The Desperate Acting Desperately

There was a shooting of a police officer a little over a week ago. Both men involved died, a murder-suicide. It happened in Flagstaff, AZ. I lived there for a time and so it caught my attention. Also, what stood out to me was the story behind the shooting.

I saw it reported by Michelle McManimon in the Arizona Daily Sun. It was a surprisingly thoughtful and respectful piece. I particularly liked that an explanation is given for what was going on that led up to the altercation. Most mainstream reporting rarely ever explains much of anything at all, just leaving the reader with the impression that sometimes people do scary things for no reason other than being crazy or bad.

McManimon begins her report by stating about the shooter, Robert W. Smith, that, “It was the intense pain and four nights without sleep, not the police officer or any psychosis, that drove him to pull the trigger.” The shooter didn’t have a long, sordid history of crime, violence, abusive behavior, drug addiction, or psychiatric issues. Besides having gone without sleep, he “had not been able to eat for at least two days… because of the pain from his tooth infection”

There was no evidence that he had planned the shooting. His friend thinks he had the gun in his pocket because he was contemplating suicide. That friend suspects that, when the officer went to search him, Smith panicked. He probably wasn’t in a normal, rational state of mind at that point. The infection was severe and the pain was pushing him to the edge. As his friend explained, “I know he felt completely backed into a corner with no way out.”

It wasn’t just a toothache. It had gotten extremely bad, way beyond what most people have ever experienced or could imagine.

“His teeth were falling out,” his friend said. “It had gotten to the point where he had a severe jaw infection and he had nothing he could do about it. He didn’t have insurance. He was in severe pain. He didn’t have any pain meds for it except maybe Tylenol.”

Smith put it in simpler terms when he texted to a friend that, “My tooth is killing me.” That wasn’t even necessarily an exaggeration as infections that enter the jaw can easily kill someone.

This is the type of situation we don’t think about happening in the modern developed world. It is hard for most of us to imagine how desperate he must have felt. The reason the police officer was talking to Smith was because of a fight he had with his girlfriend. In his texting to his friend, he said that, “My tooth hurt so bad I lost control.”

He visited a dentist who told him that it would cost $20,000 out of pocket since he had no insurance, money he did not have. The fear and shame of going in debt or going bankrupt apparently kept him from getting treatment.

Plus, he just wasn’t in a state of mind to think straight about his options. He needed someone to represent him and look out for his interests. Simply put, he needed help, but didn’t know where to turn.

Yet it wasn’t for a lack of asking for help. He told his problem to anyone who would listen. He stated it in no uncertain terms, and he pleaded for help:

“I’m too scared to go anywhere,” Smith said. “I (expletive) need help.”

He turned everywhere he could. From what I can tell, his friends offered him no practical help. He had just spent several days with his family because of Christmas and obviously didn’t get any assistance there either. Also, neither the dentist nor the officer gave him guidance about how to get his tooth treated. There had to have been a free medical clinic he could have turned to or maybe some kind of government assistance, but he didn’t know how to find it and no one was making it easy for him to find it.

He was left to deal with his own suffering and desperation, as best he could, which basically meant doing nothing at all.

This case is important because of what it says about our society. There are a lot of suffering and desperate people in communities all across this country. The police shooting part is less usual, but homicide and suicide are far from unusual. If not that, others turn to drugs to numb the pain or escape from a dark reality and an uncaring world, which might end up with death by overdose or else incarceration. Still others might turn to crime (drug-dealing, prostitution, theft, etc). in order to get money or simply out of a sense of hopelessness, which also often leads to bad ends.

Desperate people do desperate things. Then we act surprised when that sometimes leads to violence. Yet most of this could easily be prevented, if we cared as a society. Many developed countries take better care of their citizens. It would cost a lot less to pay for basic needs (healthcare, housing, etc) than to deal with the costs of not dealing with social problems.

However, it isn’t about rational cost analysis. That misses the more fundamental point.

I don’t think it as an issue of people not understanding and so getting them to understand. At some basic level, I suspect most Americans already know about all of this.

It isn’t an accident that our society is structured this way. Such misery and despair isn’t just a side effect, an unintended consequence. No, it serves a direct purpose in maintaining the social order. In a Social Darwinian meritocracy, the losers of society must be made to suffer as a ‘natural’ consequence of their failure. The poor person with the excruciating toothache is being punished for being a lazy worthless degenerate. If he dies from lack of healthcare, that just takes him out of the Darwinian gene pool, as the Invisible Hand of God intended it in this great Christian nation.

The rate and duration of despair shift depending on various factors, but nothing really ever changes. We Americans have a hard time imagining it any other way. We know so much and yet we don’t know, because we refuse to know. It would be too scary to fully acknowledge reality and admit how fucked up is our society. We live in a world of stories… but I can’t help wondering what other stories we could tell ourselves.

725 thoughts on “The Desperate Acting Desperately

  1. You can see all the way to Pennsylvania? Holy fuckkkkk

    I walked with some friends to the site my freshman year on the anniversary in 2012…. it was certainly very moving.

    • Anyway, it’s a bit illogical I know, but I’m afraid to go to the upper floors of the tower :/ It’s not logical, and I know it’s not any more dangerous that any other skyscraper, but still. Oh HELL no.

      Actually, everytime I see a documentary on 9/11, I decide I will never work in an office on the upper floors of a skyscraper :/

      • are born into families with the resources and know-how to get them involved in academic competitions at a young age
        have the good luck to live in a location with a good high school where things like the IMO and IPhO are well known
        are born in a location of the country where sending your kids to top private schools like Exeter or Andover is something that people know about and actually do
        are willing to do a bunch of boring, mundane work (like being president of stupid high school clubs) just to signal overall competence
        are willing to slog through and excel in the uninteresting, uninspiring setting of high school (because clearly your willingness to endure late nights filling out trivial worksheet after worksheet is such a useful skill)
        are not actually that smart or intellectually interesting, but come from such an underrepresented background that they get in anyway, because of how strongly things like ethnicity and family finances are weighed
        have the good luck to write their essay about something that is deemed as sufficiently “unique” and “interesting” by the secretive admissions committees, or have the willingness and ability to just make up a good story because nobody is going to run a background check on every applicant anyway

        To be sure, admissions exams have their own problems. But they’re much better than this “holistic” system we currently have, which lets in a bunch of incredibly boring, above-average-but-not-actually-that-intelligent people. (If you’re concerned that it would be too easy to prep for the admissions exams, then hold oral examinations as well to judge general problem-solving ability, which is a good signal of IQ.)

        Copy pasta

    • I must admit that the 9/11 terrorist attack has never had much impact on me. It was a horrific act, but no more horrific than terrorist attacks that have been happening around the world on a regular basis for my entire life. The US military, CIA, etc has committed, supported, and funded far worse acts than that, both in the past and recently. I have more fear of American police shooting me than an Islamic terrorist attack. It has nothing to do with being more logical. I just have genuine fear of my own government.

      • Meh. I got pulled over a little while ago for driving with an expired inspection (though I didn’t realize it) so other than being annoyed because WTF was I getting pulled over for, I was also thinking “I’m really glad I’m not a black man right now.” Which is pretty bad :/

    • Seems like just more empty speculation. Obviously, we are still fairly primitive in testing for intelligence, cognitive ability and potential, genius, giftedness, etc. There still is a lot of debate about what IQ tests actually measure and also whether there may be many other forms of intelligence that are equally important. Creativity and imagination seem to get ignored in most testing, even though they are fundamental to higher thinking skills.

      • The first link was the most interesting. It implies that there is no clear genetic basis for a gender gap in the variability of cognitive development. If it was genetics, then the same results would be found in all countries. There must be some kind of environmental condition, likely social, that causes the differing results.

        “A cross-cultural quantitative review of contemporary findings of gender differences in variability in verbal, mathematical, and spatial abilities was conducted to assess the generalizability of U.S. findings that (a) males are more variable than females in mathematical and spatial abilities, and (b) the sexes are equally variable in verbal ability. No consistent gender differences (variance ratios) were found across countries in any of the three broad ability domains. Instead, males were more variable than females in some nations and females were more variable than males in other nations. Thus, the well-established U.S. findings of consistently greater male variability in mathematical and spatial abilities were not invariant across cultures and nations.”

        • Now I’m going to get depressed because my gender is like, mediocre because biology 🐎

          Fuck that noise.

          Okay, so what are some possible societal reasons women might be more “average?” More pressure to conform? More pressure to be modest, self-sacrificing, etc? (These all tend to be true)

        • There are lots of gender expectations about social identities, roles, and behaviors. Many books have been written about that kind of thing, but I’m not as well read as I could be on gender issues. I’d be more interested in learning about the cross-cultural research, because that seems to get at the heart of the matter.

          • The links above just bum me out slightly, that’s it. So far though, there isn’t much genetic evidence, but the XX versus XY hypothesis bums me out. Basically the XY is less stable so more prone to extremes. Kind of how X linked diseases are more common in men, some thing this may be why men supposedly have more geniuses and idiots :/

            Bums me out. Man.

          • Eh. For me, it’s because i’m lazy and I don’t like studying to doing homework, at least with any effort. Since my HS teachers only checked for completion and not accuracy I would often just write down BS answers then go outside and sunbathe. LOL


            Okay, this study shows that there is similar variance between men and women in math ability wut. The narrowing of this variation gap is popularly said because “boys are falling behind” though. Some people (for some reason, many of them reactinoaries) think the greater female mediocrity is the truth and evidence of this changing is due to male oppression. Though they also say that people who talk of female oppression do the same.


            Click to access bul-136-1-103.pdf


            My question is, if sexism and misogyny is a problem, why does this result in women tending to score ”average” instead of scoring very low?

          • Emmy Noether.

            Anyway, in terms of STEM subjects, I think work ethic is a big issue, way more than intelligence, actually. I know since I’m a lazy fuck and I picked am major where I don’t have to do that much work or can BS something rather than actually have to study hard


            Anyway I think women feel more pressure between work and family. Our system is set up in a way where it’s one or the other, where balancing is a challenge primarily faced my women.

            “‘I’m saddened by women perpetuating the idea that because they want to have babies or because they are willing to take on the brunt of the housework when they have a partner, it’s somehow “understandable,” to choose a term, that women have fewer opportunities. I’ve always lived alone, so obviously it’s not acceptable that I, as the household breadwinner, can somehow just skip out on housework. But that seems to change for a lot of people when a man – presumably with a bigger paycheck – moves in. Mark my words, ladies who buy into that argument: you’ll be expected to keep doing that housework no matter what your earning power is. The only way to escape it is to hire someone else to do it.”

            Also, the assumption that supergenius resides in the desirable professions liek academics and such is flawed. Anyway I had one of those ”high tail end” math scores, but I’m now a bumb

            Also that comment thread is amusing. But unamused is exclusively siting people like rushton,jensen, lynn, sailer, ey.

            But how! i just realised that unamused is the guy at unamusement park, that white nationalist site. lol

            If it were acceptable here, I would have some rather strong words for your abysmally ignorant, presumptuous comment.

            Seriously, nobody seems to mind that there are very few men in education, psychology, and nursing.

            Actually, that isn’t true – not even close. There most certainly have been myriad studies exploring exactly this phenom and because of what we have learned, we have seen an increase in men in these very fields (though your assumption about just how few men there were/are is also rather erroneous).

            Nobody seriously disputes that men in general tend to be less compassionate, empathetic, and understanding than women and are less interested in jobs that require them to be.

            No, we don’t. But many of us would like to see improvements here too, because this socially constructed gender paradigm is inherently unhealthy.

            Being emotionally disassociated is not a good thing. It creates a real and present danger to health, prevents interpersonal relationships from reaching their full potential and cuts people off from a considerable portion of the richness that life can provide. Of more immediate interest to most people, it also prevents people from having a strong connection to their decision making processes. The majority of decisions we make have a strong emotional component. When we are disassociated from our emotions, we are also disconnected from how we make decisions. The emotions exist whether we recognize them or not and emotions still drive our decision making.

            There is also a growing body of evidence that would suggest that the reason anger, aggression and polarization are so prevalent in politics, is because anger is one of the few acceptable emotions for men to actually express.

            So why is it a serious issue that women in general are less interested in logic, math, and hard science and don’t take as many jobs that require them to be?

            Because the reason isn’t a natural disinterest, it is due to social constructs that are the source of a great many unrelated problems. Because those social constructs prevent people from engaging in careers that may well be the most fulfilling option that said constructs prevented them from even considering.

            Especially when those jobs often require major time commitments for essentially your entire young life to reach to top tiers.

            And this is relevant how exactly?

            And don’t forget that lots of men in these same STEM fields are discouraged or discriminated against at various times for silly reasons too. I know I’ve heard a few “long pompous lecture on something only tangentially related”.

            Of course we are. Like I was – I mean I was totally discriminated against, when I had a passing interest in physics when I was still in high school. It had absolutely nothing to do with my inability to pass even pre-algebra – it was all about discrimination against the menz! I actually had three of my teachers sit down with me to discuss my future and all three of them told me that physics and/or astronomy very probably wouldn’t work out for me.

            What it really was all about, was discouraging me because there was this girl in my cohort who graduated HS at sixteen, who wanted to go into physics and they wanted to ensure she would have a better chance. I mean sure, she graduated HS at sixteen, already having taken several of her undergrad math requirements and with grades that would have put her at the pinnacle of our cohort, had she graduated with us – but I have a penis and that should count for something.

            Girls who manage to make it through primary school, to become women in STEM fields generally do so in spite of obstacles being thrown in their path. They move forward in the face of, in many cases, multiple teachers over the years, telling them they should look into a different field of science – such as the social sciences (which might, but only might account for some of the prevalence of women). Girls just don’t do that…They don’t do it as well, it’s harder for them to compete, mothers have a hard time of it…Blah, blah, blah blah blah.

            If you want to go off on a rant, I would suggest that you learn something about what you’re talking about. The Journal of Men and Masculinity, ironically, is a great source for peer reviewed literature on this very topic. Or more accurately, the inverse of this topic. While it might seem a bit frightening at first, you might also explore “gender role conflict theory”, “sex and preferences in academia”, “gender roles in academia”, “sex and gender in science”, “sex and cognition” would also be a good one – though I would strongly suggest googling these in google scholar, not in a general internet search. Sex tends to include the wrong sorts of results in a general search – regardless the context provided by the rest of the string.

          • I withhold any conclusions. I know how complicated are the contributing and confounding factors. Every demographic (gender, race, class, etc) has different sets of expectations, pressures, and biases. The significance and impact of those will change as the conditions change. Stereotype threat research has shown how you can elicit changed results in almost any demographic by eliciting the impacting stereotype, including whites and males.

    • I don’t know if it has been increasing, but it certainly isn’t going away. It does feel like a turning point. Police brutality is no worse than it ever has been. It’s just that the media is actually reporting about it and people are now talking about it, the latter promoting the former.

      It’s the same with pedophilia, when the media was obsessing about it and many cases came to public attention. It wasn’t a new phenomenon, but the media reporting and the court cases were new. Pedophilia could only come to the public attention because the victims and witnesses were finally willing to come forward, sometimes after decades of silence.

      It is a mystery why a shift suddenly occurs like that.

      • What do you think of the neoreactionary “you’re just afraid of the truth” rhetoric or the idea that science is being suppressed because it is politically uncomfortable/may prove neos right

        For example Google Bruce lahn and brain size. He hypothethized that Chinese people were boring cause the state weeded out rebellious people from the gene pool. Uchicago was oppressing him cause his research was controversial or somethig. He’s still there mind you

      • I look at all conspiracy theorists the same way. They sometimes are plain ignorant and sometimes they have piece of the puzzle, but even in the latter case the one or two truths they may have are buried in misinformation and dogma. The problem is that conspiracy theories usually fall apart under scrutiny, and the conspiracy theorist is never going to carefully scrutinize their own ideas.

        Take global warming denialists. They are constantly offering conspiracy theories about why most of the science and scientists support anthropogenic climate change. Climatology scientists work in diverse privately and publicly funded organizations in countries all over the world. These countries have different politics, different legal systems, different funding methods, etc. To organize a conspiracy among almost all climatologists would be the most massive conspiracy in all of human history.

        The same basic thing goes for neoreactionary conspiracy theories, although they are less extremely anti-intellectual than global warming denialists. There are plenty of neoreactionaries working in all fields of science. And there are plenty of countries that politically and culturally embrace, accept, or allow neoractionary ideas. Countries like Russia, China, and Israel are wealthy countries that do plenty of scientific research and they aren’t societies that are prone to socially liberal political correctness.

        Try to imagine the conspiracy that would be required to suppress science in every scientifica institution in every country in the world. That is impossible for me to imagine. It’s a bizarre thought. How could anyone take it seriously?

        For the sake of argument, let’s limit ourselves to the United States. Also, let’s consider all controversial science. In the United States, most scientific funding comes from private funds these days. It’s been proven that big energy coroporations have spent at least millions funding scientific research in the hope of disproving anthropogenic climate change or else just to create biased research to create confusion in public debate. Even scientists who support the consensus will seek private funding, often so as to avoid the accusations that public funding biases their research.

        As for genetics research, most of that is probably being done by corporations, not the government. Anyway, what neoreactionaries ignore is the fact that no scientist is denying that genetics contribute to every possible behavior. The scientific consernsus is that there are many contributing factors and we don’t yet fully understand how they express in combination.

        The victim complex of neoreactionaries has little correspondance to reality. Sure, there is a status quo in academia and opinion is slow to change, but that effects everyone, not just neoreactionaries. There are liberals who either were forced out or left because of their non-conformist views. It is always difficult to change views, especially when it is built on a larger paradigm.

        It’s because of this slow change of opinion that present global warming consensus is so impressive. Big energy was also big influence decades ago and most scientists agreed with the corporate view that humanity had little influence over the climate, but interestingly the reactionaries of that era didn’t point out that it was rather convenient that scientific consensus matched perfectly with private big money. It was only after decades of research that the consensus slowly changed, and yet it wasn’t the funding process that changed. The government used to fund more science in the past than today. So, why dismiss the obvious explanation that scientific consensus changed simply because scientific research changed?

        What is funny is that neoreactionaries refuse to acknowledge that their views (race realism, determinism, ethnocentrism, etc) are the status quo that has existed for centuries. It has taken immense research to even begin to challenge these views. Neoreactionary views remain quite popular among the ruling elite. The Republican Party has maintained massive influence for a long time using neoreactionary rhetoric. Even among liberals, such rhetoric is able to persuade quite a few. I’ve met plenty of neoreactionary liberals in my life. Neoreactionaries aren’t an isolated and oppressed minority group, although it is true that their extreme views aren’t the majority opinion.

        As you point out, it isn’t as if Lahn has lost his job. There is nothing stopping him from doing further neoreactionary research. There are many superrich neoreactionaries who would fund his research. Many corporations would also be more than willing to fund his research, if he could show that it had any practical value to be profited from. Even public funding could be had, as long as he avoide overt racism. Public-funded research all the time is being done on various sub-populations, including that of races. However, if he seeks to politicize his science, then he shouldn’t be surprised by politicized responses.

  2. I just watched the movie Idiocracy with my father. I’ve watched it before, but it was the first time he watched it.

    This time, I noticed the politics of the movie. I’m not sure how seriously we are supposed to take the politics. Still, the dystopian vision is an absurd portrayal of a particular ideology.

    I realized it was a neoreactionary dystopia, where the stupid reproduce in large numbers and a corporatist welfare state takes care of the increasingly ignorant population. If done as a serious drama with less absurdity, it almost could have been a cyberpunk movie.

  3. Charles Murray’s facebook is always entertaining to browse

    He’s going crazy for this!

    Okay. The more I see this stuff, the more I realize people like him weren’t the innocent, compassionate but un-PC people I thought a few years ago. Murray is definately being driven by strong bias

      • I;m sort of confused as to why he linked the nature article with such glee. It dosen’t really confirm his view.

        He’s a product of his times, sort of. 70 something boomer? He’ll be dead soon. I don’t say that with glee, just as matter of fact.

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