Press most citizens of the United States to admit they had some connection to Salvador Ramos, the mass shooter who slaughtered children in Uvalde, Texas, and they will seem dumbstruck. In fact Ramos was a citizen, which per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and basic democratic political theory, means that he was very much connected to all other citizens of the United States. He was meant to be a fundamental co-ruler of our democracy, someone entrusted with being part of “We the People.” If he was not, then the rest of us were not either, or we are accepting a world where some people matter politically and others do not.
Mass Creating People Versus Caring for Them
This legal nuance will seem completely irrelevant to most people because they would sense no actual relation to Ramos, no connection at all.
Why the disparity in our legal, and actual, relations? Whatever the aspirations of democracy and our legal system are, the reality of our relations with others in the United States and elsewhere is defined by an economic system that controls family policy, and pushes creating lots of people with little preparation, people we treat more as workers, consumers, and taxpayers in massive shopping malls, rather than empowered co-rulers in functional town halls.
Our family policies use a commercial, rather than a political, baseline. If you need proof, just Google the term "baby bust," and look at the assumptions that underlie all of the reporting about who we should be in terms of our family policies. The assumptions show that we comprise an economy, more than a democracy. And yet we were all disempowered by this move, robbed of our control over the world around us.
Creating lots of people to grow economies, rather than empowering smaller populations to run functional political systems, and in a world where people feel increasingly entitled and less empathetic toward others, sets the stage for antisocial behavior. And in the United States, where autonomizing self-determination is epitomized by brandishing a gun, this becomes a recipe for disaster.
This is from a recent Politico interview with an expert on mass shootings:
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POLITICO: Can you take us through the profile of mass shooters that emerged from your research?
Peterson: There’s this really consistent pathway. Early childhood trauma seems to be the foundation, whether violence in the home, sexual assault, parental suicides, extreme bullying. Then you see the build toward hopelessness, despair, isolation, self-loathing, oftentimes rejection from peers. That turns into a really identifiable crisis point where they’re acting differently.
As one potential shooter said, they felt taking such drastic action gave their life purpose. It makes them feel empowered.
Time for Birth Conditions That Build Mental Health?
We can think of this issue in terms of the Children’s Rights Convention. What were we doing in the past several decades to ensure children were actually born and raised in conditions compliant with the Children’s Rights Convention? We know family planning incentives work - why has the United Nations, for decades, refused to use them?
Mass shootings flow from conditions that degrade social cohesion, including childhood development conditions that ensure poor mental health – and antisocial behavior – later in life. Mass creating people in the face of failing child welfare systems makes things much worse.
Growth-based family policies are the opposite of what we could be doing, building resilience and social cohesion through better family planning, something human rights and democracy require we do as first order of business. Mass creating people is the antithesis of social bonding and inclusion, with growing inequity further degrading social bonds.
The Path Forward
There is a solution, one which has massive impacts beyond ensuring social cohesion and mental health. Pivoting from economic-based family policies to child-centric policies that empower people, democratically and equally, would reverse the processes described above that degrade social cohesion, and on multiple levels – ensuring healthy social and ecological conditions that truly empower people.
That change can be easily paid for by taxing the concentrations of wealth that benefitted from past growth, the growth that robbed kids of the conditions they deserve, and us of the peaceful and empowering society we deserve.