by Ed Gurowitz
In the wake of the Florida school shooting let’s abandon, for the moment, the gun control debate. Not that it’s not important, but experience has shown that nothing we’re going to do or say here will affect it. (If for some reason you’re interested in my personal views on gun control, go to my Facebook page).
Instead, I want to look at something that MKP brothers can immediately and, I believe, effectively address. There is a ton of evidence for a strong correlation between mass murder and isolation, disaffection, what Durkheim called anomie, the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community.
We need to be careful about assigning causality to correlation. At the same time, where the correlation is strong enough, as it is here, we need to pay attention to it. Are these shooters isolated because they’re deranged, or are they deranged because they’re isolated? I say it doesn’t matter – if we can break the isolation, we have at least a chance to break the pattern.
In MKP we talk about the Shadow Warrior way, damaging ourselves, our families and our planet; destroying cultures and killing each other and we say transformation to the New Warrior has begun. Some disciplines of men’s studies call the shadow warrior way “toxic masculinity,” and part and parcel of toxic masculinity is isolation. This outdated model of manhood says a “real man” goes it alone – think Gary Cooper in High Noon – and stands or falls without help. No matter how great his pain, he bears it alone – to ask for help is weak and feminine.
For many men, the NWTA is their first experience of a group of men on whom they can rely and with whom they can reveal their doubts, weaknesses, and fears. For many of us, this came with a new awareness of what it has cost us to bury these feelings and only show anger, lust, and humor, the last often at others’ expense. Now imagine that for some men all feelings are buried – anger alongside fear, weakness alongside impotence – and with no outlet for healthy human expression, they burn and grow to the point where the man explodes in acts of violence.
In almost every mass shooting there was some early warning. While we’re used to the trope “he was such a quiet person,” there are also, admittedly fewer, people who sensed or knew that something was wrong. What support did the shooter have in his life? Did they reach out? Did he have any sort of support system? Apparently not.
With our past healed and our missions of service in focus, we accept our individual and shared responsibility for the future of humanity. I say it’s time for us to stand up, #reachout, and take action. #IAmResponsible. I don’t have the answer; I do think that collectively we have the tools and the power to make an impact. We offer a new way of being for men. Maybe it is time for us to break further out of our own isolation as an organization. We can open more groups to isolated men, provide other kinds of connection, even develop new programs. I call on your brilliance. How do we more fully offer this gift we’ve created?
We probably won’t stop mass shootings, but we can contribute to changing the culture in which they occur. You’re probably familiar with the fable of the man who was going down a beach at low tide, picking up starfish that had washed ashore and throwing them back into the ocean. A man coming along the beach chided him “there are thousands of starfish on this beach – you can’t save them all!” The first man picked up a starfish and threw it into the water. “Saved that one,” he said.
MKP USA Chairman