While stricter gun control might help curb gun violence in the U.S., do not fool yourselves into believing it’s the root of the problem. We have deeper-seeded issues causing these crises, and we need to be more proactive in weeding them out to solve them.
To be clear, this is not an argument against gun control — just an observation of the faults in our problem solving. As long as our society is producing damaged individuals, proper safety precautions should be enforced to prevent further harm. However, it is our job as a society to look beyond reactionary solutions and be more proactive in finding the origin of the damage.
Humans are social creatures. We have survived the trials of evolution through camaraderie and community. The burden of our awareness is a heavy one, and we cannot carry it alone. We all rely on our communities to relate, collaborate and nurture each other — to feel like we’re a part of something larger than ourselves. Those communities are failing us. Too many people are socially isolated, living in a world that emphasizes individualism over communal cohesion.
America was founded on ideas of individual liberty — a beautiful idea.
But with time and extensive cultural re-enforcement, that paradigm has begun to decay into rampant individualism. We now live in a community of individuals, taught to fend for themselves, overlooking the needs of others. Communal support and empathy are no longer social expectations.
Social isolation is an epidemic in America. People are forced to seek out their own support networks — and in the depths of depression, that can be an uphill battle. Children who are brought up without healthy networks are too often the ones to slip through the holes of our loosely knit community net. Troubled and with no resources or support to help reintegrate them, trust and empathy for others slips away.
Social isolation has clear negative effects on physical health, cognition and emotional well-being. Study after study reinforces these claims. But, as a society we don’t question our cultural direction as being the cause of all of this violence and mental despair.
To begin healing our communities we need to shed the paradigm of rampant individualism and focus on rebuilding our cohesion — strengthening the bonds between individuals to reinstate humanity’s natural defenses against isolation.
How can we do this?
We can start by ending the educational budget cuts that have been sweeping across our nation. Public funding for more after school programs, more school counselors, and teachers trained to look for signs of isolated children.
We must end the stigma on mental health issues. The mind is an organ and can get sick just like the physical body. It can also get better. An emphasis needs to be made on care, NOT further isolation.
We need to strengthen the institutions in our society that emphasize social cohesion. Educate our children on the importance of a strong community and empathy for their fellow persons.
It’s a long road ahead and while preventative measures such as stricter gun control are important, we need to begin the process of understanding and solving the social failures at the root of the issue.