There's something wrong with the society

We had another shootout in Finland, and this time the number of casualties is even higher: 11 dead (including the gunman). I wont try to make any excuses. The fact is that there is something wrong with the society.

The interesting thing is that all the people who have done something like this (Gerdt, Auvinen and Saari) are all people who lived through the early-nineties recession when they were young. It could be that it turned them in to what they are.

Anyway, there are tangible things that the society and the government can do to fix the problem. It wont be easy, but it will result in a better society.

Increased resources for work on mental health.

Ever since the recession in the early nineties, the resources directed at mental health have been cut back. Which is bad, since that was when they were needed the most. Finland has recovered exceptionally well from the recession, but the funding that were taken from mental health was not given back. So we have a situation where crazy people walk the streets because they do not get proper treatment in time. Hell, back in August there was a case in Kerava (pretty close to where I live) where this 18.year old (or so) guy stabbed a younger girl to death. He had seeked help for his mental problems, but he was told that due to limited resources, he could get an appointment several months away, no sooner. End-result: A stabbed girl. This is totally unacceptable.

Schools need to be given resources to employ psychologists and curators that have the time and resources to actually talk with the students. They could have a monthly talk with each student, just to check how they are doing and that everything is OK with their lives.

Also, the class-sizes should be made smaller, so teachers have adequate time and energy to give to each student. With dozens of students per class, paying attention to each student becomes harder and harder.

Increased sense of community

This is the easiest thing to do, and the hardest. This doesn't really involve any money (well, maybe a little) or anything like that, so it's easy. But it's hard because it means change in people's attitudes. Finland is a pretty introvert society in many ways. We place high value on respecting other peoples privacy. And sometimes that means that people could become isolated misantrophes and people around him wouldn't notice anything. We need to change that. We need to make people feel part of the community, as opposed to having a community of isolated individuals. People need to feel that there are people around him that can help him when needed, and we need to pay more attention to the people around us.

The three people who have done something like this in Finland were all loners and introverts. Some of them were also victims of teasing at school. We need to change this. We need to foster a sense of involvement among people and we need to have absolute zero tolerance for bullying and teasing.

Also, to increase the sense of community, we should re-think the way our schools are arranged. The change from primary to secondary education can be quite a shock, and that takes place at the age when the one thing you really need, is stability. In Finland, when you move from primary to secondary, you get a brand-new class with new classmates. Everything is mixed up. Instead of doing that, what if we try to preserve the class that existed in the primary? So even though you would be in a new school, the classmates around you would be mostly the same as before. You would then have same classmates from ages 7 to 15. If possible, the class should be preserved in high-school as well.

What NOT to do

As before, close to half of the discussion so far has been about increased gun-control. While that might seem like a quick solution to the problem, it's not. We should not waste our time talking about what tool the killer happened to use, we should be focusing our time to think WHY the killer did what he did, and how we could prevent it. Taking away the tool does not take away the desire to kill others. If he has no gun, he will use some other tool (like Gerdt did at Myyrmanni, or how the Akihibara killer did in Japan).

Not only is the talk about the tool a waste of time, it distract us from the real issue. At worst, we might have a situation where gun-control is increased, but mental-health work etc. gets no additional resources. Politicians and people would then think "there, by removing guns we removed the problem. good work everyone!". Yes, we might not have shootouts anymore. What we would get instead is stabbings, arsons, hit 'n runs etc. We are doing all of us a huge disservice when we allow ourselves to be distracted like this.

What about the politicians?

Well, communal-elections are coming up. But the thing is that there isn't really a party who has profiled itself as being focused on these issues. Well, maybe the Christian-Democrats, but I won't vote them out of principle. Voting them would bring along all that fundie-baggage that I have no desire to support. Mrs. and I actually joked that we should start a "Family Party" that focuses on issues like these, without bothering itself with religion and all that other crap.

Of course, the "Family Party" would have the risk of being perceived as a "Think of the children!"-party...


Anonymous said...

While I agree with the first half of your post, I think that gun control has to be part of the solution.

I see nothing wrong with requiring mental health evaluations as a requirement for a gun purchase.

If Saari had a knife, how many people could he have killed? The lethality of firearms means that their owners must face more scrutiny.

I live in the US and too many innocent people have died simply because the mentally unstable are allowed to own guns.


Janne said...

"While I agree with the first half of your post, I think that gun control has to be part of the solution."

I don't think so. Gerdt didn't use firearms at all, and he caused a mayhem (7 dead, 166 injured). Akihibara-killer used a car and a knife, and he killed 7 and injured 10. In Osaka, a knife-using killer killed 8 and injured 13. Those happened, even though Japan has VERY strict laws about gun-ownership.

Point is that you don't need guns to kill people. If you have mental problems, you can kill lots and lots of people with or without guns.

The problem is not the tool the killer decides to use, be it knife, gun, bomb, or fists. The problem is that we (not just Finland, since there are crazies in every country) have people who for some reason want to hurt others. If we take away one tool, they will use some other tool (and in Finland they usually use a knife. And we can't take away knives). If we take away their desire to kill and hurt, we solve the problem.

The sad thing is that after the Myyrmanni Bombing, we didn't really do anything. We didn't learn anything. There were no guns to blame, since the bomb was made from common chemicals. There was some talk about blaming the internet but that didn't really go far.

Now that we have had two cases where the tool was not a bomb but a gun, we do have something to blame: a gun. And lots and lots of people are talking about banning guns. I wonder what will we talk about if and when we have a case where the tool is something else than a gun?

It's sad that the society and the people in it are looking for the easy explanation, instead of really looking at the underlying problems. In Myyrmanni there was no easy cures or explanations so we did nothing. At Jokela and Kauhajoki there seems to be an easy way out: banning guns, and people are demanding exactly that. No-one is talking about the people who did these crimes, they are talking about the tools they used. And when we have our next bomber or next stabber, we will be back to muted silence, since we have no easy way out.

"If Saari had a knife, how many people could he have killed?"

Many. Maybe more, maybe less, but there would still be a bloodbath. And if we look at the Finnish society as a whole, knife is far and away the number one tool people use in killing each other. We are armed to the teeth with guns, yet guns are only rarely used to kill people (exception being these two incidents). In Switzerland most households have a fully-functioning assault-rifle, yet they don't have any major problems with gun-related crime.

The problem is not the tool, the problem is the people.