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On Smelling Death

Like many, I often ponder the evil of mass shootings and other killings. Mass murder is mass murder in a sense, but something like an Islamic terrorist attack has a specific religious/political motivation. Other types of mass murder and suicide defy a clear explanation.

Here is a profound article that sheds light on the seemly baseless killings we have seen in the U.S., not only in terms of mass shootings, but also self-abuse like suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism, overeating, etc.

Our society has been working hard to oppose traditional moral norms and behavioral limits to promote limitless freedom, mostly in the realm of human sexuality. At the same time we promise inclusion and celebrate professional success. Where does this leave many Americans who are treading water or are about to drown in terms of their finances or their relationships?

If we are selling a world of limitless and misguided freedom “to be the best you can be,” all failures must be your own fault or someone else’s fault. If you are a minority you must be victim of racism. If a woman, it’s sexism that holds you back. Even if you were born a “privileged” white male, you can still be a victim of Corporate America or Big Government. Based on this and without God in your life to stabilize it, I can fathom a desperate struggle between deep self-loathing that results in self-killing, or deep resentment that causes someone to “snap” and kill others.

As the article puts it…

“..we toggle between desperate struggles for success and resentful demands for retribution.”

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Ben Butera

Ben Butera is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and currently a Solutions Development Manager for a global 500 company. In 2010 he was certified as an instructor and Program Leader for his company’s initiative in analytical problem solving and decision making. In 2016 his first book was published entitled "Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens". Ben is also co-author of “Two Catholic Men and a Blog”; a blog about Catholic faith and reason. He is a religious education catechist, a husband, a father and lives with his loving wife and three children in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

9 Comments

  1. A thing to keep in mind for both the alcoholism and over-eating claims– these are both very popular scapegoats when people just die. My sister’s first autopsy specifically mentioned there was no sign of alcohol abuse; the final death certificate claimed alcohol abuse as cause of death. (Part of a many months backlog which was– amazingly!– completed in the last few days before Christmas break, the last work days of the year.)

    A frequent complaint from friends and relatives with long-term health issues is that they went to doctors for years with symptoms and got little or no help– gained weight as a result of those problems, and were then told that the weight had CAUSED the symptoms. From memory, most of those that ever got resolved were hormone problems– either thyroid or female reproductive system.

    When I was a kid, I couldn’t figure out why my mom got grumpy about the cause of death listed for various elderly people, because wasn’t it a good thing to know what caused their death? Now, I understand, because if you don’t describe the “problem” correctly, you’re going to get the wrong “solution.” The illusion of control involved in attributing every death to a specific, preventable cause is an illusion. Humans aren’t immortal. We eventually do wear out, or just randomly break, without one of the secular sins like “bad diet” or “didn’t exercise enough” or “didn’t get a flu shot” being to blame.
    *********

    A significant chunk of the overdose problem is accidental, too–not counting that which is disguised suicides. There’s a fad among street-dealers to add that synthetic opioid stuff to even pot, to try to get people hooked more effectively, and it’s seriously dangerous stuff.

    *******

    The guy is right about the sickness being in us, though.
    I make these other points because truth is important, and I’ve seen way too many folks driven away from it because of mistakes/misplaced trust being exposed.

  2. Regarding alcoholism, drug addiction and compulsive overeating, I recommend the following:

    Alcoholics Anonymous – http://www.aa.org
    Narcotics Anonymous – http://www.na.org
    Overeaters Anonymous – http://www.oa.org

    Yes, there is even a Sexaholics Anonymous – http://www.sa.org. Both my first AA sponsor, and his sponsor a Franciscan priest and my priest confessor, threatened to send me there as well if I didn’t start working on my defects of character in that area. They said I needed all the help I could get. 😉

    Thankfully the Program works but only if you work it.

  3. It is no longer possible to seek a middling fortune by hard work of the hands. Men of my dad’s generation could leave high school (diploma or not) and get something by dint of hard work and perseverance: not always a great house, but a house; not always a great car, but a car. They could (with a struggle, which they accepted as it led somewhere) raise a family, working the assembly line, running small farms or working at stores.
    Now without a tech or finance degree you can’t make anything at all. You risk being a perpetual serf, locked into low-paying service jobs (when you can find them). Yes, the highly talented can make their mark, but not every hard-working person is highly talented and never had to be before this generation. Even the average college degree no longer opens doors the way it once did – and sometimes there’s no “door” there. Even for those with talent society’s appetite for doctors, lawyers and even engineers is not unlimited. And even professions that still can get you a middling salary don’t offer the independence they once did, not when you can be fired for the “wrong’ opinions in so many places.
    So the economy tells these poor souls, these men of middling talents: “You’re nothing unless you can be a Jeff Bezos – and since YOU obviously can’t, you’re just clinger, deplorable, etc. for resenting your condition. We don’t need you and we don’t want you. Anything you could do, this machine or cheap foreigner can do just as well.”

  4. Tom Byrne is correct about companies nowadays. I cannot reveal details about mine in a public forum because it will become obvious where I work. But it’s thoroughly and completely liberal progressive feminist through and through. Young millennial feminist snowflakes get ahead, and those with decades of experience are ignored and marginalized for no other reason than being middle aged white men.

  5. Tom Byrne-

    Soon to be six kids, homeschooling, two cars, own the house, not on any programs, no college degrees. It is possible. Biggest thing is being able to move to where the jobs are, and keeping a clean nose.
    Biggest thing pulling folks back is that they’re shoved into college degrees, with the expectation that there is such a thing as an “average” college degree, then they’re left with no useful skills, high debt and what amounts to a very expensive high school diploma.

    And if they’re like I was, they would’ve been HAPPIER

  6. No to be over simplistic, but…
    “There is need of only one thing…” (Lk 10:42)
    “…seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.” (Lk 12:31)

  7. Foxfier:
    There are some ways out of the dilemma, yes, but nobody tells kids in high school about them because we (and I taught high school in California for 25 years) have to push college for all. I’ve seen colleagues chastised by counseling departments for telling students otherwise. It’s ironic because James Bryant Conant pushed super-sized high schools in the 1940-1950s precisely so kids of different talents could pursue college or career goals under the same roof. Talk to a kid about vocational ed and you could be called a racist or classist or some other “-ist” by the academics. These people (like their Progressive forebears) live in a sealed, middle class bubble where nobody (except the ‘help”) works with their hands and can’t imagine another life. I’m coming to believe in my old age that they at least suspect successful working folks of being unreliable liberal voters: that they’ll get more Democrats in office with the college-educated and the dependent poor.

  8. Not being promoted by schools is not the same as impossible, though. I know they’re psycho because I escaped them, and didn’t go for college because I realized there wasn’t anything I wanted to do enough to face more years in school.

    One way to fix it is to be loud about it being entirely successful to succeed by getting SKILLS, rather than a college degree in something you don’t care about.
    Even just supporting that Dirty Jobs dude.

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