By some measure violence is down. The sensational home run violence, mass shootings are up, along with the exponential increase of SWAT teams using military armaments and shock-and-awe tactics against living room poker games.

The less bonded we feel to other human beings, nature and the environment the more likely we are to feel defensive and in a completely industrial, virtual, technological society, the quicker we reach for that .38 tucked under the pillow.

Compassionate physician Gabor Mate brilliantly explained in the best book ever on addiction, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, that drugs are not the cause of addiction. If so, everyone who smokes a joint, tossed back a cold one or sniffs would be addicted. Among other examples the good doctor cited statistics of Vietnam veterans, the vast majority of whom used heroin, and yet only a small percentage became addicted. If the chemical caused addiction everyone would be so. Why some and not others is a much more appropriate and deeper question than superficially blaming guns and the stash in the drawer.
Why do some grab the gun and others don’t? What conditions predispose one to compulsively react to certain stimuli with hungry addiction and/or violence and others turn the other cheek? As Gabor puts it, don’t ask why the addiction or why the violence, ask why the pain.

The questions we ask elicit and define the answers given. If we ask, why the violence, we get all sorts of punitive justifications and these become the lens we view the world through, our personal world-view paradigm. If we ask, why the pain, why the alienation, the depression, the rage, the deep, pervasive pressure cooker feelings of self-centeredness and shame, we see others, ourselves and the world very differently and our response to addiction and the terrible violence guns represent differently. One view, why the violence, ignores completely the root cause by placing blame on the drug or gun. The deeper question, why the pain, addresses the psychological, physical and emotional source, the failed development that predisposes one to addiction and violence and not others.

Teacher J. Krishnamurti said simply; ‘the inner is the outer.’ We think the source of our troubles is out there, in society, in the substance. Guns are the cause and we are victims of that. Whereas, he was pointing out that society is in us. The outer is a reflection, a mirror of who we think and feel we are, our social identity. The source of violence and addiction is in us, and this failure of development is projected outward and that failure is the violent, addicted society.

The War on Drugs and the War on Guns is the same superficial, misguided and self-serving, self being the violent self that is society, diversion from the deeper and essential question, why the pain, and there is growing ocean of that alienated, unbonded pain.

Life is relationship. We call a mature, fully developed capacity to relate attachment, bonding, care, empathy, altruism and compassion. The systemic failure of true development, physically, emotionally and upon that firm foundation cognition, one’s intellectual identity, means that these mature qualities are malformed, impaired, or nonexistent. A mature, fully developed system perceives the world through the lens of sensitive care, empathy, altruism and compassion. An immature, malformed or incomplete system does not have the resources to generate these healthy expressions and because of a social identity is formed that feels empty, disassociated, depressed, angry, and this self-world-view is predisposed to violence and addiction. Guns, alcohol and drugs, violence and addiction are symptoms of this deeper alienation and pain, not root causes.

Our failure to ask, why the pain, is another symptom.

Michael Mendizza