{Posted on Facebook by Ryan S Bonnett, 28 February 2018}

I’ve been doing some thinking, and while this is nothing that hasn’t been said by those smarter than I am, our issue is our cultural predisposition to a one problem, one solution system.

I’m going to frame this mostly in terms of our current gun debate, though I don’t want this to turn into a conversation about that specifically.

In the wake of this most recent school shooting, we have seen a number of different suggestions put forward. Arming teachers. Banning specific types of weapons. We look around in the aftermath with a need to find a proximate cause, which blinds us from looking for a systemic one. If we can only fix this one thing, gun violence in schools would be a thing of the past. If only I did this one thing differently, I could save my relationship. Etc. Etc.

But these are symptoms. My friends that lean further left have been sharing memes to the effect that other cultures don’t have mass shootings in the same way that we do, it must be for reason X. Gun laws, etc. My right leaning friends fall back on moral failings that they attribute to lack of prayer, lack of a traditional family, and on and on.

This could have been averted if only X. Solve X, solve your problem.

But what if X doesn’t exist? Or what if it’s part of an equation so vast that it cannot be easily comprehended, let alone solved.

I’d like you to go back to the late nineties. There was a book called “Fight Club.” Needless to say, it’s a bit misunderstood. But at the core of the narrative were men who, lacking meaning, turned to a violent outlet. The book itself is a multi-layered critique of everything from consumerism to toxic masculinity. But the misunderstanding of it is further proof of what I’m talking about. People tried to shoehorn it into a simple message. You can’t. Just as you can’t put the factors that cause a teen to shoot up a school into a simple equation.

Am I saying that if we understand “Fight Club” we’ll understand why people shoot up schools? No. That’s exactly the oversimplification I’m warning against. But you’re on the right track. Yes, there were societal pressures in the book that caused men to seek a violent outlet. But if you look to the nineteen thirties in Germany, you’ll also see how cultural alienation was exploited by the Nazi party. This is especially pertinent now that reports are surfacing of swastikas being on the shooter’s weapons. But more important than a direct correlation is the abstract. The idea that you could probably write a “Fight Club” every generation. You could swap out certain driving factors for the characters, keep the core the same, and have a story that appeals to people of that generation.

Now, I can’t speak to the motivations of the most recent shooter. I’m sure more of that will be forthcoming. And for the record, it’s a positive thing that it has sparked people into action. Common sense gun legislation is something that most reasonable people can find common ground on. But that isn’t enough. Solving for X doesn’t solve the problem.

Let’s broaden the scope a little.

In politics, there are always hot button topics. Let’s use jobs for now. One side has their answer, the other side has theirs. Those solutions can almost always be condensed down to a bumper sticker. Lower taxes. Higher wages. Whatever. Jobs is the problem, X, and here’s my solution.

The issue is, as above, is that everyone is trying to solve for X. And in that scuffle, very few look outside of that equation. Maybe society is evolving past the point of needing jobs. Maybe the answer is something else entirely. But we’re too focused on saving dying coal jobs or raising minimum wages to look past whatever our solution for X is.

So what am I driving at here? Am I saying there’s not an answer? Not really. I’m saying that in the face of adversity, we tend to look for immediate answers. And once we get it in our head that our quick answer will fix things, there’s not a lot to dissuade most people. And in the aftermath of something as tragic as a school shooting, people have every right to want to protect their children as quickly and effectively as possible.

But it’s not that simple.

Let’s say, for this argument’s sake, that there are far reaching societal issues that are causing mostly white young men to snap and murder people. Stop. Take a look around. How far does the equation stretch? Does this equation include the same variables that are causing a spike in suicides, mostly in the demographic of middle aged white men? Examine that as objectively and scientifically as possible, and proceed accordingly. That may be going back to the drawing board, or it may be using the newfound knowledge to begin assessing the issue.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that we can even grasp these causes. How do you go about fixing them? If it turns out that after centuries, we determine that jobs as we know them are becoming an outdated phenomenon, how do you steer society?

If you’ve read this far and are expecting an answer, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This post is going to end a little like “No Country for Old Men.”

I’ve only posted this to try to encourage some discussion. We complain after every school shooting, after every election, that nothing gets done. Nothing changes. And what I’m saying is that nothing changes because the scope of the proposed solutions doesn’t fully grasp the problems they set out to address. We’re going to ban a gun. We’re going to vote for the candidate who promised to help my dying industry. These are symptoms, not the disease.

The Fight Clubs from the books wouldn’t have stopped if the police cracked down on them. The Narrator wouldn’t have been happy with a raise. There’s no one single thing, no solving for X, that would have would have immediately rendered Tyler Durden irrelevant.

So the next time we face some sort of adversity, don’t jump for the simple answer. Resist the urge to share memes that oversimplify the equation. Because when we focus in so closely on a single perceived cause, we argue over a tree while the forest burns around us.

As always, be good to each other.