Frank Furedi

Sociologist, commentator and author of Culture of Fear, Where Have All The Intellectuals Gone?, Paranoid Parenting, Therapy Culture, and On Tolerance: In Defence of Moral Independence.
 
       
 

Finnish school shooting: self-loathing goes global
In declaring ‘war against humanity’, might 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen have been doing his bit to save the planet?

Self-loathing has been around for a long time. There have always been individuals who have acted on feelings of disgust for themselves and for others.

However, today self-loathing is underwritten by a powerful cultural script of misanthrophy; by a cultural outlook which sees humanity as a polluter rather than a problem-solver. It strikes me that Pekka-Eric Auvinen, who has been named as the Finnish school shooter who yesterday killed his headmistress, seven fellow pupils and then himself, may have been acting out this cultural script.

Online, Auvinen went by the name Sturmgeist89. In the various YouTube videos and the 1,000-word manifesto that have been credited to him, he sent out a straightforward message. He declared that ‘not all human lives are important or worth saving’.

In one video he wore a t-shirt that said ‘Humanity is overrated’. This chilling slogan does not come from some violent Hollywood movie or gangsta rap track - which are usually blamed for sending young people off the rails - but rather from the critically-acclaimed US drama House, in which British actor Hugh Laurie plays a cynical doctor who works in the field of infectious diseases. Indeed, you can buy ‘Humanity is overrated’ t-shirts from the House website here.

Auvinen described himself as an ‘anti-human humanist’ - he must have known that this sentiment would resonate with many of his peers who, like schoolchildren across Europe, will likely have been educated to hate themselves and their fellow human beings; to see humanity as something of a plague on the planet, which is how one leading British intellectual describes us (1).

Similarly, Cho Seung-Hui, the American student who massacred 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech in America in April, expressed some rather mainstream anti-human and anti-consumerist ideas in his rambling manifestos. He berated his fellow students for their ‘Mercedes…golden necklaces…and trust funds’, and attacked their ‘hedonistic’ lifestyles (2).

In many ways, while Auvinen may have been a lone gunman, he was not acting alone. Rather, contemporary Western culture continually instructs people to believe that humans are a dreadful and destructive species. Increasingly, humans are represented as parasites on all other life-forms. Today, human activity is rarely presented in its classical transformative, creative and progressive form; instead, the term ‘human impact’ is used by environmentalists to indict humanity.

We the public are always being told that there are too many of us inhabiting the planet. As I have argued previously on spiked, ‘There is an increasingly popular idea that there is too much human life around, and that it is killing planet Earth’ (3). Having a large family is looked upon as an ‘eco-crime’, while the solution put forward for Africa, and increasingly for the West too, is ‘population control’ (4).

Reducing the number of human beings is extolled as an ethical imperative to save the world from humanity. Is it possible that, in declaring a one-man ‘war against humanity’ and against the ‘weak-minded masses’, an impressionable 18-year-old in Finland may have been trying to do his bit the save the planet?

(1) See Of lice and men, by Helene Guldberg

(2) Finding fault, Brendan O’Neill, Comment Is Free, 23 April 2007

(3) See Really Bad Ideas: Population Control, by Frank Furedi

(4) See Seeing people as a plague on the planet, by James Heartfield

First published by spiked, 8 November 2007