Quick story: when I was in grade six or seven, my teacher told us of a philosophy class at a high school or college somewhere where the exam question was: why? Literally the only question was “why?” The answers were varied from long, drawn-out answers to short, quick-to-the-point answers. There was only one answer and only one student got it. The answer: “why not?”
I begin to feel as if this is the simple philosophy that the world’s troublemakers have adapted to combat its ambiguities. In other words, I think that when we hear about religious nuts (by that I mean religious extremist groups, not your run-of-the-mill religious folks, who I believe are almost all good) who kill in the name of God or in the name of revenge, their ideologies almost always boil down to “why not?”
In fact, take the case of Brenda Spencer. In San Diego, California in 1979, she opened fire on an elementary school, ending the lives of two employees and injuring nine more — one police officer and eight children. When they asked her why she did it, she said “I don’t like Mondays.”
In 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris committed one of the worst school shootings in American history: they killed 12 students and a teacher. Later on, the media would call it the Columbine Massacre. No official motives were ever given, but the police did find tapes of Dylan and Eric threatening to commit some sort of massacre upon those who they thought deserved it. Again, it comes down to “why not?”
Before I continue, I believe that God has given me not the will to commit mass murders or acts of terror but to write, for the pen is mightier than the sword. I could write 24/7 if I wanted/needed to. This, to me, seems like a more logical conclusion than that God told me to kill infidels or ram two planes into the World Trade Center. I have also never held a gun in my life nor have I shot one. I harbour no resentment toward anyone to the point of threatening their life, and if you ask anyone who knows me they’ll say I’m a clean-cut, straight edge good guy. I was not born nor bred with the mindset of being able to kill dozens of innocents. I like to think at least 99 per cent of the world’s population feels the same way.
This “why not” is both a dangerous philosophy and a useful one. Now, I am not a philosophy student nor do I know a lot about philosophy other than a few philosophical fallacies and terms, but I can tell you what works and what doesn’t.
In philosophy there is a concept called “Occam’s azor” — essentially, it means that the simplest explanation is almost always the right one. Let’s take a hypothetical situation as an example: let’s say a 106-year-old lady in a hospital bed has died. She probably didn’t die flying in from a plane while skydiving and crashing into the hospital room or saving women and children from a burning building. It was probably due to natural causes.
So what does this all mean? It means that it doesn’t take a well-educated Harvard law student to know that gun violence is on the rise in the United States, and of course since the creation of the League of Nations — later called the United Nations — the United States has been the world’s go-to place for news and information globally. This made me think again of “why not” because, to me, it doesn’t seem like there are any logical explanations for killing innocent bystanders. None. Zero, zilch. And clearly, why not is not a valid excuse.
So here it is, the simplest explanation for what happens when some inbred lunatic gets his hands on an assault rifle: these people are not mentally fit for human consumption. God did not tell the Taliban to drive two planes into the World Trade Center, nor did God (or any incarnation of him for that matter) tell a Japanese terrorist group to commit mass murder with sarin gas in Japan. That’s all in the mind. And oh Lord, what a dark place that must be!
It’s called free will. We all have it. Some abuse it. Some let it abuse them.
Why? Why not?
Image: Wesley Nitsckie/Flickr