Looking back, it is hard to imagine how workers wouldn't becoming increasingly "disgruntled," and how some of those "disgruntled" workers, reaching a breaking point in the new climate, wouldn't snap with the sort of regularity we've been seeing for two decades now.
The "going postal" jokes disappeared from the water cooler in the mid-1990s, when workplace massacres spread to schoolyards, and middle-class kids started massacring their fellow students. How could there be so much vicious rage in what are supposed to be the most idyllic years of an American kids' life? Privately, in the safe anonymous world of the Internet, the Columbine killers have since become heroes to untold numbers of America's kids, just as they'd set out to do. Like so many terrorists and insurgents, Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold planned and executed a suicide mission that they hoped would, in their own words, "kickstart a revolution." And like many successful terrorist or insurgency movements, they succeeded by spawning an ever-growing supply of schoolyard killers.
Over the past few years, the killings leapt from the K-12 schools to universities. Not the top universities, which seems significant to me, but rather to obviously-second-rate universities, as well as the third-rate "vocational" schools. This is relevant, because in a culture so obsessed with being number one, and where the socioeconomic gap between the Number Ones and Everyone Else is growing so wide that it's starting to take on medieval dimensions, it's the ones stuck in the vast middle who face real existential terror.
Before there was a photo or a name, February 14th's murder suspect was described as a "skinny white guy" wearing all black and a stocking on his head, firing calmly in the students' heads: In other words, he was a caricature of Columbine evil.
But now we have a name: Steven P. Kazmierczak, 27; and photos revealing a pimply, pinheaded grad student with a lazy eye and a vulnerable smile don't match what we'd expected, or been conditioned to expect. It's hard to match "evil" to this familiar portrait of a harmless twerp.
And, as so often happens, the initial reports suggesting racism, Nazism, and evil-personified have given way to the real Kazmierczak: a "fairly normal, unstressed person," as well as a bright honors student. His adviser in Champaign used words like "nice," "engaging," "motivated" and "responsible" to describe him. "I saw nothing that would suggest that there was anything troubling about his behavior or him," his advisor told USA Today.
How could his academic advisor not know there was anything troubling someone as deeply disturbed as Kazmierczak? There's a very simple and obvious answer, if you're honest with the real way people around you behave: Americans generally pretend not to notice signs of a person's troubling behavior because it could only mean two things: inconvenience, or a total bummer, two of America's cardinal sins … and this leads to b). the person who's suffering, in this case Kazmierczak, winds up doing his best to hide his inner agony for fear of scaring away all the golden-retriever-brained Number-Oners (or more precisely, the wannabe-number-oners, the collabos), which in turn makes it easier for them not to notice Kazmierczak's pain.
A Northern Illinois law student told the Washington Post, "The person who did it is a loser. He doesn't deserve a name or picture reference. You're not Kurt Cobain if you do that."
Let's assume he's at least partly right: Kazmierczak probably was a loser, by the standards of Midwestern American winners. For now there's too little information to sort out. But judging from previous massacres, it's likely that Kazmierczak reached a point where life no longer was worth living. His medications are now being held up as a cause, but they just as easily could have been the effects of living the life he lived. As of this writing, the media was scrambling for the name of that medication, but I think even more valuable clues will be found in the environment he lived in which eventually pushed him into taking anti-depressants.