30 April 2009

The Great Hadleyburg Turkey Shoot

This is the first part of a ten-part action figure story that I started to-day.

Hope you enjoy it.

Of all the towns found in the Pacifica Department's Middle Belt, one of the oddest, and certainly the most corrupt, was Hadleyburg.

Located well in between the major cities of New Metropolis and Blackwater, it was settled by a small agricultural colony of vintage GI Joes in 1999, and, prior to Pacifica's independence from Centralia three years later, the settlement eked out a marginal living from raising cabbage, corn and potatoes.

But, after independence, the need to connect the department of New Scandinavia to Pacifica's north with Blackwater, Central City and New Metropolis resulted in the construction of National Routes 4 & 6, which respectively ran from east to west and from north to south, and the east to west Trans-Pacifica Railroad.

Being situated by the proposed lines of all three routes, Hadleyburg was in an ideal position to take full
advantage of its position, and take advantage it did, of the road and rail construction companies, their workers, the Pacifica Department's government, and the Amalgamation of Pacifica itself, for all it was worth, and then some.

There were those individuals, from both in- and outside of Hadleyburg, who raised their voices against the feather-bedding, over-charging, sweetheart deals and out-right theft that went on before, during and after the highways' and rail-road's construction. But, ways of shutting them up, whether through bribery, bullying, blackmail or bashing in of heads, could be and were always found and used.

So much for Hadleyburg's critics.

The town shot up like a weed in a tropical field, and, by the time the Pacifican-Centralian War of 2007 happened, it was a thriving mini-metropolis of some 300-plus souls. During the 10 day-long war, Hadleyburg, like most of its Middle Belt neighbours, suffered little directly from its effects, but was ideally positioned to press its advantages on the armies of soldiers and refugees that passed through or stayed in the area. And yes, take advantage of them, Hadleyburg and its citizens did.

It kept on doing that after the war, with all of the refugees from the devastated towns and cities temporarily settled near Hadleyburg and its neighbours for the several months after the war that reconstruction took.

Like with the highway and rail-road construction, there were voices that protested the various forms of robbery, overt and disguised, inflicted on them by the good citizens of Hadleyburg. But, as before, they were either bought out, beaten up, or broken in one way or another.

A few small-time malefactors were offered up to the departmental and Amalgamated authorities as sacrificial lambs, with much trumpeting and fanfare in the local media.

But, the real villains, and the whole rotten show, went merrily on, even after most of the refugees returned home, and Hadleyburg remained snug, and smug, in its piously hypocritical ways.

In the autumn of 2010, all of that would change in the course of a night.

17 April 2009

The Killing Mood And The Killing Season(poem)

Yet more material prompted by the current malaise that I see on-line, and my own reactions to it.

The sun shines,/

the wind blows,/

and leaves tremble on branches./

These have gone on long before/

we small, poor things began struggling/

underneath them./

Stars, formed long before we came to be,/

send their light outwards to worlds we shall ne'er see,/

and have burnt out, long before what we assume to be/

eternal, solid and ever-lasting, was even an idea./

Kingdoms, republics, constitutions,/

markets, churches, and art/

have come, gone, been revived and faded out,/

over and over again./

Faded out, driven out or burnt out/

because of the killing moods in the minds of men/

made manifest in the killing seasons./

We are filled up,/

and fill ourselves up with/

all manner of notions/

about how the world has been,/

and should be./

It's something we all do,/

for we all have our view-points,/

and only the dead are truly neutral./

It's understandable,/

for we all have our own lives and struggles,/

some better, some worse, than others./

But, it's unforgiveable,/

when we ball up fists, pick up weapons,/

and go forth, like so many Christian, Muslim, Jewish or other soldiers,/

marching, not as to war, but war itself./

It's criminal when, in the name of our god, gods, constitutions or creeds,/

we loot, burn, rape and kill./

It's stupidity itself,/

when we lie to ourselves and others,/

in saying that all is justified and sanctioned,/

even if by the ancient and mere excuse,/

"They had it comin', for being on the wrong side,

wrong place, wrong time, wrong colour,/

when men fell into the killing mood,/

and the killng season began./

If they had it comin',/

so do we all./

For self-sorrow, dis-satifisfaction,/

jealousy, envy and hatred can consume us all,/

if we let them./

Loneliness, frustration and bitterness/

can make the best into beasts,/

and the bestial into far worse./

If we let them./

When we do,/

we've got it comin',/

just as they do,/

and revenge takes its course,/

the bells and gongs sound again,/

'cos of another killing mood,/

another killing season./

Some say that's the cost of freedom,/

and that some principles matter more than life itself./

Maybe so, but they who say such things/

have either never suffered loss at the hands/

of those gripped by a killing mood in the killing season,/

or have grown callous and stupefied by their loss./

It's so easy and cheap to run one's mouth,/

in one's living room, bed-room or bar-room,/

and call for the deaths of others, who one neither knows nor cares about./

It's much harder and dearer to actually do,/

in the killing mood, in the killing season./

Fine speeches,/

full of wonderous, or maybe just ordinary,/

oratory, at funerals and ceremonies,/

are made over bags of dead meat,/

whether freshly-killed or long since dead./

The causes for which they died were always fair and just,/

the deeds they performed heroic, and the dead immortal./

But, this ignores that the causes may have been dubious,/

the dead, when alive, mixes of fairness and failibility, same as anyone else,/

and that the dead are dead and gone, never to return in the state known in life./

Bodies change and transmute,/

shedding flesh and muscle,/

bone and marrow,/

until they become something else entirely./

Don't expect to see them,/

as they were,/

ever again./

Too much damage has been done,/

and too much time passed,/

to un-do the deeds made by men/

gripped by the killing mood/

in the killing season./

Words comfort the living,/

but do nothing for the dead./

Words are for the living,/

not the dead,/

for only the living need comfort,/

however small and dubious./

The dead are beyond such cares and considerations./

The sun rises and sets,/

as our sphere turns 'round it./

The wind gusts and settles,/

and gusts again, as the patterns dictate./

The leaves sprout, flourish, tremble, fade and die,/

and new ones sprout again, as the seasons change./

They go on, and shall until it's their turn to fade and die./

They don't see, hear, think nor feel about/

the stupidites, follies and crimes/

of men gripped by the killng mood in the killing season./

Only men can do those./

Only we poor, stumbling creatures,/

under leaves, wind and sun./

14 April 2009

Showdown At The No-Where Corral(poem)

This has been inspired by what have read about various mass shootings and the like over the years, especially recently, the descriptions of the personalities of their perpetrators that have read in various news accounts, and also a bit of lookin' into myself. Can see where I've a fair degree in common with such folks, the anger, frustration, puzzlement and wondering why am not doing better in the world, feelings of entitlement and self-pity, and so on.

By stating this, does that mean that am going to do of the same??? Hell, no. To the points that have worked it through, the end results don't justify the costs, to others or myself. Rather, am trying to do what the late Yukio Mishima put it, when asked why he wrote his novels, plays, etc, as he did, because he otherwise would have been a mass murderer. Not the most pleasant reason, surely, but it worked for him for a long time. His 1970 suicide doesn't entirely abrogate the logic behind that notion, I think. He did that for a variety of reasons.

As for me, well, suicide, even for political reasons, is a mug's game to me. Sure, you get your name in the media and some people will remember you after you're dead. But, being dead's just that, and there's sweet fuck-all one can do once one's in that state.

We all die at one time or another. But, the important thing is how one lives while one's here. I know, big talk comin' from a poor autie-boy who lives with a cat. Well, even poor autie-boys with cats occasionally get it right.

Enough blather. Let's do it to it, and hope you like this.

The sun beats down, yet another day, on yet another part of the world and the poor creatures under it/

Big city, suburb, small town or village./

The difference matters not./

The sun beats down, like it did on small towns like Tombstone, Bodie, or Lincoln in the Old West./

It beats down, just as it did on Western movie sets, from Bronco Billy Anderson's to Clint Eastwood's./

It beats down, just as it did on places like Austin, Texas, San Diego California, and little towns and villages in Finland and Germany,/

on the days when ill-raised human kittens picked up a weapon or two, or four, or however many to do the job,/

and had themselves a gun-fight at the No-Where Corral./

Picked up a weapon, and were far from the only ones in history to do so,/

to go settle some long-standing disputes they'd with the world,/

bosses, co-workers, school-mates and family,/

and with themselves./

Picked up a gun, knife, or whatever else struck their fancies./

One even used a flame-thrower, made at home with his own two hands./

All to settle some long-held vendetta or blood feud with the world around them./

Not that others haven't ./

Oh, they did, usin' politics, economics, race, religion, whatever, for their reasons,/

to do cheap and nasty deeds in foul and stinking wars, feuds, vendettas and such./

And all of the dead had it comin', but we've all got it comin', dependin' on whom ya talk to./

No-one's immune from hatin' bad enough to kill,/

and no-one's immune from bein' hated bad enough to be killed./

Yet, we're always surprised when Showdowns and Gun-Fights at the No-Where Corral happen./

We're always shocked, shocked, shocked to High Heaven when this happens./

But, we're never shocked enough to do somethin' about it,/

or the poverty, desperation, alienation and loneliness behind it./

Never shocked enough to knock off glorifyin' the shameful./

Never shocked enough to put enough of a check on our assumptions and appetites./

Never shocked enough to really examine ourselves and see the potential mass murderer, serial killer,/

nasty murdering button man inside us./

The part of us that, like a tom-cat killing kittens to bring a queen cat into estrus again,/

can and will use violence if felt necessary or pushed hard enough./

Shocked, my arse, we are, by all this./

We're long past shock and into deep numbness, if not coma./

There is only so much bad news that one can take,/

before we slip into the waking dreams of complacency, fear or anger./

Just as the doers of such deeds live in a waking dream of anger,/





and loneliness./

The long waking dream time born of frustration after frustration,/

failure after failure,/

humilation after humilation,/

all of which builds,/

piece by piece, link by link,/

second after minute after hour after day after month after year after decade,/

until some folks run amok, whether with a kris, pistol or rifle./

The weapon matters not so much, as the result./

Dead and wounded strewn about the field of massacre,/

like so many store dummies scattered by a tornado or hurricane./

Just like when 19th year olds play at armed diplomacy,/

on the orders of older "betters" who never have and never will./

Just like kids shoot each other over slights and insults./

Just like when dealer kills dealer over turf./

Just like when husband beats wife, or wife husband./

Diffferent people, different causes, and same sorry results./

Everyone has their reasons, I've mine, you've yours, he's his and she's hers./

Everyone can kill, man, woman, child, adult and ancient./

Everyone can die for no good reason./

It's what in our heads and the world around us, as much as the instruments at hand,/

that can kill./

It's the voices from inside and outside that we let dictate to us that can kill./

It's the stupid assumptions, pre-conceptions and prejudices we have that can kill./

It's the anger, fear, indifference and self-indulgence we have that can kill./

They are the motive force, the weapons are the instruments,/

of the longing to butcher./

But, this is forgotten, usually, in the debates and dramas that arise in the aftermath./

Debates driven and dominated by monists, some saying it's guns that are responsible, others saying we need more guns in every place and in every hand./

They are both wrong, because in their maniacal monism, they don't see that/

neither unarmed nor armed societies are polite ones, if the ground rules aren't changed./

If more emphasis isn't given to Mercy, Hope, Charity and the better qualities of our nature,/

If people are seen as dolls or objects, and the ethic is what can you do for me,/

If stupid arrogance is given its head,/

there is no meaningful change,/

and no peace, merely truces until the next blood-bath./

Some blame the media and others blame drugs, licit and illicit, and alcohol./

They play their parts, sure./

But, they aren't alone in this./

There is no one sole cause, and no sole solution./

This isn't the movies or a television episode,/

with everything neatly wrapped up by the end of running time./

This is life, as messy and complex as it gets./

This is death, with all its stink and rot,/

and this is what comes of the thought that using a weapon solves all./

There are no quick, easy, simple solutions to this,/

just add water, mix and pop in the oven./

There are no guarantees,/

and if one wants one, better buy a toaster instead./

There are only us poor creatures under the sun,/

that shines down on us all alike,/

on scenes of beauty and horror,/

as it has before we came and will after we've gone./

One day, perhaps, it won't shine down on Showdowns at the No-Where Corral./

But, that's up to us, 'cos the Sun's just a star in the sky,/

and like God In His Heaven, Or the Czar of All The Russias, is very far away.

07 April 2009

For What It's Worth(Yep, am stealing from Buffalo Springfield here)

Have been mentally churning, discussing and debating with myself, about a whole range of topics and how best to present them here and elsewhere on-line over the past few months, weeks and days now.

Really still have no idea of how best to do it without going off onto my usual rambling rants, etc. At the same time, have got to get some of the notions I have out of my head, however imperfectly yet readably.

So, am giving it yet another go here, with a mix of of aphorisms and short phrases. Don't know how successful will be at this, nor if anyone will read any of this.

Still, best to spew this out, before it makes me even more troubled and embittered than already am.

So, here goes.

Mao Ze-Dong was right when he said that revolutions are an act of violence. They can't be done gently nor politely. It means doing whatever it takes to successfully get and hold power, no matter how immoral, amoral, vile or foul.

It also means, especially for the successful revolutionary, having to live with oneself and one's deeds for the rest of one's life, and especially with hard and unpleasant memories.

Forget who said that revolutions devour their own children, but whoever did was also right. Look at the histories of most revolutions, and one finds a particular faction within any revolutionary movement grabbing power from others, and purging their opponents in one way or another. If one goes down the revolutionary path and is successful, best to be prepared to purge or be purged at one time or another.

Revolutions and wars create expectations that, generally speaking, will be dashed in peacetime and reconstruction. High ideals and hopes are necessary to starting and keeping a revolutionary or war effort going, but, especially with the many compromises and hard realities involved in administering and builidng a new society, many of those will either be greatly diminished or set aside.

If one's aiming at seizing and holding power, one had best be prepared to deal with the small, niggling details of governing and administration, as well as with the grand issues of politics. This means worrying as much about the macaroni ration per person, as it does the construction of a new economic order. If one's not prepared to deal with the many small, irritating details and duties that come with political and economic power, one shouldn't aspire to having it.

These are horribly uncertain, anxious times, in which everything seems to be falling apart, with the centre unable to hold. Maybe so. On the other hand, one doesn't have to look that far back into history to see that there have been many such occasions, some of where that perception turned out to be accurate, and others where it wasn't. While perceptions matter, so does truth. That means paying as much as much attention as possible to what's going on around oneself, comparing that with others, especially those who aren't as like-minded as oneself, and always, always, considering the source of whatever information one gets.

Eyes and brains, Watson, as Sherlock Holmes used to say.

Above all, resist the temptations to fall into an anxious, panicked state as much as falling into ones of either fatuous complacency or fatalistic escapism. None of those states do one or others any good at all.

Have trouble with those states myself, so can understand the temptation to go into any one of those and stay there. But, being in a permanent state of alarm, torpor or resignation aren't terribly helpful in solving problems, or even simple survival.

Don't forget to laugh, especially at oneself when one's being silly and taking oneself overly seriously. This has the dual advantage of endearing oneself to others, and, more importantly, keeping a sense of logic and proportion about oneself's and one's abilities.

All of us like to think that we are, in one way or another, the smartest, sexiest, wisest beings who ever lived. That's a quite natural way of perceiving ourselves, really. But, we all do and say silly things from time to time as well. My goodness, we all have to use the toilet, just as our ancestors did, and our descendants will after us. No one is especially dignified in that state, not even, say, George Washington or Simon Bolivar. If they strained while evacuating their bowels, well, so do I, you and everyone else on this planet.

Most of all, don't lie to oneself or say that you can't be suckered, because that's when one really sets oneself up for being suckered very badly and on a grand scale. Will admit, however humiliating it might be to me, to having been suckered many times in the past, and have no doubt that can be suckered now and in the future. The trick is, I think, not to fall for the same kind of con over and over again. There will always be new and different, or at least new variants on older cons, to fall for. Just keep your eyes and brains actively working, and be prepared to admit, cheerfully or not, whenever you're wrong or have been suckered.

As for lying to oneself, well, I think that that's one of the worst sins that one can commit against oneself and others,'cos it creates false expectations and hopes that can't be fulfilled, and, sooner or later, it will be seen for what it is. If one's going to be a bastard, which I don't recommend, at least be an honest bastard, especially with oneself. In the end, that's to whom one really has to answer, most of all.

Personally speaking, there are times I can be intelligent, witty, even charming and kind. But, I can also be angry, bitter, frustrated and greatly disappointed, both in myself and others. I can be quite nasty when I want to be, but also cowardly. I have often engaged in silly, fiery rhetoric on many occasions in my life, and regret having done so. I try not to do so now, but don't always succeed. I can lie to myself and indulge myself in self-pity and fits of pique, the same as anyone else.

I can often despair, both for the state of the world and myself, and feel hard done by. Maybe, in some areas, I have been. But, such feelings can't and won't get things done and make life better, for others nor myself.

Most of all, am no plaster saint. Am a human being, with at least some of the virtues and many of the defects, that all of us have, in one form or another. Haven't read The Lives Of The Saints, but, from little have heard about it, even the many Catholic saints were themselves highly flawed, imperfect, human beings.

Maybe, that's the most important lesson of all from such tales, whether one believes in deities, saints and all the rest of that or not. We are all poor, imperfect creatures struggling under the sun. What matters most are the choices, decisions and actions we make while we are alive and kicking. That goes for me as much as for any of you.

If you should read this, I hope you'll find some, if not all, of what have had to say here to be sound and of some value. If not, well, that's your choice to make, and more power to you. If you do, wonderful, as am just egotistical enough to be flattered whenever someone thinks I've something of value to say or do.

If you've made it all the way through reading this, whether you agree, disagree, or don't care either way, I congratulate you on making the effort, and taking the time to do so.

On that note, I leave you, and, as always, leave you with a line from one of my favourite television shows of all time, "The Prisoner", Be Seeing You.

05 April 2009

How Fast Can You Clear Leather?(poem)

How fast can you clear leather????/

That's what I want to know./

I've heard you, and so many others,/

talk so much crap about making a revolution,/

on-line, off-line, all the damn time./

Don't matter what ideology you espouse,/

Left, Right, Centre, whatever./

I hear a lotta mouth-running,/

shrill, hysterical and wanna-be brutality./

I see a lotta paranoia,/

whether from New World Order types,/

9/11 Truthers, Anarchists, Libertarians,

Neo-Nazis, what the Hell ever,/

all bellowing about this, that and the other./

Folks believing the world'll end in 2012./

Better stock up on guns, ammo and freeze-dried food,/

'cos supplies are going fast./

Isn't that it???/

The sheer, savage joy of being among the “elect”,/

“The Chosen”, destined to survive./

The ones with all the inside dope,/

straight up, no God-Damn chaser./

Not like the “sheeple”, those on whom you look down./

The mugs, the suckers, the peasants destined to work for you in the New World to come,/

or die and be buried like dogs in unmarked graves./

Maybe, they are,/

maybe they are, /

I dunno./

But, before you get too damn smug and secure/

in your knowledge and righteousness,/

I gotta ask,/

how do you know you're not being played?/

How do you know that you won't be the poor sap up against a wall?/

Who made you God with the right to decide who lives or dies,/

and how fast can you clear leather???/

One day, maybe, someone will ask you that question,/

and he or she'll have a gun in his or her hand,/

same as you./

When they ask you that,/

it'll be Put Up or Shut Up Time,/

'cos that's the way it is in revolution and war./

Put Up, Shut Up, or be Strung Up, if you're lucky,/

by your heels from a gas station ceiling, /

a tree or lamp-post./

Left to twist, rot and stink in the wind,/

'till cut down and thrown in a hole,/

Like a discarded beer can or piece of rotten meat./

There's plenty wrong in the State of Denmark,/

Sweden, Britain, Canada, the US, Colombia, Zimbabwe,/

almost anywhere and everywhere you care to name./

There's plenty broken, corrupted, rotten through and through./

There's plenty of work, long, hard work, that we need to do./

Lotsa blame to go 'round,/

to politicians, pundits, officials, academics,/

policemen, soldiers, sailors, marines,/

insurgents, resurgents, mujahideen,/

poets, publicans and the public at large./

'Cos we all played our parts/

in these sordid little dramas./

Spurred on by propaganda, rumour and fear,/

that turned to anger and hatred./

We let our glands do the walking, talking,/

fighting and killing./

Or, at least were content to let others do it for us./

Vicious little colonial wars,/

in which Yankee and Raghead,/

Ethiop' and Somali,/

Russkie and Chechen,/

all going at each other./

Going for blood, land, goods./

Going all the way,/
'Till one side or the other ups and dies./

All spurred along by idea and word pimps,/

with their half-truths, quarter-truths and plain old lies./

Some of them fought and died, sure./

But, most are still around, still peddling/

their wares for all the suckers to lap up,/

like a dog sucking up water from a dish./

Yeah, it's a real inspiring picture to see,/

a great little spectacle to take in,/

so edifying and wonderful to behold./

Oh, yeah, such gratifying grievance and hatred to see, hear, taste, touch and smell./

Why not have a go at each other???/

There's enough needless cruelty, death and misery,/

and y'all wanna add on some more???/

Sure, go ahead. Why not???/

Kill 'em all and forget about keeping score./

Just so long as they're dead, right?/

Guess that's the clue./

Just so long as they're dead,/

except, of course, for you./

But, revolutions don't necessarily work out the way/

that one plans./

What with the murder, maiming, demolition and destruction,/

the purges, show trials and firing squads./

The bitter disappointments of peace that follow the exaltation of war./

Building's never quite as sexy as destroying, at least for some.,/

and they would find the ideals for which they fought,/

betrayed by those who were quicker, smarter, more cunning and better organised./

In the end, they'd be either pensioned off, shunted aside or purged/

to make room for the party hacks and opportunists/

that always come along and make a social order their own./

If you want real change, then make it, and make it good./

But, know what you're about./

Read, discuss, debate, figure, plan./

But, most of all, THINK!!! before you act./

Think long, hard and all the way through./

Think before you pick up a weapon./

Think before you pull a trigger or a pin./

'Cos if you don't, then someday, somehow,/

your choices and actions will come back on you./

It may be a revenge killing,/

made by someone whose loved one you shot./

It may be a show trial and purge,/

launched by comrades you once knew and loved./

It may be simply being crushed by the weight of bad memories/

and lies, as you lay a-bed, waiting to darkness to fall over you/

for the last time./

There's more than one way of making change./

More than one way of running a rail-road./

More than one way of getting things done./

Force and compulsion may win wars, but they never convince./

'Specially over the long run./

If you wanna be a self-fulfilling prophet of doom, go ahead./

That choice is yours./

But, so's the responsibility for everything you say and do,/

now and in the years to come./

And, if you should lose, don't whine, cry, shirk nor plead for mercy,/

'cos if you've not shown it to others, why should it be shown to you?/

That's the logic that wounds, the logic that kills,/

and it don't make a dime's worth of difference how true or pure you are./

'Cos, that's what comes of clearin' leather, no matter how noble the cause./

So, how fast can you clear leather?/

That's something you'll be needing to know/

if you go down the violent road.

Johnny Got His Gun And Used It

Originally posted this on my Facebook profile at 2:50 AM this morning, and am republishing it here to share with those of you out there who aren't on FB. Whatever conclusions you draw from this, if any, I leave to you.

Sitting here at home, bored out of my mind, feeling lonely, horny, and all the rest of that good hoo-ha, and frustrated at not being able to connect with Embarq to pay my phone bill.

Had thought about going out to the Beauty Bar where a friend of mine was dee-jaying, just to say Hello to him and to get out of the house for a bit. But, realised that had got up too late, and, by the time I got through doing my ablutions prior to going out, waiting for and getting on the bus and all that, not to mention the all-important question of money, which, for someone on a pension like me, can mean the difference between being reasonably comfortable later on in the month, or barely, and I mean barely, scraping by, and decided not to do it after all.

This leading to further frustration and anger, at myself and others, combined with perserverating on a variety of topics that pop up when am feeling this way, and could see that was working myself up into a fine snit.

So, how to deal with this??? Well, there are a variety of ways of doing it, some more or less successful than others. For me, I chose trying to reconnect again with Embarq, which I successfully did a few minutes ago, and what am doing now, which is to write about my feelings in the context of this essay, which is also about the recent shootings in Binghamton, New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the kinds of frustrations and inability to deal with them constructively that these shooters, and many others like them, had.

So, now the focus shifts from my little microcosm to the larger picture of those shootings.

From what have absorbed from the various AP, CBS, and BBC news videos have down-loaded from YouTube on those shootings, as well as the few AP news articles via Yahoo News that have read thus far, Jivverly Wong and the Pittsburgh shooter, whose name eludes me at the moment, couldn't have been more different in age, national origin, or motives for their deeds.

Wong was a 41 year-old Vietnamese American of Chinese extraction, who had immigrated to the US in 1990, had worked at a small number of firms in New York and California, but whose command of English remained limited. This was a constant source of frustration to him, and an extremely sore point with him as well, if the sources cited above are correct. He was described as a loner, who had a strong work ethic, but few close friends, and who felt that he never got the respect he deserved.

He'd been taking English courses at the immigrant centre in Binghamton where he waged his one-sided shoot-out on Friday, but was also out of work and frustrated by living on the $200 a week unemployment insurance payments he was getting, and being unable to find work.

The Pittsburgh shooter I know far less about about, save that he was 23 years old, of Polish-American origin, and was extremely fearful that the Obama Administration was coming to take away his rifle and pistols. He was also known around his neighbourhood as an often quarrelsome, contentious young man who had engaged in fist-fights with some of his neighbours on one occasion, and was generally avoided by them.

Either way, both of them, as well as so many of the perpertrators of mass shootings and other forms of mass murder, not only in this country, but in Germany, Finland, the UK, Canada, Australia and Japan, among others, over the past 60 years, and there are cases, albeit much fewer and far between, that go back to around 1890 or so, in this country, seem to have been men(there have been a few, but far fewer in number, female mass murderers, like the young woman who became notorious as the perpetrator of the 1980 San Diego schoolyard shootings), who were either only partially- or poorly socialised into their respective societies and cultures, had a hard time finding work and other social activities into which they fit, and who had an extremely difficult time coping with the various failures and frustrations in their own lives.

According to one article, a LiveScience one, whose author's name I can't recall, that I read after the Alabama shootings two or three weeks back, alcohol abuse may also play a role in at least some mass shooters decisions to engage in one-sided urban combat, and certainly the current economic situation and its anxieties and frustrations may as well. Also, a strong interest in war, things military, and weaponry may also be another factor.

But, these are all parts of what, why and how some people make the decision to go out and kill or wound as many people as they possibly can, before, as in many cases, they commit suicide.

From my perspective, which is derived from my own personal experiences as well as the readings that have done, on-line and off-line, about these, it seems to me that such killings are a combination of extreme frustration and rage, both at oneself and the world and the world around him or herself, strong feelings of entitlement, self-pity and personal failure, weak or non-existent social support networks, and a tremendous feeling to total, or least partial, alienation from the society and culture around oneself.

Even then, these factors, like the others have mentioned above, don't always guarantee that one will pick up a gun, knife or other weapon(In the case of one German mass murderer I read about in the Wikipedia entry on mass murders, a home-made flame thrower was the weapon of choice for him), and go out to kill or wound one's neighbours, work-mates, acquaintances or complete strangers.

Many find some other outlets,whether it's posting comments to news articles on-line, drinking, what have you, for their rage and frustration.

For me, it is writing essays like these, as well as taking action figure photographs, or, when feeling particularly anxious or hard-pressed, writing or calling close family members or friends and talking with them about the anxieties, frustrations and other feelings that am having.

But, in my life, have also had many such times when have had no such outlets nor could I contact those family members nor friends and speak with them about my feelings of loneliness, etc. So, I had to get through it by simply gutting it out, letting the feelings I had happen, but not, and you can feel free to ascribe whatever possible motivations and circumstances you like to this, taking any actions that would have a severe and permanent impact on myself and others.

Mind you, too, while have often felt myself pushed to the point of despair where I felt like killing myself or doing of the same to others, I haven't, for a variety of reasons. Even then, I can also say that perhaps have never had my back pressed so tightly up against the wall that those were the only viable options I felt I had on hand. I hope to God that I never do feel that desperate, and also hope that I can find some other way, however stumbling, confused and uncertain, of resolving those problems and dealing with my feelings in a beneficial, constructive, for both others and myself, manner.

I do not know, and won't actually know, until am in that situation. In the meantime, all I can do is work with what I have, avoid feeling entitled and self-pitying(Stephen Fry's description of self-pity as being the most dangerous emotion strikes me as being the soundest, because it can, as he also said, consume everything, and lead to self-fulfiling prophecies coming true), and work as best I can on improving both my own life and the lives of others as best I can. It means my making more of an effort to get out of the house a bit more, and interacting with people in ways that I find fulfilling, and that I hope they will as well. It means, as E. M. Forster wrote in his introduction to Howard's End, "only connect", both on-line and off-line with others.

There is an element of gambling in this, as in most human endeavours, as much of the time, as have learnt from personal experience, many of these won't necessarily work out, for a variety of reasons, some of which I shall perhaps never know, nor know entirely. Nonetheless, the risk's still worth taking, even if only for its own sake, though would love to have greater rewards than that if possible. However, counting on getting those rewards, in my view, would be foolish. If they come, they come. If not, will be disappointed, surely, but will also find other venues and outlets to try.

Of course, could just sit home and do nothing, or next to nothing, and have guaranteed results, but those aren't necessarily the sort of results I want to have for the rest of my life.

Either way, anything beats stewing in my own mental juices, which I have done for much of my life, and many of these shooters, and many others beside, have done and do.

As for any suggestions or prescriptions I might have on the greater problems of mass shootings and other forms of mass murder, gun and other types of violence in its various forms and resolving the problems within the social orders of which they're a part, I've only the following highly inexpert suggestions and opinions to make at hand.

One's that some legal restrictions do need to be placed and enforced on the possession of military-grade weapons, ammunition and magazine clips available to the general public. This doesn't mean that criminals and those who are inclined, for one reason or another, won't be able to get their hands on some of these. Let's not make that mistake in assuming they entirely would be prevented from doing so. There are ways, especially through off-the record or illegal gun and other weapons sales or thefts, of getting weapons if one wants them badly enough, knows where to get them, and is willling to pay the requisite price for them, of obtaining them, and some will do it, as surely as the sun rises in the morning.

The idea is to make getting them a lot harder than is currently the case in the US. Even then, it's only one part of any overall solution to this problem.

Another suggestion is that institutions, public, private, religious and secular, need to do a better job of outreach than many of them have to people, especially in working-class and poor communities, who may be at risk of engaging in such behaviours well beforehand. There are, by now, at least some identifiable patterns and commonalities, so much so that the FBI, among other law enforcement agencies, have worked out profiles of mass murderers and their behavioural patterns. It means providing psychiatric, psychological and other social integration services, and getting the best available people and resources to do the job of, whenever and wherever possible, finding these individuals and stopping them from going on rampages, not through repressive means like imprisonment or confinement in mental institutions and the like, but through various forms of therapy and social integration that, I believe, would ultimately be much more effective in the long run than mere repression and confinement would be.

Again, that is only another part of any overall solution to the problem of mass murder.

Another suggestion still is for a real cultural change in the way that the mass media, off-line and on-line, depicts and describes such shootings and violence in general. Whether journalists, film-makers and other dramatists, what have you, there is too often the tendency to report mass shootings and other forms of violence as out-of-the-ordinary, freakish occurences, which, by now, they are most certainly not, with relatively little and superficially-explained explanations of the perpetrator's background and current circumstances, as well as the social, economic and political circumstances around them and their deeds, given.
Some of this is, I believe, because of the limitations of space and time in media presentations, whether journalistic or dramatic, and getting information on the perpetrator and his or her background, especially during the active police investigation phase of the aftermath of such incidents. Still, I believe the effort to get as much information about the perpetrator and the social context in which such incidents occur can and must be made as much as possible.
Some of this, however, may also be due to a reluctance, however understandable, to question many of the cultural, social and other general assumptions found within the culture in which these crimes occur, are reported or dramatised later on, about just how well and fulfiling that social order actually is for many of its members.

I also believe that the depiction of violence in dramas, whether film, television, or stage, needs to be made much more realistic, not just in the actual physical details, but, more importantly, in the psychological and social details of it, and its impacts on those who perpetrate it, its victims, those close to both, and the wider community around them. It means showing the psychological and social costs of the use of violence, whether by the duly constituted authorities, criminals, or other individuals, and the very real pain and loss that its use has.

There are some film and television dramas, like "Unforgiven", "Homicide: Life On The Street", and "The Wire" that have done that in the recent past, but, compared to the numbers of shoot-'em-up, martial arts and other violent(usually described with the euphemisms "action" or "action-adventure"), they are small in number, and I can't think of anything currently on right now, which says something about my relative ignorance of the current goings-on in films and television as much as anything else, that comes close.

There are very real costs, often hideously high, to the use of violence, and I think that it's important to show those as realistically as possible in order to get the point about those costs across to as many people as possible.

The last two suggestions that I've to make here are directed at those who are close, or relatively so, to people around someone who may be at risk of engaging in something like mass murder, and to those who may be at risk, or at least feeling desperate enough to give it a go.

To the first, I would say please, if you can, try to engage with your loved one well before something like this can even potentially occur. Yes, it's hard to try and communicate with someone who, for various reasons, is difficult, if not impossible, to communicate and reason with, and the effort may be self-defeating in the end, someone who is difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with, but making the effort, and, if you can't succeed, getting whatever help you can for your loved one wherever you are, is far better time and effort spent than coping with the aftermath and disgrace of being associated with the perpetrator of yet another mass shooting, or similar crime.

To the latter, if you can, and, more importantly, want to, find something, anything, that will help you to better cope with the many anxieties and frustrations of living, especially in difficult economic and social times like these. If it's a hobby, volunteering, walking around one's neighbourhood or a local park, getting out and socialising with the few friends you have and feel close to, doing something on-line, making some sort of artwork, etc, it's still far better than deciding to pick up a weapon and do damage to others and oneself. You may feel pressed up against the wall with no other options but to make like a hero out of any type of drama or "action" film you could care to name, but, unlike most of the protagonists of such dramas and films, your efforts will lead only to your doom, in one way or another, and the deaths or injury of others around you. Then, there will come, as they always do after incidents of this kind, the inevitable questions about why and how you did it directed at your friends and family, as well as the recriminations, blame and desire for revenge upon them by some of the victims' family, friends and members of the general public, and they will be left to cope with those, as well as the guilt, shame, anger and loss at you and your deeds by your own family to deal with.

You may think that you are taking a heroic stand against a world that neither understands nor cares about you, and you may well be right on those latter two points. But, ultimately, the stand is neither heroic, nor does it accomplish much of anything, besides more needless death and misery, including your own, nor, given the fast-moving nature of current news cycles, will it be remembered for long by most members of the general public, except as only one in a very long list of similar crimes. For your family and whatever friends you have, as well as your victims, their family and friends, and the law enforcement personnel and medcal personnel called upon to deal with the results of your deeds, those memories will be long and bitter ones indeed.

You'll have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind, and gained nothing, except anger, hatred, brief infamy, and either death or worse suffering than you'd before in prison or a mental facility, and for far longer.

You may say that am pissing in the wind by addressing these suggestions to you. Maybe so, but so's picking up a weapon and going at one's neighbours, because, in the end, you are merely one person with a relatively tiny amount of weaponry and ammunition going against forces that have more people, weapons and ammunition, and, generally speaking, more training and experience in using them than you. If you are that desperate and foolish enough to try, you will find out just how highly the odds against you succeeding are stacked, and I doubt you'll enjoy paying the price that comes with that.

That, too, is pissing in the wind, only with much, much worse results than my doing so here.

There are no easy, ready-made answers to the problems that you're facing, any more than there are to many of the problems that we are collectively facing, whether as members of one human group or another, or as a species right now. Many of these problems are of long-standing, duration and complexity, and will require a lot of time, resources and trouble to fix, and, even then, some mayn't be fixed, at least entirely, to everyone's satisfaction.

No problem ever is, really.

There are solutions that please the majority of people, but never everyone. How could they???

There are nearly seven billion people on this planet right now, as far as I understand it, each of them with their own wants, needs, desires, backgrounds and opinions.
Humans are often contradictory and contrary beasts that can be as stubborn as a Missouri mule when they want to be, and set in their respective ways.

Add on to that the fact that we humans have been playing the civilisation game for only around nearly 10,000 years of our approximately 1 million year existence on this planet, which is a relatively small amount of time to be doing that, and one can see that, while we've come a long, long ways, especially organisationally and technologically, we've a long ways to go, especially in reconciling the instinctive, animal parts of who and what we are with the needs and demands of living together in large groups.

There is no, in my opinion, one-size-fits-all approach to the many problems of living together in socially, economically, politically and ethnically complex societies like the ones we've at present. There are many of those out there, whether on the Left, Right and Centre, who make such claims, but, as has been seen over and over again throughout human history, while some of the various systems advocated have been better at solving some of these problems, others haven't, and some have only made them far worse.

Of course, there's always the option of doing nothing, or trying to push one's society and culture back into a nostalgic, "better", social order. but the prices of doing those are, in my opinion, far higher than actually trying to address the problems at hand, like this one, and making the effort to solve them. The prices and results of doing that mayn't always be worth the costs, but they are still worth more than the former two options.

It has been nearly four hours since I began this essay, and, while am cynical about the number of people who will actually read this essay now, or at any time in the future, and find it to be of any real valute, the time and effort expended here is still worth it, even if only in the respect of my finding some way of constructively dealing with many of the feelings I've about my own life and the world around me, and possibly, in turn, being of some benefit and value to others, even if just by letting them know that they aren't alone out there in how, what and why they're feeling the way they do.

As for my own life, well, that is something that will have to take on, one day and one bit of effort, at a time. It mayn't work out at all the way I'd like it to be, but that's part of the chance that I have to take, and it's a far better go than simply shrugging my shoulders and letting my frustrations and anxieties eat me alive, or ending up doing something entirely foolish and harmful to myself and others. Am no saint, not by a long shot. Am just another human being, like the rest of you out there, with my own wants, needs and aspirations. Some of these may be fulfilled, and others not. Only time and effort will tell.

In the meantime, Here Endeth The Lesson and Be Seeing You.