Unemployment Is a Matter of National Security
The Dark Knight shooting in Aurora has officially freaked me out.
My job is great and all is well. I'm happy and life is good. Now to the business at hand:
This is a post that has been rattling around in my head for literally years, but it hasn't come to fruition... until now.
Unemployment is a matter of national security.
That is to say, a society with a lot of unemployed people is an unstable society. Look at the French Revolution, the Bolshevik revolution, the rise of Nazi Germany, even the Dark Ages -- all can be tied at a fundamental level to brutal economic conditions for some critical mass of the population.
The shooting in Colorado -- in the city where I went to high school -- is not just an issue of access to mental health care. It's not an issue of gun control (gun control wouldn't have stopped this as it did not stop the tragedy in Norway that occurred just about exactly a year prior to this writing. We have 300+ million guns on the streets in this country, OK? The gun control boat sailed long, long ago if it ever was in our port at all... but I digress. What a surprise, right?)
This shooting shows just one way in which unemployment affects our security. I do not believe the shooter would have snapped had his economic prospects been brighter. It has been reported that, after graduating with honors, he harbored a lot of anger about not being able to get a job which is why he enrolled in graduate studies about which he was apparently none too passionate.
He had been working as a lab assistant, undoubtedly not making much more than a slave-wage stipend and apparently having academic problems. He was in the process of dropping out of school. It seems that he didn't want to be a scholar; he just wanted a job. I believe that if he had gotten a job out of college, this tragedy would not have happened.
On some level, I can identify with this kid. I remember well the searing rage I often felt at my lowest points and how it was tied to some sense that a bunch of idiots seemed to be employed while a bright, hardworking guy like me couldn't find a job to save his life. The male ego is a dangerous thing. The angry young male ego is downright explosive.
Don't get me wrong: I am a constitutionally non-violent person and I can't fathom what evil could possibly impel one person to kill another. But I can relate to the anger and sense of, I hate to admit, superiority that led me, personally, in my darker moments to really fucking resent people. I believe the same sort of thing drove this apparently bright young man to make his mark by indulging evil that was allowed to arise out of an (ironically somewhat) justifiable anger.
Throw in an active imagination, high intelligence and escapism (he reportedly had taken Vicodin before the shooting) into a fantasy comic book world, and, well...
I'm no shrink, but that's how I see this incident. There have been other incidents where unemployed people snapped but I'm too lazy to look them up.
So what does all this have to do with national security?
It's obvious, isn't it? Unemployment drives people nuts. Even emotionally healthy people go a bit batty. People who are already a bit loopy might become dangerous.
Let's do the math.
If 1/10 people is more neurotic than average under normal circumstances, and there are 20 million unemployed people, that means 2 million potentially dangerous people (not to mention 18 million emotionally damaged people who would otherwise be relatively normal).
Basically, you have the population of the entire Denver metropolitan area in a somewhat unstable state of mental health, thanks to good ol' unemployment. Incidents like the Aurora shooting can be somewhat contagious in a population like that.
All of this adds up to a destabilizing influence that scares me quite a bit more than a few bearded goat herders living caves on the other side of the world.
I wish more of our supposed leaders could connect these dots and realize just how critical it is to save the "Let them eat cake!" class from themselves.
Gosh, what a bummer it was to write that!
Let me finish on a more positive note. To anyone out there who is suffering due to unemployment:
I have stood where you are now, on the edge of oblivion, depressed, angry, under unbelievable stress worrying about homelessness, hungry, lonely, broke and in some sense broken.
Now I have a job that I love. Almost every morning I spring out of bed full of gratitude. My accounts are in good order. Life is good. It will be good for you again at some point. Just hang in there. Keep your heart hopeful and your mind clear. It will work out for you eventually.