I spent this weekend like most folks — horrified by back-to-back shootings in El Paso and Dayton. With intense tragedies like mass shootings, people naturally grasp for answers, for reasons why.
Folks in the circles I run in identified white supremacy and toxic masculinity as the culprits (correctly, in my opinion). Others called out lack of gun control, a paucity of mental health support and (perhaps most disingenuously) violent video games as major factors. Regardless of the identifying causes of the last weekend’s carnage (and truthfully, extending back to last week with the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting last Monday), one thing is clear: nobody knows what in the fuck they’re talking about with regard to solutions, least of all your favorite bloggers/shitposters/social media influencers.
Often when you take it upon yourself to dish out hot takes, you can feel pressured to Say Something about pressing issues, even if you don’t have any expertise or background in studying those issues. The fact is, even if you can correctly identify a root problem — e.g., white supremacy and toxic masculinity — you probably won’t have the ability to clearly communicate fixes.
A few years ago I was obsessed with the concept of “wicked problems.” They are issues with nearly-impossible solutions due to the issues’ systemic nature. How do you quickly solve a problem when it’s connected to every other aspect of society? It was an easy bit of shorthand for me in my early commentary-writing days, a way to appear above other hot-take writers for suggesting mundane solutions that only address symptoms of the bigger problem.
The truth is, I’m a dumbass.
I want to be clear: this isn’t me being self-deprecating. It’s something I think we need to admit more and more in a discourse that almost requires us to be Right About Everything. I know a pretty good deal about doing journalism, about cultural criticism, about interviewing and research; but I’m woefully lacking in many other areas. It’s a nice realization to come to if you’re focused on learning, because it means you understand the limits of your own knowledge and you’re more willing to take in new information.
But it also means that I just, I don’t fuckin’ know, man. I can make a pretty good argument that white supremacy and toxic masculinity are big factors in shootings, but I don’t have a single clue how to solve either problem outside of confronting people individually or addressing and stamping out internal manifestations of those things in my own behavior. It’s the social version of taking out my recycling while the Arctic burns and sea levels rise.
All I know is that we’ve been treading dangerous sociopolitical waters for a long time. The people we’ve elected to represent us and make laws for us to follow are opportunists at best, and at worst actively dangerous. Social movements are forming around ironic displays of authoritarianism, and tap into feelings of resentment and alienation. Basically shit just sucks, and aside from calling that out, I really do not know what the fuck to say about all this hot garbage.
The best I can do is this.