Tucson

I’ve been holding back from saying anything about the shooting in Tucson, waiting for more facts to emerge. But that may take awhile, and I’ve had some thoughts running around my skull that I want to get out.

First of all, I don’t buy the idea that the shooter wouldn’t have been influenced by the current heatwave of angry politics. It seems to me that most of the people who think this way (a majority of the country according to one poll) have a superficial understanding of the mind. Someone once described the common American way of looking at the mind as this: We believe that each of us lives in a completely isolated shell and the only communication that takes place is when someone writes a note on a piece of paper, ties the note to a rock, throws the rock at someone else, and the someone else reads it. It’s a materialistic idea of the mind—and a shallow one, even for a materialist. Whether anyone believe it exists or not, there is a commonly shared pool of consciousness. What we think and say matters.

But what I suspect is even more influential in the Tucson event is the urban/suburban environment we’ve created—the world of shopping malls, tract housing, and freeways. When I was touring the country behind the book and film I was able to see just how far it has spread. It is so vacuous and so soulless, and it’s everywhere now. I would look at these places and wonder about the young people who are growing up in them and never see anything else. Try standing in a mall parking lot at night under the stark lighting and take in that reality. It has no heart. It sucks the life out of you. I believe it’s driving people crazy. I first started seeing this world when I was 14, and it drove me to the brink of tears one day. I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to stay as far away from it as possible. If you’re a little lonely and a little off kilter while growing up in a place like that, there is no clearly true ethical or moral system that will support you. Life looks like a long bleak plain. Within the system we’ve created the only thing that really matters is that you find some job to carry you through until the day you die so that you don’t be a burden to anybody. What kind of job hardly matters. I seldom hear anybody talk about this, but I think it’s a vital aspect of what’s going on in the national psyche. I’m writing this in a bit of a hurry. I’m getting ready to leave town for a week. But I can’t imagine that even those who might disagree with me won’t understand what I’m trying to describe.

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16 Responses to “Tucson”

  1. John Shepherd Says:

    Mark,

    I could not agree more. We have seen a systematic reduction of community and an embrace of mediocracy for the masses and a continued excess for those who have accumulated great wealth at the expense of the former. Not only have we destroyed the middle class and individualism here, we have forced the younger generation to accept a bland version of life and total compromise for the sake of survival. What is so sad is the lack of compassion and empathy. It is a sad state and a reflection and product of our national leaders which has been long in the making.

    I think we can make a difference but it has to start with an individual effort of kindness and a rejection of the hate monger pundits. To say that they do not influence the unwary is to be naive or deceiving. The denial of these haters to take responsibility for their actions is expected and only shows their true character. After all, they do it for the money. It is theater in the worst way.

  2. Susan Says:

    Nope….
    I agree completely. In fact its refreshing to hear someone actually say it. Because most times I feel like I am the only one who sees it. I had a visitor from Australia tell me once that Americans seem like the most isolated and loneliest people he’s every seen. It feels like our whole society is going mad…

  3. joe rosas Says:

    You are absolutely right all across the board,sadly this state of affairs has
    become,believe or not,a worldwide,globalized problem,even up here in
    canada,a country i have difficulty recognizing lately,so very much has it changed,
    we Used to be frugal,polite,bohemian liberal peaceniks!Survival Is becoming the
    imperative (for the little guy!) after years of progress we’re all backsliding into
    pre-ww2 working & living conditions! Many members of my family survived these,Some of us are all too aware! Who we Are no longer counts,it’s Gordon
    “greed is good” Gecko on steroids,& so we feed the lehman’s & Deepwater
    Horizons of the world at our own expense.But how much of a shock is needed
    for our Values to change? For small & peacefull to become beautiful again in
    the eyes of more than a questioning minority? Reduce,reuse,repurpose,recycle,
    Live not Buy,increase the peace!Happiness & mental & physical health should
    be a priority,as a starting point it wouldn’t be too shabby.

    Subdivisions-
    in the high school halls/in the shopping malls
    conform or be cast out
    in the basement bars/in the backs of cars
    be cool or be cast out

    any escape might help to smooth
    the unattractive truth
    but the suburbs have no charms to soothe
    the restless dreams of youth..

    Geddy Lee,Rush.

  4. Chandani Diaz Says:

    We absolutely agree….there is indeed something soulless about these urban sprawls. There is also am unhealthy pace we live in that is indeed sucking the life out of us. And technology is partially to blame as well – look at texting. Weren’t telephones invented so we could stop writing letters and actually TALK to one another? Now we use phones to “text” (write letters) and take photos? None of this improves our communication with others on the humanitarian level. I grew up in a country where TV had not yet been “invented” and people think I had such a “hard life” – oh no, it was WONDERFUL! Friends came over all the time, we talked, we listened, we learned and we developed close friendships with others by listening. There were no malls, no supermarkets….if you wanted clothes you had to pick out locally-made fabric and show or draw a tailor a picture of what you wanted. You had to come back in a week or two for a fitting, and another week to pick it up. There was interaction and you didn’t get everything INSTANTLY. My husband and I went home (Sri Lanka) on holiday a couple of years ago and all had changed – everyone sits around and watch TV….conversation is a lost art. Malls are everywhere and people “shop” as a hobby. Interaction between people is growing obsolete.

  5. Deborah Says:

    All of the above is so true and so sad.

  6. Rain Says:

    I think we have less responsibility or even right to help each other and what you are saying is a lot of why. We don’t have a tribe that might’ve helped that young man or even more so his family deal with the mental illness that was taking hold of his reality. If he added steroids to the mix, to bulk up (which the last photo of him seems to indicate might’ve been the case), it got even more out of control. You’ve gotten to where a lot of the problem is but what can we do about it? It’s too late for him or those he killed but maybe if we deal with this, we can save others from similar paths.

  7. Tracy G Says:

    Mark, I also agree with your comments and found them very helpful in clarifying my own mind on this subject. Thank you.

  8. Karen Says:

    It was disheartening to see so many people regurgitating the notion that vitriolic political rhetoric was not an influence on this young man. I suspect they believe that because they were quickly told that’s the proper thing to believe… by the very people who benefit from pedaling political hate speech. Why people do not see through this self-serving naysaying is itself alarming. However, I suspect a lot of people (most?) are to be too busy, or too sheepish, to take the time to think through issues for themselves, so they are easily led. (Which is why public relations campaigns and product commercials are so successful.)

  9. Diane Says:

    I agree with you about the soulessness of suburbia. That’s why I prefer to live downtown where the houses face the street, people sit on the porch and poor people push their baby strollers around on the sidewalks.

  10. Susan Says:

    Marks post had the same effect on me as well Tracy G. So often I wander around sort of isolated with this…in a confused haze. Its like it permeats all aspects of my life and I can’t see where is starts and where it ends. Suddenly someone is telling me hey, finding the ‘right job’ isn’t going to help either, might as well just do whatever. I have been unconscously thinking I needed to just get the right job then that would fix everything.

    I think I realize awhile back that the real object of the game is just to make it thru this hellhole of a life. Never mind the getting ahead or being a success by the worlds standards, especially since I have already failed before I have even gotten started since that is like trying to squish me, a square peg, into society, a very round hole. All I have to do is figure out a way to make it thru…. then I win.

  11. beysshoes Says:

    Mark, I’ve been struggling with this for over a decade now. This was part of why I was drawn to your journey … your flailing about and finally finding the joy and lifeline through the parrots.
    … Someone introduced me to Arundahti Roy who gave me a similar vein of hope. Permit me to link my blog entry on her:

    http://beysshoes.wordpress.com/2010/10/30/the-end-of-imagination-arundhati-roy/

    • markbittner Says:

      I never saw myself as flailing. Struggling, yes. The parrots opened the door for me, and then we parted company. I think that’s very strange—I mean, strange in a beautiful way. It was completely unexpected.

    • beysshoes Says:

      Poor socially prescribed word choice on my part. Perhaps the zen way of seeing that period is that you were walking slowly and paying attention? However the word choice, I fell in love with your life story.

  12. JB Says:

    This song, off of The Arcade Fire’s latest album “the Suburbs” speaks to the issue here, I think…

    http://www.arcadefire.com/lyrics/
    The page is interactive and you can listen to the song (I assume it stays on the same song all the time…if not I apologize). This band is from Quebec, but a few members grew up in Texas.

    In the suburbs I, I learned to drive
    And you told me we’d never survive
    Grab your mother’s keys we’re leaving

    You always seemed so sure
    That one day we’d be fighting
    In a suburban war
    Your part of town against mine
    I saw you standing on the opposite shore
    Buy by the time the first bombs fell
    We were already bored
    We were already, already bored

    The kids want to be so hard
    But in my dreams we’re still screaming
    And running through the yard
    When all of the walls that they built in the 70’s finally fall
    And all of the houses they built in the 70’s finally fall–
    Meant nothing at all?
    Meant nothing at all,
    It meant nothing

    Sometimes I can’t believe it
    I’m moving past the feeling
    Sometimes I can’t believe it
    I’m moving past the feeling again

  13. Ann Says:

    Greetings Mark,
    After spending fifteen years in the USA, I have, finally, found someone that is able to determine the emptiness of this so called modern society. I guess, now is time for me to go. But where? The insanity of this country is now forcing all the world to follow this way of living, and whenever I go back to visit my mediterranean country, I find insane people getting angry at me for not being enthusiastic about living in this country. So, now, I am lonly there and lonly here.
    Glad to find a friend!

  14. Kathy Says:

    Has anyone posting here read James Howard Kunstler’s books? Marvelous summation of these issues, IMHO. Blessings!!

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