Published on: May 25, 2014 @ 14:49
Posted as a comment on The Guardian 25 May 2014
Something about Elliot Rodgers “got” to me, so I sat all night reading his “Manifesto” (which is really just a very detailed autobiography).
I could relate to his alienation, rage and despair. That is not a comfortable feeling to have, but it is still the feeling I had. Remember, what he left behind was not the face he ever showed the world, but the unfiltered thoughts he kept locked inside. I have always known that I would never be able to express my own real feelings unless I knew I would not be alive to face the reaction. Not because my feelings are homicidal (none of them) or angry (not all of them) but because, whatever the reaction, it would hurt too much to handle.
I have Asperger syndrome like Rodgers. I can remember systematically trying to be “trendy” and trying to calculate ways to “fit in” just as he did through his childhood and youth. Of course I would never be able to describe any of that in detail unless I knew I would not be alive for the reaction . I know it would look weird and creepy, but trying to make that truth somehow more socially appealing and palatable would be like trying to fly a helicopter through a night fog without instruments while wearing mittens.
I am in my 50s now, and it has taken all that time to come to terms with the fact that as soon as they get close enough to see through any superficial appearance I can give them, people find me faintly, and, I suspect, inexplicably repellent, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to change that. I am too subtly “different” and “off” for anyone to relate to normally. My reactions and body language are all subtly alien, and that frightens and repels.
Autistics perseverate…we lock on to narrow ranges of ideas and concepts with our whole focus. I can start a task and not eat or sleep until it is finished even if that takes 48 hours…which is great…the downside is that unless I do that I can’t concentrate on the task at all.
The way we deal with pain, fear and frustration is to perseverate on a distraction of some kind. Rodgers perseverated on “World of Warcraft” and similar and when that did not work he began to perseverate on “Retribution”, building and plotting it inside his mind like a computer game. It wasn’t about rejection and misogyny at all, look closely, he never got to ask any woman to be rejected, his most painful rejection was from a male friend, the only people he planned to kill that he knew were males. It was a build up of alienation, frustration and despair using the complex plot of “Retribution” as a release valve and distraction. (He even combined it with an obsession with daft, but constructive perseveration on winning the lottery.) Until he had to take it so far inside himself that he could not stop.
This will sound like a trite insult to those who died but Autistics can’t comfort themselves with pretence…it has to be real…otherwise it is meaningless to us. He was trying to win the lottery *BECAUSE* he wanted a parachute out of “Retribution”. If you knew how weird and confusing your world looks at best through autistic eyes you would see how that could seem to make perfect sense compared to ordinary, everyday things.
People hurt him horribly, probably without even knowing they had, and he had no social skills to resolve it, and no way he could force himself to cope with the stress, pain and mortification of going back, no way to know how to act or behave if he did…
Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt…that is the hell I live too. The difference between me and Rodgers is I have always managed to accept that as an unavoidable difference, and an incompatibility that is literally nobody’s fault…and “Retribution” where I know perfectly well nobody has ever been, actually, to blame would be another kind of meaningless pretence, so it never crosses my mind.
I am uncomfortably aware that Rodgers “Retribution” may be the simple turning of one different corner to my whole life. I may even know the reason. I had a very abusive family. I grew up with no expectation of the good things in life. There was never a rude awakening, not sudden fall from paradise…and certainly never one iota of sense of entitlement to love, life and the pursuit of happiness.
So I channel my equal rage and frustration into fighting to stop things that are really to blame for harming normal, ordinary people, instead of pointless retribution for the ordinary things that were never intended to crucify me as they do.
Ironically it is probably the part of me that would rather deal with Rodgers by understanding our disturbing and irresolvable common reality than demonising him and raging for simplicity that would never conceive of a personal “Retribution”.
But I am now convinced it would be better if people like Rodgers and me were never born. Life is hopeless pain for us, and a few of us react to that by becoming dangerous to others. Who needs it?
I do not have an answer to offer, I suspect there isn’t one. But attributing the blame to all the wrong things just to have something clear cut to rage against and punish for the release of stress was the basis of Elliot Rodgers “Retribution” and that did not solve anything either, did it?
Excerpt from “Look Homeward Angel” by Thomas Wolfe
“And left alone to sleep within a shuttered room
With the thick sunlight printed in bars upon the floor,
Unfathomable loneliness and sadness crept through him,
He saw his life down the solemn vista of a forest aisle,
And he knew he would always be the sad one:
Caged in that little round skull,
Imprisoned in that beating and most sacred heart
His life must always walk down lonely passages.
Literally nothing would have been able to stop Elliot Rodgers killing himself, and it would have been cruel to try, what we need to work out is what might have prevented him killing anyone else as a consolation prize for a life unliveable.
A further comment of mine from Male entitlement begets male entitlement: On Elliot Rodger, misogyny, and the sex industry
…that is exactly what I tried to explain first to myself, then to others. Why this situation was so painful and enraging, out of my own experience of it.
We need to treat that manifesto with respect because they are the words he hid from the world and only said inside himself. The words he could not speak until he was dead. They leave us rare insight to read and understand, and maybe prevent something like this in future.
My experience was a little different, as a child of abuse who never expected anything good and a woman for whom, when you are young, getting sex really is just a matter of being half attractive and available, which takes off all the hormonal pressure and can mask a lot of the emotional pressure too (and there is your reason why spree killers are usually male too. The impossibility of a release valve for all the hormonal drives. Good luck with finding an answer to that one.).
But I live my life by the acceptance of the fact that terrifying agony of constant passive rejection I live my life in is a situation where nobody at all is to blame.
I am a sex worker rights activist online, you do not like me because I am on the opposing team, that is *normal* dislike. If you met me in a café you would think I was a charming funny lady…if we talked for a while you would start to find everything about me uncomfortable and disconcerting. You would still *think* I was a charming, funny lady, you *ought* to like, but you would prefer to avoid me. The fact that you cannot see why you feel that way would make you look for reasons to be hostile…all quite unconsciously.
That is not your fault and it is not my fault either, but I had to get to be more than 30 years older than Rodgers to accept that much self awareness. At his age my head spun off in some seriously crazy directions no one needs to hear about, they just did not fixate on killing as a release. (Long story)
His head was trying to translate what was happening to him (which trust me, is an unbearable fate to swallow) into terms he could grasp. He didn’t even *LIKE* porn if you look (I don’t either). He just believed he was entitled to what he saw around him, couples sharing experience, making out, and *sex*. If you even listen to the way he uses the word *sex* it should be pretty obvious he hadn’t got a clue how that would be for him, or what it entailed.
He needed someone to sweep him off his feet (the way guys approach women, as they did me. I have always understood how any guy could be jealous of women for not having to be the one to make the moves) to even get to know how to kiss…because he didn’t know the steps of the dance, and couldn’t learn them however hard he tried.
I cannot finds words to tell you how painful, enraging and frustrating that is. Most people never experience it, so they never made words for it. There is no doubt in my mind he is better off dead.
The trouble with knowing that you are better off dead (which does not destroy your survival instinct, your fear of death, or your sense of as much right to life as anyone, which, by he way, is a HEALTHY thing you are supposed to have)is that is DOES shift your boundaries concerning the rights of others.
If the world would not leave him a tolerable place to live through no fault of his own, why should he let anyone else live? That is how it feels inside…I have been there…and there are not many effective arguments against it.
We need to FIND an effective argument against that and build it in to our societies…and demonising masculinity (which is born onboard and does serve some valid purposes too) will only serve to do the exact opposite. Telling someone he is worthless because he cannot feel and be the way your women’s group says he should will not make anyone respect your existence.
Often the killings are the adrenaline trigger that gives a desperate soul the courage to end a life unliveable.
But people, all people, are worth a lot more than being someone else’s adrenaline trigger so that they can get past their survival instinct and rest in peace.