Although there is a worldwide trend of increasing violence, massacres, assassinations, and human atrocities, (in which the US is not even listed in the top 25 countries for murders from all causes), it is more useful to look at America to deepen our understanding of the increasing murderous violence throughout the US, highlighted by the Florida mass killing at Parkland School. I believe there is a toxic synergy of societal breakdown, which is related to this phenomenon of increasing violence in our American and world society that has been happening since the 1960’s. To discuss this issue with some level of comprehensive, intelligent understanding, we need to look at the significant driving forces behind this toxic synergy so that we can create holistic solutions to these grave moral degenerative problems.
Contributing Cause #1
Since the time of the assassination of JFK in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965, and Martin Luther King in 1968, I became more aware of an increasing number of our civilian population felt something was wrong and immoral at the top levels of our national leadership. The more this trend of a high level of general governmental moral degeneration, violence, and murder is expanding, the more it negatively affects the consciousness of the rest of the US population. This government leadership violent toxicity has been a powerful influence on amplifying the violence in our general society. In other words, just like in a family structure, the behavior of the parents influences the belief systems and actions of the children.
Contributing Cause #2
From 1960 to 2010, the documented increasing trend in lethal violence reflects merely one aspect of cultural degeneration in the US. During this time span: divorce rates have doubled; teen suicide rates have tripled; violent crime is four times higher; prison population is five times higher; depression rates are ten times higher. At this point in history, approximately one out of every three children in the US lives in a home without a father, and America has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world. Additionally, America produces and exports more pornography than any other nation on earth. Presently, more than 60% of Americans report feeling “angry or irritable.” (In 2012, that number was at 50%.) America has the highest rate of illegal drug use on earth, and, according to federal government statistics, the number of heroin addicts in the US has at least doubled since 2002. Additionally, America exports more weapons to other countries than anyone else in the world. Although from the news we may think that the US is the leading nation in mass shootings and massacres, it’s 11th in the world in mass shootings, bombings, stabbings, and vehicular homicides. These tragic acts are happening all over the world from the Middle East to Europe, to Asia, Africa, Mexico, and Central and South America.
Contributing Cause #3
There is also a “cracking” of the American psyche and mind. Increasing prescription drug patterns is further evidence of degenerating American mental health. Twenty percent of all Americans are on at least five prescription drugs. Close to 70% of all Americans are currently on at least one prescription drug. Sixty million Americans abuse alcohol. Seventy million Americans are now taking legal mind-altering drugs. At this time in history, more Americans die by suicide than by car accident. Children in the US are three times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than are children in Europe. These figures give an additional perspective for understanding the generation of violence in our society. Violence in this context reflects the increased cracking and moral degeneration of the American mind since at least the 1960’s.
Contributing Cause #4
The hateful energy aimed at the Republicans (such as the ambush at the Alexandria baseball field that gravely wounded Congressman Steve Scalise) is another amplifying force for violence. The social media and official mainstream media reflect this hateful trend with their calls for the assassination of President Donald Trump and the present murderous threats against conservatives. Statements such as “kill Trump,” “behead Trump,” “kill global warming deniers,” and, in general, “kill people who don’t agree with me,” have never been so out front and persistent on the internet, social media, and the mainstream press. There are even witches publically trying to hex and curse Trump on a monthly basis as a public expression of this overt satanic energy. From a community psychiatrist, social and family therapy viewpoint this media acting out with calls for hate and violence is destructive modeling and should be seen as one of the primary causes for the rest of society acting in such murderous ways such as at Parkland High School. The hopefulness of the media is a symptom of eroding respect for other humans and all of humanity. This hopefulness includes their cynical, violent and murderous influence on unbalanced and immature teenage boys, unsupported in how to be socially productive with their increasing adolescent testosterone energy. Many cultures have developed socially productive ways to help young men productively express their testosterone energy (for example, sports as a potential channel for this energy). Without proper mature guidance by the adult parenting population, the harmful actions of teenage boys, as well as girls, reflects the imbalances in society. It doesn’t have to be this way. We have a Biblical account of two teenage boys, Bezalel and Oholiab, ages 12, who under God and Moses, directly guided the building of the Tabernacle. There couldn’t be a stronger example of the productive testosterone power of teenage boys when biblically/God inspired and guided by parents. In my own two-year experience working with a 300+ teen gang on the South side of Chicago, where murder and violence are considered part of everyday life. Not only did we go two years without any gang murders, but galvanized the gang to stop a mass spontaneous violent riot at the projects across from the Abraham Lincoln Center. Under my guidance, the group moved into decisive testosterone boldness courage and kindness and was able to disperse the crowd significantly. About half a dozen police cars had arrived on the scene, but the officers wisely stood aside in amazement to let us do this good work. It was a defining moment of positive power for the gang members. The gang members, a few weeks after this, also created a vegetable garden on a vacant lot with the city of Chicago’s permission. The point is that aberrant, violent, and negative teen male testosterone energy can, under adult male guidance, be transformed into positive teen male testosterone with proper guidance. The problem is not teenage boys, but the violent societal influences on them. Teenage boys, in other words, act out the chaos and mental health disturbances in our society.
Contributing Cause #5
Another source of degenerative is youth exposure to violent influence from public satanic ritualistic human sacrifice ceremonies, including public admissions of cannibalism, especially in Hollywood. These evil forces and actions have increased in their public exposure in the US and Europe. The Podesta expose, which involved documentation of pedophilia, possible child sacrifice, and human blood drinking rituals are symptomatic of a general resurgence of satanic energies both in the US and Europe. We cannot ignore that the now public satanic rituals contribute to and validate the further moral degeneration of society and the lack of restraint publicly glorified in Hollywood and Washington, D.C. These undeniable activities are signs of increasing satanic influence in our communities. Doubtless, this upsurge in satanic actions has a significantly adverse effect on our social activities and behavior, including our teenagers (especially teenage boys) acting out these negative evil energies.
Contributing Culture #6
It may seem unbelievable, but as part of this toxic synergy, there is naturally a science that began more officially in the ‘90’s (but has existed since 1946) called “killology.” Brigadier General S.L.A. Marshall noted that only about 15-20% of riflemen during WW2 fired their weapons at an exposed enemy soldier. FBI studies about non-firing rates among law enforcement officers during the 1950s and 1960s all confirm Marshall’s fundamental conclusion… Humans are not, by nature, killers. And, yes, there are about 2% of humans (sociopath and psychopaths) who are. Humans are born without the psychological tendency to kill other humans. Throughout history, warlike societies have spent massive efforts to help soldiers overcome their resistance to killing. Since 1946, the government has used this information to devise a variety of training designed to override the primitive human species-protective midbrain processing (as also discovered in animals) not to kill those of the same species through operant conditioning techniques. The introduction of this conditioning in modern combat training, unfortunately, was a revolution of which the result is that the rate of the number of people willing to kill other humans increased up to 55% during the Korean War and 95% during Vietnam War. Following Vietnam killology training, we had the rise of an undisciplined operant conditioning for the general population through “first-person shooter” video games and violent Hollywood movies. These killing and war simulation video games function as conscious and unconscious operant conditioning programming against the human tendency not to kill people. It’s unbelievable, but by the time an 18-year-old graduates high school, they have witnessed more than 200,000 acts of violence and 100,000 murders. This violent operant conditioning represents gross desensitization to violence, cruelty, and criminal activity. There is evidence that the indiscriminate application of combat conditioning techniques as entertainment may be a key factor in the skyrocketing crime rates worldwide, including a sevenfold increase in aggravated assaults since 1956. Although originally dismissed as a factor by “experts” and academics in school shootings, entertainment is now widely blamed in intellectual circles as the main element in creating school shooters. A December 2015 article in the Atlantic titled “The Warning Signs of a Mass Shooting” explains this aberrant cultural phenomenon.
Contributing Cause #7
The Sandy Hook Elementary shooter and copycat Parkland shooter were both discovered with child pornography on their phones and computers. Exposure to pornography has been linked to violence against other humans, especially women and children. According to some reports, the Parkland shooter was known to have tortured animals and carried around a dead bird. Reports say that the Parkland High School shooter played violent video games up to twelve hours daily. How many virtual kills did he log before he committed the real ones?
Contributing Cause #8
In another additional perspective on school shooters, according to Professor Brad Wilcox from U of Virginia, “nearly every shooting in the last year in Wikipedia’s list of US school attacks, involved a young man whose parents were divorced or never married.” The vast majority of school shooters grew up in fatherless homes. Other older male shooters were also found to have a high percentage who grew up fatherless. In 2015 in the Federalist, Peter Hasson noted the fact that of all the shootings on CNN’s “27 Deadliest Mass Shootings in US History” list have been committed by young males since 2005. Only one of these were raised by their biological fathers. Research shows that fatherless children are twice as likely to commit suicide and 71% of high school dropouts come from a fatherless background. Both boys and girls who are fatherless have a dramatically higher rate of drug addiction and alcohol abuse. Fatherless girls respond differently than boys, as they are not so undisciplined testosterone-driven, but are prone toward promiscuity, depression, suicide, teenage pregnancy, and self-harm. Neither of these fatherless boys and girls does well in succeeding in society. It’s clear that the breakdown of the family unit has severely negative and destructive consequences on a community. It is no accident that the violent Parkland shooter came from a fatherless home. In a more significant symbolic way, these mentally disturbed, undisciplined, rising testosterone, violent teenage boys are acting out as identified patients for the overall society and family disturbance breakdown going on in America.
Contributing Cause #9
According to a variety of statistics, about 90% or more of students involved in these mass shootings were on either SSRIs or antipsychotics. I have known, as a psychiatrist, since 1971 that SSRIs and antipsychotics are associated with three to four times more suicidal and homicidal activities. Since the approval of SSRI medications as antidepressants in 1987, many studies have found that depressed patients on SSRI medications are at least two to three times more likely to attempt or commit suicide than those either on no medication or other non-SSRI antidepressants. Unfortunately, research shows a higher percentage of people who are suicidal also tend to be homicidal. Suicide in adolescents on these psychiatric medications is six times higher than those on other medications. As already pointed out, violent homicides are closely linked to SSRI-induced suicide trends. In many ways, the psychological side effects of SSRI medications resemble chemical-induced psychopathy. People on SSRIs and antipsychotics tend to lack empathy, lie implicitly, are apathetic about life and morality and are impulsive. It is not an accident that this shooter was apparently reported to be on an SSRI.
Contributing Cause #10
The incredible amount of societal violence and murder in the world contributes to a lack of honoring the sacredness of human life and creating a global climate of violence. This global violence includes the 400,000 dead in Syria, 90,000 Christians killed in 2016 primarily in Muslim nations, major ethnic massacres like of the Armenians in Turkey, and the Israel/Palestinian conflict.
On April 20, 1999, two students attacked Columbine High School, killing 13 and wounding 21 more. Most public places are protected. Why aren’t schools? The level of murderous violence in our schools is shocking. Although gun violence seems to get the most media attention, it is shocking to note that the total number of primary and secondary school homicides from beatings and stabbings is estimated to be more than three times the number of lives that have been tragically lost to mass shootings on school grounds. As all lives are precious, shouldn’t we be focusing on all types of threats to school safety on a daily basis?
Unfortunately, guns are merely one of many possible tools of death and destruction. For example, the Columbine attackers had also brought powerful bombs to school. A recently arrested Maryland girl had plans to blow up her school. How would a gun ban have protected her classmates? On March 5th, 2018, law enforcement officials in Utah arrested a teenager after he tried to detonate a homemade bomb at school, which authorities said would have led to a significant loss of life. The bombing at a rock concert in Manchester, England at the Manchester Arena, which killed 22 and injured 59, speaks to bombing being a significant weapon for mass killings, which includes the young male generated Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and wounded 264.
Some theorize that peace will be restored if gun ownership is restricted. The actual statistical data suggests just the opposite. For example, Baltimore had some of the most restrictive gun policies in America but was recently named the nation’s most dangerous city. It seems Baltimore’s criminals aren’t abiding by Baltimore’s rules, and there is no basis for magically thinking it would be any different elsewhere.
The Parkland shooting also was a failure of law enforcement from local to federal levels (reports say that local law enforcement was notified at least 37 times about the potential danger of this person). If this had been legally and adequately pursued in Florida, they would have placed him in a mental institution, taken away his guns, and made it impossible for him to buy new guns. As a standard of adequate enforcement and response around the Parkland shooter’s public statements, Florida police were legally able to take his guns and refer him to mental counseling. There were laws already in place in Florida to address this situation that were not enforced. In other words, the severe mishandling of the Parkland shooter by the local and national legal authorities, allowed a realistically preventable situation to manifest as a deadly mass disaster.
The political debate raging today is so disappointing, as it is significantly lacking insight and discussion of many of these ten contributing factors that should be connected and addressed on a national and thoughtful basis. If our nation wants to create safer schools, we have to create a broader, more caring conversation, begin to honor human life again, and create a safer society. We must develop a comprehensive, holistic approach that includes community mental health and addresses family breakdown, the killology video game culture, violence in entertainment, media calls to violence, and all ten of my primary considerations.
Summarily, when a nation’s leaders act in homicidal, cruel and amoral ways; when society undermines the natural human inclination toward non-violence against other humans with pro-violent entertainment and first-person shooter games; when it ignores the increased homicidal and suicidal tendencies associated with antidepressants and antipsychotics; and when it ignores the degenerative societal effects of fatherless homes on sons and daughters… it all adds up to a toxic synergy of increased tendencies towards murder.
Based on my observations since the JFK killing, as accurate as social and family systems research can be, I believe that these multi-contributing factors are the main driving forces behind the increased violence and homicidal and suicidal behavior in our society. As already pointed out, the rate of teen suicide over the last 40 years has increased threefold. This tripling of the teen suicide rate reflects the homicidal and suicidal energies in our society. If we are to heal this increasing suicide and homicide trends in our country, we need to look at and treat these causes, rather than focus on the instruments of destruction, such as guns, bombs, trucks, knives, etc. For example, in the UK, there has been a rise per year of 14% in violence in England and Wales, (where they have some of the strictest gun control laws in the world). Knife crime went up by 21% and gun crimes increased by 20%. It is clear that gun control policies don’t prevent people from getting a variety of weapons and using them to kill people. For example, the FBI Uniform Crime Report shows three times more people are stabbed or hacked to death than killed by shotguns or rifles.
If we had objective proof that gun control worked to prevent homicides, I would be for it, even though it does not reflect the holistic approach I am recommending. It is disappointing that contrary to what one would think, gun control cities have the highest homicide rates per 100K residents. For example, the cities with extensive gun control have the highest murder rates – Chicago (25.1 murders per 100,000 people), New Orleans (41.68 murders per 100,000 people), Detroit (43.82 murders per 100,000 people), Baltimore (55.37 murders per 100,000 people), and Saint Louis (59.29 murders per 100,000 people).
These statistics are in stark contrast to cities with no meaningful gun control. They have significantly less violence – Waco, Texas (16.74 murders per 100,000 people), South Bend (16.79 murders per 100,000 people), Indianapolis (17.12 murders per 100,000 people), and Miami (17.14 murders per 100,000 people). Unfortunately, this strong statistical evidence suggests that gun control makes violence and homicide numbers worse. Again, contrary to what one would theorize, in looking at the overall stats since 1970, as gun ownership has increased, the homicide rate has gone down. And, paradoxical to common theoretical beliefs, according to the Department of Justice, between 1993 and 2006, the rate of violent crime committed in the US fell 74%, at the same time the gun ownership from 1993 to 2013 increased from 185 million to 300 million. In other words, there was an inverse relationship between the number of guns and the number of homicides. The data is an amazing awakening – but, then, upon reflection, it makes sense if one asks the question… Would a person intent on creating a mass murder situation feel safer walking into a “gun-free” zone or one where the school staff or population is armed? Statistically speaking, it is no accident that 98% of all mass shootings occur in “gun-free” zones.
Recently, the non-profit RAND corporation spent $1 million over two years on a meta-analysis of gun/violence research. The analysis looked to establish connections between gun policies and rates of homicide, suicide, self-defense gun use, hunting, and other categories. Although thousands of gun control studies were analyzed, no significant correlation could be made to show that gun control made any difference in decreasing homicides. It is vital that a Congressional research report showed that the more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens, means less crime. It showed that despite a 100% increase in the number of privately owned firearms between 1994 and 2009, firearm-related murder and non-negligent homicide fell by nearly 50% from 6.6 per 100K in 1993 to 3.6 per 100K in 2000.
My conclusion, based on my experience since the assassination of JFK, is that the US and world consciousness has been undergoing a significant mental and moral degeneration. The seed energy behind this degeneration, which cannot be absolutely scientifically proven by double-blind studies, but it is highly probable to be associated with the societal trend away from God and from honoring the significance and importance of the Ten Commandments as a guide for society. As brilliantly stated in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, “If God doesn’t exist, then everything is permitted.” This moral degeneration is what needs to be addressed to reverse this trend of worldwide violence from personal threats and violently acting out, to nuclear threats. Rather than being a contributing factor, gun ownership offers one of the two elements that are needed to end the exploding trend of violence, as is strongly suggested by the social research statistics. The other element is the repentance and expansion of a renewed spiritual consciousness, which, in this Western society, includes a reactivation of the belief in the Ten Speakings (Ten Commandments) as a guide for how to live in the world.
My suggestion is to develop a holistic, community-based, mental health approach addressing all these contributing factors. Violence and murder in the US and the world is a social and moral problem, rather than a gun/knife/bomb/truck-ramming problem. A moral, ethical, spiritual dilemma requires a moral, ethical, spiritual solution. This moral and ethical upgrade needs to start at the very top leadership of our nation and expand to every level of our society and its institutions. There is not a politically expedient, feel-good band-aid that is going to work. It is a moral, ethical, and spiritual self-examination and upgrading on every level of our society that is needed to address and correct this national and international problem, one of whose symptoms are indeed school shootings, stabbings, and attempted bombings.
Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, MD
Author of Conscious Parenting: The Holistic Guide to Raising and Nourishing Healthy, Happy Children