by Ed Gurowitz
Whenever there is a mass shooting or massacre, there’s a 98% chance the perpetrator is a man. Why is that?
That was the headline on an article in Time magazine in May of 2014 after the Isla Vista massacre in Southern California. Depending on how you define “mass shooting” and “massacre,” there have been more since then, many more, all by men, so those statistics have not decreased. The question remains, why?
As a man who works with men professionally and who participates actively with MKP, this question is more than a little disturbing to me. MKP offers men healing, and by doing so, we mean to heal the world, so the question is of more than a little concern.
There are, I think, three areas of inquiry: biological, psychological, and social. The biological argument centers on testosterone, which does fuel aggressive behavior. Also, the neurons of the pre-frontal cortex of men’s brains aren’t fully myelinated until the late 20s or early 30s – the PFC manages impulse control, reflection, and awareness of consequences. Given testosterone predisposes men to aggression, this creates a long period of lowered control over bad behavior.
The psychological evidence is also interesting. Research suggests that men are more likely than women to externalize blame – that is, as men we are inclined to ascribe the source of our problems anywhere other than to ourselves – to other people, to society, to circumstances, you name it. For Jung, this externalization is a projection of shadow-based shame. Women also carry shadow and shame, but in the absence of the fuel that is testosterone, they internalize and when they do kill, they don’t go wild.
Finally, there are the social / cultural factors – a culture of physical aggression, contact sports, and unconscious entitlement. A culture that places expectations on men for self-satisfaction over common welfare, repression over vulnerability, violence over gentleness, isolation over connection, supremacy over collaboration, and disconnection over interdependence.
The problem is that while all of these are valid explanations, that’s all they are. Explanations are interesting, but they have a dark side – they put us to sleep. Once we’ve explained something we may understand it, but we have no more power to change it than we did before.
In MKP, we have the tools to change a lot. We can’t do much about men’s biology, but despite what Freud said, biology is not destiny. The PFC may be not be fully developed in young men, but it still works. The work we do can enhance control, reflection, and awareness.
Psychologically, we teach men accountability – taking full responsibility for our words, choices and actions and for the intended and unintended impacts we produce. And as we carry and embody the possibility of healthier masculinities, we can change society.
By carrying forward the mission of MKP, we can heal the world, one man at a time.
Till next time, Aho!
Out with Gratitude,
PS. If you’re interested in this exploration – I recommend that you check out some of the resources below:
Pacific Standard “What Makes American Men So Dangerous” – http://www.psmag.com/books-and-culture/what-makes-american-men-so-dangerous
The Gloucester Clam “The Shootings are Not Senseless” – http://gloucesterclam.com/2015/10/04/the-shootings-are-not-senseless/
Jackson Katz : “Why Violence Against Women is a Men’s Issue” :: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/jackson-katzs-ted-talk-gender-violence-video_n_3238956.html
Michael Kimmel : “Guyland” – http://www.amazon.com/Guyland-Perilous-World-Where-Become/dp/0060831359
Voice Male Magazine : Published by Rob Okun – http://voicemalemagazine.org/
AMSA : The American Men’s Studies Association – http://mensstudies.org/