School shootings are on the agenda again.
Sebastian B., an 18-year-old school student, ran amok in his school in the Northwestern town of Emsdetten on Monday, November 20 and injured 37 people before killing himself. With three guns, 12 pipe bombs, several smoke bombs and a knife he seemed rather fully equipped for what could have easily become another shooting spree.
According to claims by some of his former schoolmates, the young man was a fanatical player of “Counter-Strike.” According to Wikipedia, with more than 200.000 users the game currently is the most widely played tactical first person shooter in the world.
Absurdly, German politics and media are wildly debating a presumed relation between users of violent computer games and individuals resorting to violence. The Christian Democrats in particular insist on violent computer games being banned – yes, not regulated: banned.
In an interview with the German media, Brandenburg Interior Minister JÃ¶rg SchÃ¶nbohm (CDU) scapegoated computer gaming by saying that “killer games” do encourage violent behaviour and are contributing to an escalating rate of brutality among young people.
Counter-Strike is violent alright, no question about that. On the other hand, the vast majority of counter strike players do not go out to shoot their fellow school students. That common-sensical truth seemingly does not irritate German politicians in their moronic crusade:
“If it really is true that the perpetrator played such killer games over a long period, then lawmakers finally have to do something,” said the deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats, Wolfgang Bosbach.
Isn’t this argument so daft that it qualifies for ‘one beer short of a sixpack’? Let me brush it aside with Sociology Professor Klaus Hurrelmann of Bielefeld University, who leaves no doubt in a recent interview that “a causal relationship between video games and violence does not exist.”
But where from here?
Apparently Sebastian left a message on the internet suggesting the mayhem was retaliation for being mocked at school according to the English edition of “Spiegel Online.” One of his letters is quoted to say: “The only thing I learned intensively at school was that I’m a loser.”
Is society to blame?
Nothing justifies a revenge rampages, whether in Emsdetten, Erfurt or any place else. Yet, Sebastian’s manifest frustration with his school does suggest that something with our education system is fundamentally wrong.
I have no idea how to open up the box of societal responsibility for this tragedy. I really don’t.
The education system can clearly not be blamed for everything. And yet:
As long as
- our school and university system considers young people like modelling material which can be formed arbitrarily into any shape as is considered best at a given moment in time,
- young people remain the playdoh of a system with distorted power relations in which physical and mential violence is normal and abuse is regular,
- ten percent of school students are thrown out of school with no degree, doomed to never get anywhere in this society,
Emsdetten will not be the last entry on the most disgusting list I had to look at in a long time.
What we need is not a ban of computer games, we need a fundamental change in the way in which we allow ourselves to be treated – in school and outside.