A fetish (derived from the French fétiche; which comes from the Portuguese feitiço; and this in turn from Latin facticius, "artificial" and facere, "to make") is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a man-made object that has power over others. Essentially, fetishism is the emic attribution of inherent value or powers to an object.
Tuning in on TV or radio, opening a newspaper or magazine or just plain taking a stroll through the city, one can not evade the omnipresent advertising of goods and products we are promised will enrich our lives, if only we purchase them. So far, so bad. The sensoric terror of consumer society can not be evaded and therefore we have adapted to often not even consciously register the advertising messages anymore.
How else to explain the seeming obliviousness to the inherent absurdity of many ads?
Many products promise plain supernatural qualities: margarine is no longer just nutritional, it's actively helping you lose weight by the power of magical ingredients whose name you can't remember, but which sounded just scientific enough to buy it. Yoghurt is no longer a tasty dessert or snack, it's a potent potion to improve your health. And deodorants don't just mask the natural stench of your armpits; those days, it's making you literally irresistable to the opposite gender.
It's easy to mock such claims and deem yourself above falling prey to ridiculous promises, but we have to note that this form of advertisement must strike a nerve. If it weren't succesful, it would have vanished from the tools of manipulation the great advertising agencies use. It didn't. To the contrary, the attribution of traits to products they, according to common sense, just can't possess, is hegemonial in the world of advertisement.
This goes beyond outright claiming certain properties, like the food industry likes to do with imaginary health benefits of their products. Often, the association is more subtle and implied. Try finding a car advertisement that is actually about objective qualities of a car and not about associating a desired lifestyle with it. You'll be hard pressed. A sports car will subconsciously promise you vitality and power, a family car will promise you a happy family.
Entire business models rest on such attributions. There are plenty of myths about organic products that just don't stand up to the actual conditions under which they're produced. Organic food and fair trade promise you to make the revolution purchaseable. You can safely continue your saturated middle-class consumer lifestyle, all that matters is that you buy the right products. This is fundamentally the same assumption that may lead others to buy a fast car to get laid - just with more pretentious, smug moralism to back up your choice.
It works the other way round, too. Certain producers have managed to acquire such a bad reputation or get their products associated with moral qualities, that buying them makes you a bad person yourself. Try, for example, to argue with a common left-winger about the question why Coca Cola is bad, but buying a competing brand is seemingly acceptable. Or take the German clothing retailer "KIK", whose customers have become synonymous with uneducated, poor and anti-social losers to most of the German public - which happily shops at stores that sell essentially the same clothers, sometimes from the very same factories in Bangladesh.
Even those who think they have "opted out" of consumer society and are not affected by advertisement and the mass produced goods it promotes will believe in this very same "magic of things", just from a different angle. Take the obsession with hand-crafted products - which are, as a matter of quality, often worse than their mass produced counterparts. The entire premise of the DIY subculture is that products you made yourself have some inherent quality that makes them morally superior to those bought in stores. No matter the real advantages or disadvantages of a certain design, they are said to have a greater "authenticity".
Human attributes are expressed through goods.
This goes to show that the problem lies deeper than manipulation through advertisement. It's not a great plot to make us buy products. Advertisers merely pick up on a way of thinking that we have already absorbed since day one of our lives as capitalist subjects, that we are nothing but the sum of our accumulated property and our value on the market. It is only consequential that individuals, which mainly interact with each other through the things they have to offer on the market, will project parts of their humanity onto material possession.
That is the essence of fetishism in capitalist society: we have become so emotionally hollow that we have to supplant our own humanity with magic objects.
As much, as the state of the world must depress anyone, who wishes for social progress and moving beyond the constraints of the capitalist society, sometimes there are things that make hopeful not all is lost yet.
In particular, the tenacity, with which refugees and their supporters in Germany stem themselves against the tides of the racist mainstream, is impressive. This is all the more praiseworthy, considering that throughout this year, Germany seemed to be headed back to the dreaded times of the early nineties. Back then, a wave of nationalism caught the German public in the aftermath of the reunification and quickly found its expression in a series of pogroms against asylum-seekers. Media and politics fanned the fires with slogans such as: "the boat is full" or complaints about "asylum abuse", implying the refugees headed for Germany only intended to leech of social security.
Racism in the early nineties culminated in the Rostock-Lichtenhagen riots in 1992. Government sided with the rioters, interpreting these riots as an expression of justified worries and used them as a pretense for a de-facto abolishment of the (constitutional) right to political asylum.
In many ways, 2013 reminded of 1992. The public debate was heated, many politicians on the right (including the German minister of the interior Hans-Peter Friedrich) warned about a rise in the numbers of asylum-seekers and especially the upcoming integration of Romania and Bulgaria into the open labor-market of the European Union was cause for panic. There have also been large public protests against several asylum-seeker homes, including the "Lichtelmarsch" in the small Saxonian town of Schneeberg, and in one case against a housing-block populated mainly by impoverished Roma in the city of Duisburg.
The slogans reminded us of the early nineties, including the parole of the reunification "Wir sind das Volk" - "We are the people", which had quickly acquired a nationalist meaning during the reunification in the sense of "Wir sind EIN Volk" - "We are ONE people". The subtext is that anyone not part of our blood and soil community by birth is not deserving of a life within these borders. Furthermore that the German government is not representing the national interests of the Germans as a unified and monlithic people, but foreign interests. The proximity to Nazi propaganda about the enslavement of the German people by foreign countries or a sinister jewish conspiracy controlling government and media is not a coincidence.
Comparing the pogroms of 1992 and the protests of 2013, even the participants looked the same.
Therefore, the way in which the organisation of the refugees themselves and their protests resonated in parts of the German public must be considered all the more impressive. In particular in Hamburg, large protests have repeatedly criticised the refusal of the local government to grant asylum to a group of refugees from the war in Lybia who are currently sheltered in a church in the district of Sankt-Pauli. Arriving through the island of Lampedusa, Italy had already granted these people political asylum but then urged them to move onwards, considering the desastrous conditions for refugees in the country.
The city of Hamburg insists that the refugees apply for asylum again, at the same time signalling that this would be the first step to deportation. Officials of the social-democratic government in Hamburg consider themselves and their city not responsible, considering the Dublin-II agreements which define that refugees can only seek asylum in those countries of the European Union in which they first arrive. The Dublin-II agreements have been harshly criticised in the past as a way for countries in central and north Europe to rid themselves of the responsibility for refugees at the expense of the poorer (and now: crisis-ridden) countries along the European borders.
There is not enough room to give a full chronology of the protests in Hamburg, but they first started with smaller protests in May this year and a first demonstration drew roughly 600 people at the 8. of June. The group, calling itself "Lampedusa in Hamburg" gathered further public attention when the sinking of a ship overloaden with refugees at the coast of Lampedusa (resulting in the death of about 390 people) was widely reported in the media. Meanwhile, police started a campaign of racial-profiling in the district of Sankt-Pauli with the explicit goal of identifying the refugees and forcing them to leave the country.
From here on, protests intensified. The refugees found allies not only, but very prominently, in the "Rote Flora" and the activist groups organized within the structures of what is perhaps Germanys most prominent Squat. A first illegal protest of about 1000 people at the 15. October was stopped violently by the police, gathering additional attention for the cause as pictures of the clashes were sent on German television (riots are a surefire way to get good audience ratings).
At about this point, protests started to spread throughout Germany. Many smaller towns saw people gather in solidarity with the refugees in Hamburg. Furthermore, a campaign of militant protest flanked the demonstrations, causing property damage to a variety of targets, but popularily the beuraucratic institutions responsible for the treatment of refugees in Germany.
The largest protest (thusfar) occured at the 2. Novemberg, gathering something between 10.000 and 15.000 individuals. The significance of this protest (and the one following a football match some days before that which saw 9.000 participants) is the realization that the refugees found supporters far beyond the "usual suspects" of the radical left and a few humanitarian organizations. Furthermore, their supporters seem to possess quite some stamina, as there are at least weekly protests and the last one, occuring last weekend at Saturday, still had about 1.000 participants. There is also the upcoming large protest march on the 21. of December, planned as a march in support of the "Rote Flora" squat, which will likely become a large solidarity march for the refugees as well.
Of course, Hamburg isn't the only city in Germany where refugees protest. Munich and Berlin both saw groups of refugees camp out on public spaces and start a hunger strike for their demands to be granted basic human rights. However, the notable difference here is, that neither enjoyed public support anywhere comparable to what is currently happening in Hamburg. In fact, large parts of the German public likened the hunger strikes to "blackmail".
There is, no matter how hopeful the events in Hamburg may make one, still a growing racist sentiment within Germany. In times of capitalist crisis, especially when lacking any answer pointing beyond the constraints of bourgeoise society, many individuals will resort to violently defending what little privilege they had been granted. The recent wave of racism in Germany therefore often has a very prominent social-chauvinist aspect, insisting that refugees are just here to get social security and that they are just plain too expensive to be granted aid when unemployed Germans have to suffer cuts to social security themselves. Of course, in such a world view, impotence of the individual is a very prominent factor: to complain in such a way, I must first accept the cuts to social security as some sort of unstoppable fate and (super)natural in origin.
Finally, one word of warning: following the riots in Rostock-Lichtenhagen and the numerous assaults on migrants in Germany in the early 90s (resulting in numerous gruesome deaths) several large, publicity-gathering protests occured where Germans held light-chains against racism. The practical effect of these protests was no reversal of the anti-asylum politics of the government or any kind of improvement for migrants or those perceived as foreigners by virtue of their "un-German" looks. The practical effect was merely a restauration of Germanys image in the eyes of the rest of the world which had looked with worry at a reunited and powerful Germany where racism ran as rampant like this.
The goal must be an end to the discrimination an the European isolation from refugees. To achieve this, we all must be wary not to let ourselves be instrumentalized for the sake of Germanys foreign policy, clouding the worlds view at how racist German society really is.
The world rejoices, the UN security council has reached an agreement on Syria, condemning the use of chemical weapons - without stating any responsible faction - and demanding their destruction. Syrian dictator Assad has voiced his support for the destruction of his chemical weapon stockpiles and experts, which have warned that this is an almost impossible operation during a civil war and that the massive task leaves many loopholes for the Syrian army to hide a part of the weapons are generally ignored.
In short, we have witnessed yet another act in this grotesque theater play called Syria. The weeks during which an American air-strike seemed imminent had already created truly obscure situations. Most notably the anti-war demonstrations, touting the slogan "No war on Syria" - begging the question what exactly has been going on in Syria during the last months. It was a kneejerk reaction by the political left, stuck in an ideological dead-end in which any action by the US is wrong and imperialist by default - and in turn, their opponents justified.
The facts at hand, however, tell us that there is a war on Syria - and it is fought by the Syrian government with direct support from both Iran and the Hezbollah Militias. Where are the anti-war activists demanding "No war on Syria" in direction to the Iranian government, that trains pro-government troops on its soil and supplies military aid, or in direction to the Hezbollah, that has openly intervened in support of Assad and thus provoked the war to cross borders into the Lebanon?
It gets worse.
If we may recall, the civil war in Syria started with peaceful mass-demonstrations against the government, inspired by the events in Tunisia and Egypt that had been dubbed "Arab Spring" in the west. Assads regime reacted with massive violence, to the point of provoking open rebellion by a myriad of different armed groups. It is indeed quite difficult to gain a complete overview of the confusing power-structures in Syria right now, but a few things are certain: there are Sunni Islamist groups, massively supported by the NATO-allies Saudi-Arabia and Qatar. They are, however, a minority, at least if voices of Islamist groups themselves are anything to go by. A Chechen Islamist, for example, voiced his opinion about the Free Syrian Army that there were too many members fighting for "freedom and equality". Organizations like the Arab Reform Initiative or IHS Janes support the conclusion that, as of now, the majority of the FSA fights for a democratic government and human rights.
These fighters receive pretty much no outside support at all. The ongoing war is threatening to marginalize their positions, as they can not compete with the monetary support and professional training which both Islamist groups and the government forces can muster. Already the violent response to the mass-protests had pushed aside many of the more progressive demands, has marginalized certain groups within society, especially women, and brought to the forefront of the battle many groups whose lack of political expertise and civilian agenda is replaced with military skill.
Speaking of military skill: one of the most popular stories revolving around the chemical attacks in Syria is, that these may just as well have been commited by the rebels themselves. There is a few indices that speak out against this version of the story and in favour of the Syrian military as perpetrator. Firstly, there is little evidence that rebel forces had captured any of the governments stockpiles, which are well guarded for obvious reasons. Considering the political gain that Assads regime already had from the vague story of the possibility of a rebel chemical attack, we can be certain such an event would have been made public. Secondly, the Syrian opposition is generally doubted to have the skill necessary to transport and handle chemical weapons safely, something that can not be said about the government forces. Thirdly, from all available information we can conclude that the rebels do not possess weapon systems capable of firing chemical weapons.
All reliable foreign observers have come to the same conclusion: the chemical attacks were an act committed by the Syrian government. They were the most massive of a series of incidents, during which the Syrian government had obviously been testing out how far it can go in terms of violence against its own population to win the civil war. Apparently, the Syrian government saw some necessity in extreme measures, because the war had turned into a stalemate throughout the last months. Neither side seems strong enough to win now.
The prospect of air-attacks, even just very limited ones, had created hopes amongst the rebels that in its wake, some strategic gains could be made. This possibility is now off the table, the opposition to US-air strikes amongst the civilian population in the west was large and the diplomatic protection of Syria by its allies in Russia was too strong. Syrias government may no longer use chemical weapons against its enemies now, but it will certainly consider its conventional warfare, which was just as cruel.
However, the political left in the west will now lean back and pat itself on the shoulder: "job well done", as if an US air-strike on Syria would have made anything worse for the people in Syria and by averting it, there is now pretty much peace in the middle-east. If the political left and the peace-movement in the USA, Europe and beyond were to be taken serious, however, it would try to understand the situation in Syria, try to do what it can to stop the war waged by dictator Assad and its allies Iran and Hezbollah.
And even if it would have to confess that the situation in Syria is too complex and chaotic for it to choose sides, there is still an monumentally vital task that any self-respecting left should adress: the plight of the refugees.
An estimated 1,5 million people have fled Syria to escape the war and they have mostly made it into desolate camps in neighbouring countries, half a million of them made it to Lebanon alone - a country that has less than five million inhabitants itself. This is a truly massive strain on the populations of neighbouring countries, but western governments do little to nothing to help. In fact, their main concern seems to be to make sure that as little Syrian refugees as possible end up within their own borders. Russia granted a whooping 500 (!) refugees asylum. Germany has granted permission to a measly 8000 Syrian asylum requests since 2012. That's the amount of people that left Syria in february this year alone.
Many of the refugees take to extreme measures to ensure their survival and child marriages amongst Syrian refugees have drastically increased, as families sell their daughters to feed themselves. If only the rest of the world would take its responsibility serious, these would be completely unnecessary acts.
Following the recent elections in Germany, the parliament is now made up entirely of parties which have voiced their support for the introduction of a legal minimum wage in some shape or another. The last bastion of vocal opposition to this demand that had initially been introduced to the public by the ex-communist Left Party a few years ago, the Free Democracts, have failed to win the necessary amount of votes to cross the 5% threshold barring minor parties from access to the German parliament.
But if I were asked to make a prediction, I would state with great certainty that this measure, which numerous capitalist countries seemingly have no problem with, will not be introduced to Germany. A general, legally binding minimum wage for all jobs within Germany is too much of a contradiction to German economic policy.
Within Berlins political strate, many seem to have realized throughout the last years that the campaigning for a minimum wage not only joined the Left Party and the Labor Unions together in one front - in a Republic where all parties have categorically ruled out a coalition with said party under any circumstances - but also earned them popularity with the general public.
This is not surprising, considering that Germans have suffered from an overall negative trend in terms of income. Over the last decade, Labor Unions have generally failed to negotiate wage raises that even just meet the inflation rates, leaving even those with secure jobs with de facto less money to spend. And this does not account for those who found their full-time, insurance covered jobs replaced with so called "mini-jobs", contracts that allow for a maximum income of 450 Euro per month and are not covered by social insurance - which saves employers a fair share of their profits.
The restructuring of unemployment benefits in the Federal Republic has enacted further pressure on the working classes, as unemployed Germans now find themselves in an almost surreal machinery geared towards forcing them to accept any kind of job, no matter the conditions. Germany's "Agency for Work" is quick to hand out punishments and cut payments to anyone not meeting application quotas, refusing to accept work offered to them or offend their beuraucrats in any other kind of way. Combined with a omnipresent "any kind of work is better than no work"-ideology, this has massively eroded the function of unemployment benefits as lower limit for wages. It's not an option in Germany to rather be unemployed than to work for a wage that is insufficient in covering your expenses.
A minimum wage is appealing under such circumstances. Indeed, it is an almost revolutionary idea, considering that Germany's entire export-oriented economy rests soundly on the fact that it has managed to keep its labor unions in check, maximize pressure on the unemployed a create a de facto negative trend for its wages, while the rest of the Eurozone did not. Germany is the manufacturing center of Europe, its industry geared towards exports and neglecting the domestic markets in order to achieve as positive a trade bilance as possible. This had devastating effects on the remainder of Europe once the economic crisis hit, but it has stabilized the German economy, at least for now.
But this is also the reason one should doubt the willingness of anyone outside the Left Party to really introduce a legal minimum wage, no matter their public statements. The ruling Christian Democrats are the party of the austerity-regime, the Social-Democrats and the Green were in a coalition when the groundworks for Germanys current economic modus operandi were laid, when unemployment benefits were cut and the force-to-work policies known as "Hartz 4" were enacted.
If there were any sincere intention to introduce minimum wages, we would have already seen them become reality. In fact, whenever such a measure was introduced to parliament in the recent years, minor difference about its height or its implemention were cited to turn it down. The debates are ludicrous and often just revolve about measly fifty cent differences. But these debates are also a strategy to postpone the implemention of a legal lower limit to wage cuts as long as possible, without raising the ire of the German public, as admittedly harmless as this ire usually manifests.
We may soon see the rest of Europe try to challenge Germany's low wages with cuts of their own. When that happens, Germany will probably turn the downward spiral on the labor market they started even further. Without a minimum wage, it is well prepared to do so.
Last weekend hundred-thousand protested in Paris against the plans of the French government to open up marriage to same-sex couples. France already allows for civil unions between individuals of the same sex, but the now planned law would create full legal equality between same-sex couples and traditional "husband and wife"-partnerships. Including the right to adoption. It is this aspect that, above all, has driven the masses of French conservatives to the streets. While the alliance of protesters in Paris includes openly homophobic groups, many others maintain that they are not against homosexuals, they just don't want them to raise children.
One can not understand this specific kind of homophobia - the fear of homosexuals raising children - without understanding the nature of bourgeoise family.
At the core of many of the arguments of those opposing same-sex marriage is a thoroughly unjustified biologism which, a typical element of all modern ideologies rooted in liberalism, turns the specific structures of modern society into a transhistorical "human nature". The assumption "it has always been like that" is immediately turned into the belief that this is the way it should be, even before the thought has been articulated. Finally, any attempts to change this perceived human biology becomes a revolt against nature, its implications always the destruction of society by eroding its natural base.
But the family as we know it - husband, wife and their own children - is a very recent developement. It was invented alongside the developement of capitalism and it only managed to become dominant, even in the capitalist center, during the fordist revolution when productivity reached levels that even the working class could send their wifes home, instead of breaking with the bourgeoise ideals of family life out of sheer necessity. Before that a family structure dominated the lifes which was based upon the agricultural subsistence economy of the medieval era, with several generations under one roof and no seperation between domestic work and gainful activity. Back then, usually the oldest man represented the family to the outside, but he was no unquestionably powerful patriarch and while christian beliefs secured men a favourable position, women maintained a degree of independence and influence within the family structures.
Bourgeoise family changed this, not least because the bourgeoise family is a product of absolutism. Philosophers of that age wished for the family to become a mirror image of the state itself, with an unquestionably powerful patriarch at its center. Man became the king of his own small empire and much in the way that soldiers and gendarmes enforced his compliance in greater society, it was his duty to enforce the compliance of wife and children. This required smaller family units and the seperation of the generations into different households. A patriarch would likely not be able to maintain the same degree of authority if his parents stood watch over him still.
The second much needed change for the breaktrhough of the bourgeoise family was the seperation of production from reproduction. Wage-labor and industrialization took productive tasks out of the environment of the private homes and centralized them in factories. Productivity of the workers was maximised by turning women into unpaid slaves of their husbands, responsible for maintaining a functioning household for the man to return to. A place where he could recharge for the next workingday. Capitalism expropriated the labor of women through their men. The only problem was, for most of the history of capitalism, wages were just far too low for women to stay home. They were forced to go out and work to survive, but expected to maintain the household all the same.
To enforce this family structure along with its repressive sexual morals, open violence was used. The history of the creation of the modern family is also the history of witchhunts, of rape culture and domestic violence. It is interesting to note that, despite christianity at the center of its society, the medieval era maintained a certain tolerance of homosexuality. It was early modernity which demonized homosexuality and turned homosexuals into "faggots". If you have ever wondered why a term that originally meant "bundle of sticks" came to be a slur for male homosexuals - it is because in some places homosexuals were tied together and used to fire up the stakes for witches to be burnt.
Claiming to "love all homosexuals" like Virginie Tellenne did during her speech on the protest in France, yet defend an institution that had to begin a campaign of extermination against them in order to settle itself in society is thoroughly cynical. Much has changed in the recent decades and homosexuals have in many places fought succesfully for their rights. Nevertheless, their attempts to reach full legal equality must appear as dangerous attacks on the foundation of bourgeoise society to those who have found their place in it.
Worse, bourgeoise family is failing. No capitalist country where divorce rates have not steadily increased throughout the last years, in some places the majority of children are already being raised by single-mothers and, finally, those families protesting in Paris are themselves not living up to the idealized image created in the 1950s. The women are not happy in their suburban isolation and not content with satisfying the needs and desires of their husbands. The men are not happy with their working lifes and most of them can't satisfy the material needs of their families all on their own. All over the place, the traditional family comes crashing down. At least against the homosexuals the conservatives want to defend their family life.
However, it also needs to be noted that the homosexual mainstream that seeks nothing more than same-sex marriage is falling victim to the same desire for "stable families". It emulates the bourgeoise family but replaces husband and wife with a same-sex partnership. The rest remains the same. If worries arise that two men or two women can't raise healthy children, it ignores that this has never been the job of the traditional families. The traditional family was created to massproduce workers and soldiers for the needs of capitalist society and to maintain discipline through use of force against women and children.
Society desires a certain kind of evil: the stranger, the outsider, coming in the dark from somewhere far beyond our cozy, clean and suburban neighbourhoods. The fact that said society itself is tainted to the core by all the things it perceives as moral vice - greed is necessary to survive against competition on the market; violence is an everyday occurence to enforce the compliance of the poor, the women, the socially deviant or those who happen to live on top of the ressources we consume - it doesn't mean that bourgeoise society may accept the sinner as children of their own. To the contrary, it creates a pressing psychological need to perform an excorcism on those who have drawn public attention for their crimes, to find something that excludes these people from the sacred church of suburbia and makes them different from us.
The gunman of Newton, who killed his mother, then drove to the school where she was a teacher and proceeded to kill another 26 people, including 20 elementary school children before finally committing suicide - he's a perfect example. His murders will probably maintain a shred of mystery for us. All puzzle pieces taken together may paint the picture of a man who felt the need to take revenge on his parents and the community he grew up in, but it remains a distant crime, even more so than other school shootings, because many of the victims were so young. I don't believe myself able to explain these events. However, the list of explanations given by others, by journalists and politicians, philosophers and priests, is potentially endless. They all have in common that they tell us more about the people trying to explain the massacres, than those committing them.
An almost automatized explanation of the past, however, has seemingly vanished: "The video games did it." There is a subtle, psychological fear in that explanation, stemming from the technological revolution the introduction of modern computing brought to the economy. Many workplaces became obsolete as computers could do the same job faster and more efficient than humans. It may sound like a long shot from the fear of being "rationalized" to blaming video games for massacres, but there is a subconscious connection: the fear that computers take over our life, that, even where they don't replace us, they at least take control of our lifes. Movies like Terminator or later Matrix where symptomatic for that era. And if computers can take our jobs, surely they can as well command our children to kill?
That era is over and with it vanished the popularity of that explanation. Computers are part of our lives now, part of our daily lifes. The basement dwelling nerds of the 90s have grown up to become parents of their own and they wouldn't dare to blame something they grew up with and which caused seemingly no harm to themselves. Moreso, the rationalization of our own lifes has proceeded to a point where we have begun to accept and internalize all the new hardships which mobile phones and home computers have made possible. We are available to our bosses 24 hours a day, we share all our steps through social networking, we optimize our bodies and minds for capital accumulation - and we download the apps that structure our life for capitalism voluntarily.
The occasional, irrational killing spree remained and so did the need to explain it - somehow. If the shooter is black or brown or yellow - or in some other way a foreigner, the explanation is easy. We won't speak it out openly, western society believes itself above racism, after all. But the ethnicity of the shooter will be hinted on, with a varying degree of subtlety. And society will be content with the assurance: he was different, he wasn't one of us. The Virginia Tech massacre was one such case. Cho Seung-hui didn't just sound foreign, he wasn't even an US-citizen. However, the recent Newton shooter, Adam Lanza, he was white, he was one of us, the child of one of the teachers and a child from the community he committed the massacre in. This has caused some truly spectacular explanations to emerge, of which the insistence that he had Aspergers syndrome is the most glaringly unjustified.
It doesn't matter of that was true or not: Aspergers does not make you any more likely to take your mothers gun and shoot her and her pupils. Children with Aspergers syndrome aren't ticking time bombs with a tendency to violence. They are different, however, and that is the key to understanding this explanation: it makes Adam Lanza "not one of us". We don't have to face our society's very own demons, we don't have to deal with the fact that it was his mother who taught him how to shoot and whose guns Adam Lanza used. We don't have to deal with the question whether or not, perhaps, something caused his anger which we could understand or that maybe we find that he had issues the people around him consistently ignored, just the same way we ignore the wrongs that occur around us still. No, "Aspergers did it" sounds so much easier, even though people with Aspergers tend to follow the law more strictly than others because they tend to view issues in simpler schematics, more "black and white". We don't have Aspergers, that's what counts.
The victims of this public scare, of course, are the children who actually do have Aspergers syndrome and who are now stigmatized wrongfully as "potential massmurderers".
If, however, you don't want to blame Aspergers for the shooting, the world offers you a vide array of scapegoats to choose from instead. How about the German journalist Walter Hollstein, who blames feminism for school shootings? According to him, schools drown young men in "feminine morals" without allowing room for their masculinity and this "broken masculinity", Hollstein claims, provokes those excessive killings. I don't feel the need to dig any deeper into this pile of anti-feminine gibberish. It should be glaring obvious that this neither makes any sense, nor is applicable to any of the school massacres the world had to witness. What makes this explanation more perfidious -and worth noting at this point - is that this goes beyond the need to exorcise the culprit from our communities. He is taken back in, instead, only to redefine the boundries and limits of what's "normal and accepted" in favour of a traditional (you may say: reactionary) image of masculinity and femininity.
There is little room below that in terms of depravity, but someones got to fill that remaining gap: Iranian journalist Ali Haj Mohammadi gets straight to the point on the state-run website qodsna.com and blames the jews. In fact, he claims, Adam Lanza was a jew, suffering from a mental disease common amongst western jews. Aspergers Syndrom drives jews to not only kill children of an elementary school, but also to oppress the people of Palestine. This is worse than Hollstein, because "normal and acceptable" is no longer associated with behaviour and morals, but with ethnicity.