School Shootings: An Economic Problem

Columbine: 13 killed, 20 + wounded

School Shootings and Stabbings: 1996-2006
School Shootings and Stabbings: 1996-2006

Santee, CA: 2 killed, 13 wounded

Virginia Tech: 32 + killed

N. Illinois U: 5 killed, 18 wounded

Sandy Hook Elementary: 28 killed

Santa Barbara: 6 killed, 13 wounded

And now, Seattle.

This, of course, is the short list of a wave of horrific events dating back to the 1760s and if Joe the Plumber can weigh in on school shootings, then so can I.

Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20, killed in a recent wave of school shootings, says this:

father“I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s— that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me” (

Furthermore, he said “we are all to blame” (ibid.) and demanded Congress’s immediate action in regards to passing stricter gun laws. I agree on both points and while I am not going to engage in the gun-law debate in this post, nor do I wish to engage in the erotics of blame, I do want to explore his statement in holding us all culpable.

Of course there are and have been numerous angles by which to approach these rampages. We can talk about gun-control. We can talk about mental-health issues. The angst of being a young teenage male. We can ask where the parents were or, in the most recent case, considering the videos posted on you-tube, where law enforcement was.

But what I have failed to see (maybe I just missed it) is how–and by no means do I mean to condone the actions of those who resort to these actions–is how those who are responsible are products of our society. We cannot get around that. The individuals who go on these rampages are born in America, raised in America, and kill in America.

They are products of our society.

Since its founding, America has guaranteed certain unalienable rights. Fine. Great. This is not necessarily a criticism of America per se.


We all experience it. We all deal with it. Some may seek fame. Some may form addictions. Some may try to hide from it. Other resort to violence and while in no way a new phenomenon, the rise of cost of lives in recent school shootings has been dramatic.

So not America per se. School shootings of this sort, after all, are not unique to America, just more prevalent.

Perhaps something more…


Capitalism breeds alienation.

Our capitalistic economy is based on competition. Competition, from the Latin com (together) and petere (to strive, seek, fall upon, rush at, attack).

Karl Marx, of course, is the most famous for positing the relationship between capitalism and alienation. His theory of Entfremdung (estrangement), “the types of human relations which are not controlled by their participants and the ensuing results thereof” states that  “such relations present themselves as the separation of things that naturally belong together; and the placement of antagonism between things which are properly in harmony.” What are we alienated from? Certain aspects of our human nature. Marx’s perspective on what that human nature is would take this post too far afield, but let is suffice to say that, based on his theory of estrangement we find:

A) When human relations are controlled by an outside agency: alienation ensues.

School Shootings Since Sandy Hook (12-14-12): Total Shootings=74
School Shootings Since Sandy Hook (12-14-12): Total Shootings=74

B) Where we belong together, these relations separate us: alienation ensues.

C) Whereas harmony is the proper order of relationship, antagonism is what we get.

D) Alienation prevents us from engaging our human nature

Just look at the root of “competition” again: competition begs violence, it begs for attack.

Alienation: American society’s Public Enemy #1.

Trouble is, we help foster it through our economy.

An economy we are forced to participate in.

The economy, Marx’s outside agency controlling human relations.

Unfortunately, there will be more school shootings. There will be more loss of innocent lives.

Will Congress’s stricter laws prevent such from happening? I think not.

In order to really address these issues at work in the recent rash of school shootings, our leaders need to take a good long look in our country’s mirror and begin to address our country’s role in fostering a society that is, in part, responsible for creating young men like Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and Elliot Rodgers.


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