Over the past several years, I have asked my students to write editorials where they address the problems of society. If they do not propose a solution, they should at least provide a new perspective on the problem. For an example, I have been using mass shootings. It is something that seems to be increasing. Is this because of media talking about each incident more? Or is this something that truly is increasing? After we talk about this for a while, I ask them what is it about society that leads so many people to believe that their best option is to shoot up a place not caring about the carnage (or desiring the carnage)? Why do young people feel that they need or should shoot up their schools?
These are always great questions for discussion because there are so many answers to the changing climate of society and the desperate feelings and natures of the shooters. But, the question is never answered. It probably will never be fully answered. It could be that the shooters are looking for the minutes of fame as media spreads the entire incident all over the world focusing on it for days or weeks. It could be the same reason that so many youth feel they need to take the dangerous internet challenges. It could be so many things.
The other night, though, I read something that made me think about this situation differently. I am reading Intuitive Eating to look at and change my eating patterns and habits. In a chapter explaining how starvation and dieting have the same effects on people, it was stated that research historians have learned that “during times of famine or food shortages, food becomes an overriding preoccupation resulting in societal problems: breakdown of social behavior, abandonment of cooperative effort, loss of personal pride and sense of family ties” (qtd in Tribole and Resch 61). The fact that famine can cause a breakdown of social behavior caught my attention. This is what I am questioning. It came to me that we are a society that is worried about our weight; we pass this on to our children at earlier ages all the time. Is there a possible correlation to this? Granted we are the fattest nation, so some say. But, we are acting like those who have been starved. Are we starving ourselves creating us to overeat and binge? Thus leading to this breakdown in society?
But looking at it further, we have also seen an “abandonment of cooperative effort, loss of person pride, and sense of family ties” as well (61). Is it that we are starving? Can we be eating plenty to fill us but still starve our bodies. Our bodies do look at calories as calories, but they also need certain vitamins and minerals to be healthy. Are we starving for something else? Can a different starvation cause the same results? Do these things work together? If we have a “loss of personal pride and sense of family ties,” could it lead to a starvation that breaks down “social behavior”(61)? If we abandon “cooperative effort,” does that create a sense of starvation somewhere (61)? Is one element more prevailing than another? If so, we could look to see what we are missing to help solve the problem.
I have no answer to these questions and many more, but I hope that some researcher out there starts to look at the problem as I have and begins a research project. I hope that someone stops looking at the first go to fixes that society is jumping all over and realize that it is deeper that gun control and bullying. Yes guns are the weapon of choice, but knives, slingshots, drugs, etc can be as well. Bullying is a big problem, but it is not the only one. If bullying was, wouldn’t more people be reacting as heartlessly as those who have shot up public places? Profilers are looking at what makes up a mass shooter. We are getting a better image of the criminal, but we still need to know what is wrong with society to make the biggest difference. Without looking at the problem of our society, we are only using band aids where stitches are needed.