Inherent in our society is the right to the freedom of choice, through which decisions can often be made independently. But through this independence in decision-making raises an important question about an important democratic: Is there a fundamental flaw in our idea of the freedom of choice that is bringing destruction to the larger, social context of society? Today, signs point to shortcomings in our otherwise prosperous Lockean ideology.
The United States’ culture of aggression is a clear consequence of the culture that we have cemented into the nation’s foundations of liberty. Liberty originally evolved as the emblematic ethos in a nation that has been seeking to champion its sovereignty and preserve the citizens’ individuality. Yet, championing a conservative approach to the freedom of choice left the burden of constructing moral boundaries to the faculties of individual communities. More than two centuries later, many previous moral constraints have been reformed, while a greater emphasis has been placed on today’s progressive idea of individualism, one that is exemplified by the common saying, “mind your own business.” In many ways, we are abandoning care giving to those in need, and when people are left to their own whims while detached from society, unfavorable outcomes such as school shootings may result.
Indeed, public safety has become an essential priority to the people, whether one looks at current Democrats’ desires of restricting gun possession or present Republicans’ ideas of adopting stricter immigration policies. Not only have these views polarized the entire nation, but such views are almost entirely reactionary, springing predominantly from a subjective perception of violent events. Still, the pervasiveness of mass violence in the United States has reached the point where everyone is vulnerable to fatal victimhood, as murder rates in the U.S. are higher than similar, well-developed nations.
But it is not exactly our Western ideology of freedom that is responsible for yearly mass public shootings, but instead our culture’s permissiveness to the expression of violence secondary to our concept of liberty that is proving to be insidious. Psychologists have been studying the relationship between emotions and actions and have developed theories that describe and predict aggression. One such factor that has been shown to increase violence is the increased exposure to violence. The desensitization of society to violence, predominantly increased media and entertainment depictions of violence, seems to be involved as a systemic factor that is promoting violence throughout our communities as the suggestibility or the idea of violence becomes increasingly common.
As an academic community that champions Catholic values, Benedictine University should focus instead on rebuking ideologies, behaviors, or cultural patterns that normalize violence. In times like these, positive cultural reformations, not adding more fuel to political battles, is more likely to contribute to the common good.
If you would like to leave the author a comment, you may reach him by email, Omair_Ali@ben.edu.