As reported on WUSA, the President responded with the following:
"We're the only developed country on Earth where this happens.... And it happens now once a week. And it's a one-day story. There's no place else like this."Casting about for ways to understand the problem, President Obama said:
"the United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people."Right. We are not the only nation with crazy people mixed into the population. We are however, to a large extent, the only (or at least one of very few) nations that actively socializes and enculturates our people into craziness. Or rather, into the kind of behavior that can all too easily slide into what we are seeing now, something I am calling culturally-induced psychosis.
All human cultures need to produce people who are both autonomous, independent agents and also willing to participate in networks of obligations and rights that tie them to others in the culture. So, there must be independence training (IT), which turns out individuals, and dependence training (DT), which creates group members. One of the important ways that cultures vary is in the degree of emphasis they place on these two let's call them modes of enculturation. As anthropologist Francis Hsu noted back in the 1950s, one major difference between traditional Chinese culture and traditional US culture was precisely this emphasis: China emphasized DT; the US emphasized IT.
Let's be clear that both IT and DT are required for a culture to run smoothly. Too much emphasis on DT and you might get a society of people unwilling or unable to take risks, unable to make decisions for themselves, and so on. But too much emphasis on IT and you might get, well... the USA.
Put briefly, too much IT gets you people who are unwilling to acknowledge the reciprocal rights and responsibilities that bind members of a healthy society together. And with that, you get people who are capable of carrying the extreme social irresponsibility of murder.
Anthropologist Walter Goldschmidt, in the 60s, wrote that we can judge a culture without being ethnocentric. We can base our judgement on how good a job the culture does of satisfying the physical and psychological needs of its adherents. One of Goldschmidt's criteria had to do with whether or not the culture discouraged crime and violence. On this and other criteria, our culture is failing.