The anarchist contingent at UCSB didn’t need hip-hop to incite it to recreate Kristallnacht in 1971. We had Dr. Bill Allen, Professor of South American Indian Studies in the Anthropology Department. William Kunstler, defender of the Chicago 7, spoke on campus, along with Bill Allen, the night rioters shoved a flaming dumpster through the door of the Isla Vista Bank of America branch, burning it to the ground. I was sitting in my Latin class, listening to someone in a helicopter overhead issuing a declaration of martial law.
An unpopular war was one excuse for licentious mayhem; corporate apartment-rental rates were another. But the underlying reason for the pathological, senseless violence was the same then as it was last week at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington: bad philosophy.
At least UCSB had the sense to fire Bill Allen. I took his class and didn’t learn a thing about South American Indians. And, from what Bill gratuitously taught us about Viet Nam, it was evident he didn’t learn a thing from his Southeast Asian Studies professor, either.
Examples of incredibly lousy philosophy: There is unity in mass destruction. Chanting brings change. Hatred begets love. Breaking windows is fine as long as they belong to a corporation. Or to the Sheriff’s department.
We’re seeing the third generation of kids with parents who were too busy: kids raised by kids and overseen by the state in schools in which discipline was the one thing that was not allowed.
It isn’t yet clear, and likely never will be clear, what impelled a neighborly social work graduate student to open fire at Northern Illinois University last week. It seems he had a mental illness he refused to acknowledge or medicate. I can only begin to speculate as to the inevitable premise that underlay his thinking and denial: bad philosophy. Social work substitutes its own norms for the law of God. The state and its representatives, not families and church, know what’s best for everyone. Who knows how Kazmierchak’s philosophy drove him to don a mask and open fire? In a post-modern scheme of things, reality and fantasy, experiment and drama and life, all blur in senseless commotion. Everybody dies, and then they get up and take a bow, right? Not this time.
Bad philosophy is readily identified. It opposes absolute morality. It places good and evil on a spectrum. Its adherents follow profligate whims to destroy, while they disavow others’ rights to preserve. Taking their cues from hip-hop lyrics hissed from the campus stage, Evergreen State College rioters smashed police car windows but claimed that SWAT team presence on campus was simply not apropos. Bad philosophy is popular, because everyone gets to be his own god.
Bad philosophy recycles the same dramas periodically: riots, massacres, and the emergence of licentiousness demanding legitimacy, of which the movement toward gay marriage is but one example. Bad philosophy is simply a form of sin-justifying mentation; it will always be among us, tempered and unleashed at intervals.