Over at The Belle Jar, I commented on a good piece about not feeling sorry for the late Elliot Rodger of recent fame for his killing spree. I tend to agree that we need not feel sorry for him. Even as we understand the toxic social expectations for men and the social pressures on men to conform to the standards of the wildly unhealthy Cyrenaic hedonism our society has become steeped in, we must nonetheless admit that it comes down to a choice.
I definitely felt isolated and unloved during much of my teen years, felt that women didn’t understand me or care for me as they should, and had been socialized by my peers to think that a young man’s value lay in getting laid as much as possible, a trend exacerbated by rampant homophobia. If a man wasn’t constantly treating women as objects in my high school, he was suspected of being gay. Over and over, the message was sent very strongly that what men did was to get women to have sex with them. If a man didn’t try to use women callously for sex, then the conclusion was that he was not a man at all. I could go on at length about how deeply unhealthy all this is for both men and women, but I think that the people who have read this far already get the idea.
Despite all this toxic socialization, I wasn’t making and executing plans to kill people because of it so that I could get vengeance on a cruel world that had already given me more than I had ever earned through my own efforts. I grew up, learned how to cultivate healthy relationships with women, and now life is good. I don’t worry about whether or not a woman is willing to have sex with me because I don’t think that getting laid regularly is what makes a man’s life significant. And if that’s all there is to life for men, I would have to say that life is pretty meaningless and trivial, being merely a string of sexual collisions and endorphin releases. Fortunately, I reject that unhealthy notion of the significance of manhood.
I suppose the advantage I had was that my parents and martial arts instructors did a great job of teaching me healthy boundaries, specifically that I was responsible for myself and that other people don’t owe me anything, especially their bodies. I could have rejected that lesson, accepted the cultural messages as true, wallowed in self-pity, and taken vengeance on those who didn’t cater to my every whim as Elliot Rodgers did. But I chose not to do that. He had a choice just as I did, and from what I’ve read he had rebuffed plenty of attempts to help him with therapy. He chose evil even when the alternative was readily available, and that’s why I don’t feel sorry for him even while understanding the social pressures he faced.
In the final analysis we have a choice: treat our fellow men and women well or treat them poorly. We can all choose to be responsible for our behaviors or we can choose to blame everyone else for the self-imposed unhappiness that stems from those behaviors. We can all choose to accept the entitlement mentality of Cyrenaic hedonism or reject that mentality in favor of a morality which truly values other people as being of equal worth.