Friday, May 30, 2014

A Virgin Forever...

I realized that I would be a virgin forever, condemned to suffer rejection and humiliation at the hands of women because they don’t fancy me, because their sexual attractions are flawed. They are attracted to the wrong type of male. I always mused to myself that I would rather die than suffer such an existence, and I knew that if it came to that, I would exact my revenge upon the world in the most catastrophic way possible. At least then, I could die knowing that I fought back against the injustice that has been dealt to me.
These are words taken from the 101st page of Elliot Rodger's 137-page manifesto. Entitled "My Twisted World," it records a deeply troubled young man's effort to narrate his life. In one especially chilling passage, he muses on the abolishment of women and imagines constructing concentration camps where women would be "deliberately starved to death." In an image evocative of the Tower of Babel, he imagines having an "enormous tower built just for myself, where I can oversee the entire concentration camp and gleefully watch them all die." A few women would be spared, however, for the purposes of reproduction.

What is remarkable about this essay is that it's a bit like the filter in a wastewater treatment facility. Within the fibers of the filter, much has been caught and can be examined. One finds, for instance, an obsession with money. "Money would solve everything," he writes, and recounts how he beseeched his mother to marry a wealthy man. Obsessed with winning the lottery, he dreamt of future wealth and "all the amazing sex" he would have with the girlfriend he'd find after he won.

There is, furthermore, an obsession with power. The final paragraph is telling:
All I ever wanted was to love women, and in turn to be loved by them back. Their behavior towards me has only earned my hatred, and rightfully so! I am the true victim in all of this. I am the good guy. Humanity struck at me first by condemning me to experience so much suffering. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this. I didn’t start this war… I wasn’t the one who struck first… But I will finish it by striking back. I will punish everyone. And it will be beautiful. Finally, at long last, I can show the world my true worth. 
Having been deprived of affection by women, he recognizes himself as a longer. He resolves to establish his "true worth" not by enacting violent retribution against others. As he says, I believe nine times, "I will destroy." His godlike delusions, far from creative, are vengeful and destructive.

I think it wise to remain mindful that these are the writings of a profoundly mentally ill man. There are many reports of his psychiatric struggles and this information is helpful in giving us context for his ramblings.

Nevertheless, if we see this as a profoundly limited filter through which wastewater flows, I think we can glimpse several culturally salient points. An obsession with money and power as ensuring one's position in the world. A sense that other people exist for one's use and pleasure. A desire for vengeance and violence as a means to assert oneself over-and-against others. A will to power and destruction over a will to peace and creation.

We will err tragically if we reduce Elliot simply to one issue, whether it be his "war on women" or covetous and irrational desire for wealth. There are many voices at play in this text, in this young man's life, and we need to listen to them. In this sad, and quite pathetic figure, we can find filtered-out testimony to many of our cultural ills.  

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