple families. What I tried to examine in this paper was the actual reasons why a young man of his pedigree would commit this type of violence. Many will blame the media for its depiction of violence, while some will blame the government for its lack of gun control. While both can aid in creating an acceptable answer for the shooting I believe it goes much deeper than that. As a young man around the same age as Robert I see a constant struggle with my middle class generation. Through being raised with the American dream dangling in our cribs to the onslaught of experimental advertising that was born in the early eighties we saw the rise of the postmodern world.
We live in a faltering middle class economy where industry has been decimated. We live in a generation where health insurance is a luxury and most of us are highly addicted to prescription drugs. We are truly what could be labeled the first postmodern generation.
The contradictions that exist within my generation are something that shaped the course of the tragic events that occurred in the supposed heart of this country. Robert was undoubtedly evil, but he was the type of evil that was created by everything that we as a society have created. He gave up and gave in to all the demons that many of us are conflicted by. He should be hated by the mass public, but he should also show us that further investigation into our social order must be addressed. Through the mediated consciousness, the prescription drugs and the youth depression we must clarify the impact that the postmodern world is having on its youth or the mass killings that occurred in Omaha Nebraska will be replicated many times over. The next Robert is alive at this very moment and that should send remorseful chills down everyone’s spine. But the positive aspect of this is that there is still a chance that this individual whom is conflicted in his postmodern existence may find the humanity that seems to be nonexistent in our society. This can only occur if as a society we address the mediated existence we collectively live within and base our postmodern progression on our inherent positive humanistic attributes.