In the last few days we have heard a multitude of explanations for why Elliot Rodger decided to carry out his bloody rampage on May 23rd. Most of these have spoken to larger cultural issues such as alienation, sexism, mental health and access to firearms. These of course are not trivial issues and they need to be discussed seriously in order to try and prevent these sorts of shootings from happening in the future. In particular there are serious problems with how men and women relate to each other in the 21st century; problems which lead to entitlement, frustration and confusion on the part of men, and harassment, fear, and rape for far too many women. I would like to comment on that further in my next post, but for now let's just say that it is an issue that needs to be dealt with.
While reasonable people can and should look for larger issues related to the brutal acts committed by Rodger, I believe it is equally reasonable to leave it at him being nothing but a very self-absorbed and evil man.
For the first few days after the event I reflected on all the issues already mentioned and tried like many people in the country, to make sense of what had happened. You read this comment on the tragedy, or that report of his actions leading up to the event and it makes you think about all the possible things that led him to casually murder six innocent people who had never done anything to him personally in his life. Maybe he was a hater of women so steeped in a hyper masculine culture that he could not live up to that he decided this was the only way to take control of his existence. Maybe he was the social recluse who just didn't know how to form relationships and had easy access to a gun, deciding like so many mass shooters that a violent death could be the ticket to the recognition he never had in life. I considered all of these things until today when I finally read excerpts of his so called 'manifesto':
"After that, I will start luring people into my apartment, knock them out with a hammer, and slit their throats. I will torture some of the good looking people before I kill them, assuming that the good looking ones had the best sex lives. All of that pleasure they had in life, I will punish by bringing them pain and suffering. I have lived a life of pain and suffering, and it was time to bring that pain to people who actually deserve it."
When you read something like that it becomes glaringly obvious that this kid was completely and utterly evil in his worldview and his intentions. I won't reprint more of his bitter rants as I think he has had too much attention already, but suffice to say that most of it is as equally if not more bloodthirsty and deranged. To suggest as many commentators have, that we should somehow relate his actions and his ideas to wider problems with gender relations, guns or whatever else is absolutely offensive and absurd. Unfortunately, it speaks volumes about a sensationalist mass media and the full spectrum of activist hordes that come out of the woodwork to push their cause every time this sort of evil rears its head.
Elliot Rodger apparently had a tremendous amount of psychological issues since he was very young, having been in therapy for most of his adolescence. Yet there are tons of people who go through similar problems and don't stab three roommates while they sleep and then go out to randomly shoot three other people before shooting themselves. His personal writings reveal someone who indulged his darkest desires instead of fighting them and rising above them like most decent people do when faced with deep personal suffering. He saw the evil that was brooding inside of him and he deliberately chose to embrace it, to let it engulf his soul and transform him into an unrepentant, unfeeling angel of death.
His actions need not be explained away or his personal agency diminished in favor of cheap psychological or sociological factors that somehow 'made' him do what he did. He had countless people around him that were trying to support him, even successful men trying to help him better understand the opposite sex, yet time and time again he felt himself superior to any and all advice and simply felt the world was 'unfair' to him. The view that life is unfair, that you deserve better, and that others deserve to suffer for being happy is perhaps the single greatest generator of evil today and since the dawn of humanity. Life is rarely fair and you often need to struggle against a mountain of things in order to carve out a semblance of happiness for yourself. At the end of that long hard road though there is a reward though, a reward that comes out of knowing you fought the good fight and accomplished something of note, that you loved and were loved, not because you deserved it but because you earned it.
Rodger refused to take the long hard road, instead he chose the short easy path of selfish darkness where the only thing that matters is your own gratification and in the process he became a monster that struck down the innocent on May 23rd. Let us not absolve such evil by pretending it is something else, let us discuss societal issues on our own terms and in sober reasoned reflection, not through a lens of confusion generated by a barbarism we can never really understand. The only thing we really need to explain about the case of Elliot Rodger is why we are so afraid of calling evil by its name these days.