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HUMANITY, SPIRITUAL VALUES AND THE ROOTS OF VIOLENCE

December 28, 2012 · 

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by Fr. Shay Cullen

The slaughter of twenty children, 6 and 7 year-olds and seven teachers last 14 December, 2012 with a legally purchased high powered semi-automatic assault weapon at The Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut by the 20- year-old Adam Lanza is the worst massacre in modern history of the United States. It challenges us to do all we can in 2013 to make this a more peaceful, loving and a less violent world.

Before he went on the killing rampage, he shot dead his own mother, Nancy Lanza ,52, a volunteer teacher at the Sandy Hook school, some said, with the weapons she had legally purchased. She was a gun enthusiast and collector. After the school killings, Adam Lanza shot himself.

This outrageous killing spree ought to awaken us to realize that uncontrolled outbursts of anger, hatred and frustration can all too easily explode through the barrels of easily available guns. The campaign is on to control the availability of guns and assault rifle. Yes, that will help, but should we not be doing more to prevent and change such inhuman behavior and lessen its causes?

Violent inhuman behavior is seen all around the world and in the Philippines, we have our share of massacres, disappearances and torture. We need to replace inhuman behavior with fully human behavior. We need human development as well as economic development. The culture of violence is rooted in unsatisfied human needs, insecurity, exploitation and abuse and it blocks the growth of intelligence, compassion, and positive human relationships. It comes from being unwanted and unloved and having no purpose in life.  Human development is in part, moving away from predominant animal instincts and impulses and it starts with ourselves.

Each of us, to be fully human, needs to think and reason, control and direct our free-will, examine our conscience and know the right and wrong of our actions and have concern, friendship and love for our fellow human beings. We must choose to do good always. Each of these faculties needs to be integrated to a single intelligent whole within ourselves, and for us to be emotionally and culturally connected to family, friends and community and the natural environment. Love of our children and friends in a secure united family where respect for the dignity and value of each one is treasured, is essential for happiness. No child can become a strong-minded, loving person and fully human without nurturing and love. Respect and sensitivity to the needs of others and the world around us is at the heart of being human.

These facilities make us unique and distinct from the other animal species. Animals respond to programmed instincts as we do but our animal impulses must be tempered and guided by reason, free-will, and knowledge of good and right life-giving behavior. This is the spiritual part of us. We can be more fully human when we renew self-awareness, examine our behavior and relationship to ourselves and to others and the environment upon which we, and all living things depend for survival.

We examine and have an honest count of the values and virtues we live by and practice. Also we should have a humble and honest evaluation of our vices, bad habits, and human weaknesses that corrupt and alienate us and make us unhappy, frustrated lonely and isolated. This life examination will help us use reason and knowledge to make better choices for ourselves and in relationships to others.

Every month and every year, we need to do this in order to improve and better our lives, that of our family and friends and community and to be happy. The joy of living is to be happy and we can never be happy if we are unloved and dominated by anger, envy or selfish desires and irrational and violent impulses. All the money in the world will never buy happiness; it is priceless and it comes from living a life of caring for others, more than ourselves.  The bonding of parents and children are the most important to be fully human. Adam Lanza fell short, was he unloved?

Adam Lanza was from a broken home; his father had left after a divorce in 2008. His brother Ryan lives apart. Ms. Lanza, reported as being a tense person, was having difficulties in coping with her son Adam. He had become quiet, withdrawn, isolated. He was a high school drop-out and had deep emotional problems and was unable to relate to others. If it is true that Adam Lanza’s mother, said to be a volunteer teacher at Sandy Hook school, was exasperated with him and had taken steps to commit him to a mental institution or even threatened to do so, that would be enough to arouse extreme anger.

If compared to the good children at the Sandy Hook school, he may have envied and hated them too as he did his mother. He perhaps felt that she loved them more than him. He liked to play “Counter Strike”, a realistic violent computer video game of killing. Then came the last rebuke perhaps and he grabbed the ready available guns, the same he used in the video game and the killing began.  [end]

Email: shaycullen@preda.org

(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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