This is Normal
I get up in the morning, get dressed, do the chores. Read the news. There's news of another mass shooting in the USA. Two of them, in fact. There's no news of a mass shooting in my country. This is normal.
I drive to the university where I study. I drive carefully because I'm aware I'm moving around about a ton of metal at speeds of 40 - 70 km/h, and that can cause some serious problems to the human body if such a thing isn't done with due care and attention. I don't worry about other drivers pulling out a gun and shooting me for bad driving. This is normal.
I get to university, and go into a classroom. I'm not looking at the rooftops for snipers. I'm not watching my fellow-students cautiously, waiting to see whether today is the day one of them "snaps". I don't look for exit routes out of the classroom if a shooter should enter. This is normal.
I go to the supermarket to pick up groceries. I don't worry about getting shot in the car-park. I don't worry about getting shot in the mall on the way to the supermarket. I don't worry about getting shot in the supermarket. I don't worry about getting shot at all. This is normal.
I'll go to work later this week, and I'm not worried about my employer (who knows of my history of mental illness) deciding they're not going to keep me on due to the potential risk to my colleagues. They also know I'm not going to shoot up my workplace. People shooting up their workplace is very unlikely in this country. This is normal.
Politicians in this country don't have much to fear from crowds - the worst is maybe a cream pie, or an egg to the head, or maybe a bit of ballistic fruit or something like that for the really objectionable ones. They don't need armed bodyguards everywhere they go. This is normal.
The police here are armed - but they face severe penalties for shooting a person in the course of their duties. They know most of the people they're going to be facing don't have access to guns, so they have to use less extreme measures of taking control of a situation. This is normal.
We still have the rare person who wants to take out a bunch of others and "go down in a blaze of glory" - usually to prove something about their masculinity to themselves. They don't tend to use guns, though - guns are hard to obtain here. They also tend to survive being arrested, and go on to get long jail sentences rather than being taken out in a hail of bullets. The most popular weapon for them these days is the car. But this is also normal.
Children in our schools don't have "active shooter drills". They don't plan what to do if there's a shooter in the building. They don't plan how to hide, how to cower in a cupboard until things are over. We have occasional bomb/fire drills where the entire school evacuates onto the oval. This is normal, too.
This is all normal. This is the way Australians live. A nation of twenty-seven million people, with a lot of different racial tensions and a growing resurgence of white supremacists, and with a conservative government in charge which probably wouldn't do anything to stop the white supremacists either. But we don't live in the constant fear and paranoia today might be the day we get shot down in the street by our fellow citizens.
The way people live in the USA is NOT normal. I just think you need to know this.
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On Mass Shootings
Australia recently had its worst mass shooting since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. Seven people (all the one family) were killed in a murder-suicide.
There's a chart in this article on the ABC (scroll down, it's about halfway down the page) which details "Australia's Worst Mass Shootings". It's an interesting piece of reading, in amongst the tragic details of the implosion of a family.
For one thing, with the very obvious exception of the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996, most of them have a death count in the single digits. A "mass shooting" is a shooting event where there are five or more victims. Most of the events recorded in the chart have a death count of six people. There's a couple of fives, a couple of sevens, one nine, but most of them are around six people. Also, since the Port Arthur Massacre, there have been two mass shootings in Australia. Two in twenty-two years. Given in some countries, you'd see more than two mass shootings in twenty-two days, I figure that's a pretty good record. Also, of the two mass shooting events since Port Arthur, one had five victims, the other had seven. Both were family tragedies - murder-suicides in which the murdered were members of the same family as the shooter; both occurred in rural areas rather than urban (it's easier to get a license for a gun here in Australia if you're living on a rural property).
I'm not going to go into what this all means. I'm just going to leave it there. If you want to figure out potential meanings in the comments, feel free.
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(Yet) Another Mass Shooting in the USA
I'm not going to go into huge detail about this one (save to note that so far this year, there have been more mass shootings in the USA than there have been days in the year). Instead, I'm going to concentrate on some things which could be tried to stop these things from happening (or at least slow down the rate of them) without necessarily altering gun laws.
( Detail under fold )
Now, none of these three things is going to drastically drop the number of mass shootings immediately. If you want an immediate impact on the number of mass shootings in the USA, then it's going to have to be done through gun control laws, just the same as everywhere else on the planet. But in the medium-to-long term, and particularly if you have the NRA and their paid-up politicians remaining as stubborn as ever on the issue, then these measures will help.
So start speaking to the media firms. Start speaking to your political candidates. Start demanding change.
Ignore the idiots who say "it's too soon" - as I pointed out above, you're currently averaging better than 1 mass shooting per day. How many do there need to be before things change? Ignore the fools who accuse you of "politicising the issue. Shootings like this are essentially about power - which means they're political from the get-go. The choice to do something about preventing them is a political choice, I'll grant you - but so is the choice not to.
It's up to the people of the USA to make it clear they don't want to see this happening. And the best way to start is by denying these little dickweasels who want to exhibit their sense of entitlement, their sense of personal power, the attention that they so desperately crave.
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The Sydney Siege
The siege is over, three people (including the original hostage-taker) are dead, and the dust is starting to settle. Including, one must point out, the rather colossal amount of bulldust stirred up by the whole business in the media.
When I first heard about the siege, my first thought was "well, this is convenient, isn't it?".
Why was it convenient? Well, to start with it completely buried the MYEFO statement, something the Abbott government must be sighing with relief over (for our "the dog ate my homework" government, this must have seemed like the equivalent of Teacher calling in sick!). For seconds, it gives our PM a chance to look all concerned and serious on the telly, making statements about how the besieger had "a political motivation" and so on. For thirds, it gives the tabloidosphere something to really chew on for the next few months (anyone want to bet we're going to be hearing a lot about Islamic "terrists" from the shock-jocks, the talk-back tabloids, and the Murdoch media? No takers?). For fourths, it neatly justifies all that extra money the government was handing ASIO a few months back. For fifths, it also neatly justifies any amount of crackdowns on public speech critical of the government, "undesirables", public protest and so on. The sixth useful thing it does is justifies increases to police funding (especially "elite" "counter-terrorism" units).
I can't help but think of the last time we were put under an increased security regime (under the Howard government, in the years following the September 11 2001 attack in the USA). At the time, one of the things people were saying was that there was no evidence of terrorist activity in Australia, and all this extra security theatre was a waste of money. People were saying the same things earlier this year when the government effectively doubled ASIO's budget. Will they be saying it now? Probably not as loudly...
And the MYEFO is still buried deeper than a dead thing.
The man who took the hostages, Man Haron Monis, is being demonised in the press. He's already being labelled as being mentally ill. He had a history of violence and imprisonment (according to his lawyer, he was harassed and bullied in prison) as well as a string of charges against him. He also had a history of extreme ideology, but there's a strong thread running through things that this man was acting alone. He wasn't likely to have been part of an organised terrorist cell - indeed, he's just the sort of person a serious organised terrorist movement wouldn't want within a thousand miles of their active cells. But do you want to bet we're still going to see an increase in security theatre to prevent organised terrorist activity - one which will, purely coincidentally, result in a crackdown on "undesirables" (including the mentally ill) and public speech criticising the government?
It seems this siege was the action of one deeply troubled man with a history of violence. But it was still incredibly convenient for a lot of people, and I have no doubt they're going to be exploiting it to the fullest.
 I'm sorry, but I wouldn't trust the PM telling me the sky was blue without looking out a window to make sure, or to tell me water was wet without turning on a tap to check - to put it at its most charitable, his perception of reality is so very different to the consensus one it seems sensible to ensure his statements are well benchmarked against checkable data.
 To be less charitable, the man is a lying liar who lies and who wouldn't recognise the truth if it bit him on the bum.
 I'm mentally ill myself. The majority of mentally ill people are no more likely to commit violent acts than the rest of the population. Instead, they're more likely to be victims of violence.
 What I'm really disliking in seeing a lot of comments about this story in a number of places is the strong link being made between mental illness and any form of socially unacceptable or merely disliked behaviours. You don't have to be mentally ill in order to be an arsehole, and gods above the people making such comments are proving this in spades!
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In Response to Another Mass Shooting in the USA
1) Can I re-iterate a call for the name of the shooter to be buried in obscurity, while the names of his victims are memorialised? This would be a far more fitting treatment of these sorts of crimes than the current practice of focussing on the person who committed the crime to the exclusion of the persons who were harmed by it (and, let's be honest, to the exclusion of the persons this fool meant to be harmed by his actions: namely, all women who have ever turned down a self-professed "nice guy" for whatever reason). Why give this bloke the publicity and notice he so dearly wanted?
Instead, let's remember and commemorate Katherine Cooper, Veronika Weiss, Christopher Ross Michael-Martinez, and his other victims (as yet unnamed to the public).
2) Can we stop demonising the mentally ill for these sorts of crimes? I agree, the guy probably had issues. I agree, he had Aspergers Syndrome, which is one of the autism spectrum of disorders. However, he is not likely to have had a single diagnosed severe mental illness, he is highly unlikely to be provably compulsive or psychotic (i.e. he is NOT likely to have been in an altered mental state) at the time of the shooting, and he is more than likely to be found to be legally sane (that is, he was capable of perceiving the distinction between moral and immoral actions) at the time of the shooting.
The vast majority of people with diagnosed mental illnesses (including the vast majority of people with diagnosed psychotic schizophrenia, and diagnosed compulsive disorders, not to mention the vast majority of people who exist on the autism spectrum somewhere) manage to get through their lives pretty much without perpetrating acts of violence on other people. Indeed, the vast majority of persons with diagnosed mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators.
The issues this bloke had were not to do with an altered mental state, with his reported autism spectrum disorder, with a compulsive or psychotic disorder, or with an emotional disorder. They stemmed far more from his attitudes of entitlement and misogyny. Which leads to my next point...
3) Can we label these sorts of crimes (mass shootings, performed by a single perpetrator, often from an ambush location, at a single point in time, generally without a particular target of preference) as being what they are: crimes of entitlement. I call them crimes of entitlement because the vast majority of the perpetrators for these crimes are white men. There have been a few such crimes perpetrated by black or Asian men. NONE have been perpetrated by women. They're crimes performed largely by people who have structural advantages in our society, and who feel they are hard done by because they don't get the "perfect" life they feel they're owed by the universe. They generally aren't high achievers, they blame other people for their own failings, and they generally "peak" into homicidal activity like this at two possible ages - there's one group who bombs out shortly after high school, usually by their early to mid twenties (and the shooter for this latest incident fit the mould perfectly; he was not even original in his dysfunction), and another group which tends to bomb out in their mid-to-late forties. In both cases, it's because they realise they aren't going to get the life Hollywood promised them they were due as straight white men, and in both cases, their actions are because they think their selfish anger at this "betrayal" is much more important than anything else.
In both cases, these people are more likely to either suicide themselves, or commit "suicide by cop" rather than face up to the consequences of their actions. Again, our shooter in this case fit the mould to a "T". He was not unique, he was not some special snowflake, and regardless of his stated "reasons" for his crime, the status of his family or any of the other things people will pull out in order to pretend this crime was somehow "different", he was no different to the last such insignificant wanker to commit such a crime, nor any different to the next one. Which leads to my final point:
4) Can we please have this discussion with and within the USA where we mention that maybe, just maybe, making guns harder to acquire on a national basis might knock the number of these crimes which occur there right the way down? Because this is a VERY AMERICAN CRIME. Everywhere else an incident of this sort occurs, there's immediate action to prevent it from recurring. Gun laws are imposed or tightened up; rules on who can obtain a gun are imposed or tightened; enforcement of existing laws is stepped up; all of these efforts are made to ensure the next time some thoughtless yahoo feels his insignificance is a massive burden, he hasn't got the easy recourse of taking a gun and shooting people randomly in order to get his name in the papers. Only in the USA is this kind of crime treated as something which is apparently unable to be prevented.
Quite frankly, as I've said before, I'm starting to lose sympathy. Yes, these individual events are terrible. But really, there is a solution to the problem, and it's one which has been proven to work quite successfully everywhere else.
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