20 March 2021
In a recent article about a mass shooting in a number of brothels in Georgia, USA, the Police were criticised for saying that the alleged killer had ‘had a bad day’. Obviously his day was not as bad as those who were shot. The Police were in trouble for not being condemnatory enough in their statement. There was a lot of discussion whether the shootings were racially motivated as they were in Asian massage parlours. An alternative explanation was that he was getting rid of the outlet for his temptations.
The study of accidents or ‘adverse events’ is a somewhat neglected science. The legal system has graduated from ‘guilty or not guilty’ to ‘at fault or not-at-fault’, as this makes it simple to dispense justice. The more nuanced study of adverse events has been mainly done in the aviation and oil industries where a number of small errors or omissions may magnify each other. The oil industry has tried to quantify the probabilities, which of course is much beloved by the insurance industry, which wants to set its premiums on some sort of rational basis. (How many valves are there in the plant? What percentage of valves leak? What percentage of the valves control volatile liquids? How many areas can form explosive clouds? What sources of ignition are there? etc.)
A common analogy used for major accidents is that there are a series of discs with a hole in each of them all revolving at different rates, and if all the holes line up, something can get through. So if each disc is something that can fail, the combination of failures leads to the disaster.
There is then discussion of the environment, the primary, secondary and tertiary causes and the immediate precipitant.
So the headline of this article was an attempt to put some discs in line to look at why the shooting happened. It is obviously a tragedy and totally unethical, but it is still helpful to discuss its elements coldly and logically.
Sex is a primal drive. An explanation offered for many species is that the males try to reproduce as much as possible, with the females acting as ‘quality control’ selecting who they will mate with and when. Male libido is rarely discussed except as an embarrassment to harmony or a non-justification for unwanted sexual advances. The Christian churches have generally had a very negative attitude to sex. It seems that sex is defined as only acceptable in a monogamous relationship, the alternatives being states of either abstinence or immorality. The word ‘morals’ has come to mean sticking to a sexual code, rather than behaving ethically in business, commerce or anywhere else.
This attitude to sex has made it an exceptional act. When a baby girl first rolls over, everyone claps. When she first sits, stand, walks, talks or rides a bicycle everyone is similarly delighted. But when she first has sex, the world seems terrified. With boys it is similar, but there is much less terror. Christian-ethos-based societies do not seem to have come to terms with our basic humanity and its natural functions. In consequence prohibitions and guilts are major elements in our society.
In Shakespearean society the serfs had nothing to inherit, so were not really concerned who fathered the village children. The middle class had money to inherit, so were very fussy who slept with who, and the kings staffed the Court with eunuchs just to be on the safe side. In some Asian societies the men visit the brothels on the way home so that they will leave their wives alone. This also occurs in Western societies, but with the sex industry more marginalised.
So if a man is at the extreme end of the libido spectrum, but due to personality characteristics is continually denied sex, he may become angry and frustrated. This is unsurprising. If his libido is then defined as abnormal, he may be termed ‘sex-addicted’. Is this then a psychiatric diagnosis? Probably not. There is no real connection between psychiatric diagnoses and physiological brain function, and mental illness is often a question of definitions, which change significantly with time. The diagnosis ‘nymphomaniac’ has gone out of use.
In the US with guns readily available, killing people is much easier; uncontrolled anger is much more dangerous. Obviously an angry man is far more likely to kill 8 people if he has a gun that if he does not.
In that brothels tend to be staffed by people who are marginalised either by race or income, it is observed that many are staffed by Asian women.
If one accepts that there were 6 discs that had holes in them, one could argue which causative factor was the most important. The Police may have been keen to play down the racist element. They may assume that the guns and the ‘moral framework’ are not able to be changed, hence not worthy of mention.
Australia has no gun problem like this, but sexual consent is certainly the topic of the moment. A more natural and secular approach to sex education would seem to be necessary, and an obvious approach is to put it into a civics and ethics class into schools. The crunch question will be whether it displaces scripture, which increasingly seems an anachronism.