June 2, 2014

Elliot Rodger’s Loneliness is a Symptom of the Digital Age.


In the aftermath of Elliot Rodger’s shooting spree in Isla Vista California, the father of one of the murdered victims cried out in his public plea, “Why did Chris Die?”

He goes on to elaborate that the reason his son was murdered was because of “craven politicians” and the “N.R.A.,”  but I don’t think that’s the real reason why his son was murdered.

We can spin this into a discussion about gun control and violence in society—and rightfully so—but it does not address the true, emotional root of the story.

His son died because the murderer, Elliot Rodger, had un-dealt with emotional trauma, which surfaced as anger, sadness and loneliness. He took out his anger on innocent people, so that his broken heart could finally be heard by the world.

I would say to Richard Martinez, the father of the slain Christopher Martinez, that the reason why his son died is because we live in a culture of loneliness, a culture of people stuck behind computer screens and smartphone screens.

I am not here to condone or apologize for the horrific and demented atrocities committed by Elliot Rodger; I am here simply to say that his actions never would have taken place had he grown up surrounded by a loving community of supportive people, and deeply connected, heartfelt relationships that bolstered his sense of belonging in the world.

In Elliot’s YouTube videos that he posted hours prior to his murderous rampage, he reiterates again and again his basic grievances: he was lonely, he was a virgin, no woman wanted to be with him, he had never been kissed or had sex, and he was angry with the world because women went after douche bags instead of a “supreme gentleman” like him.

Putting aside the obvious conclusion that he had some screws loose and was mentally ill, and had a problem cultivating empathy for other humans and their lives, let’s look at his emotional grievances.

I believe that the most fundamentally basic of all human needs, besides food and water, is to love and to be loved; we human beings need to feel connected to each other. Being loved enables us to feel that our lives have meaning, that we have people who care about and support us—that there are people who will hold us.

Loving other people enables us to develop compassion, empathy and care for other people’s needs and emotions. When human beings live a lonely life in a vacuum of this most crucial of human needs, we become emotionally disconnected. We no longer have the ability to develop empathy or care for others; we feel alone, isolated and lonely.

Loneliness and social isolation is often a direct road to depression & becoming suicidal, because people don’t feel that they are loved, loveable or cared for.

In our current digital age, all too often we replace our most fundamental of human needs—human connection, touch, intimacy and love—with computer screens, video games, entertainment, movies, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and iPhones.

We have become a society of lost and lonely souls who are seeking that connection through other means. In Elliot Rodger’s 138 page manifesto, he wrote time and time again about his relationship with “World of Warcraft,” he referred to himself as a “World of Warcraft” addict, using it to escape his loneliness.

The reason why Elliot Rodger’s cry for attention is so crucial is because it is a scream for love in a patriarchal society that glorifies wealth, prestige, ego and materialism, but leaves its citizens bereft of meaningful human connection and bolsters a profound sense of social isolation.

Yes, there is a disturbing quality to Elliot’s story; he could have chosen a different way to respond to his loneliness and lack of love, intimacy and sexual fulfillment with a woman. He could have used the $5,000 he set aside to gather his weapons for his day of retribution, and instead used it to travel the world out of a backpack and fallen in love with a girl from Israel that he met on the beach in Thailand.

He could have moved to a new city and tried to create new friends in a new community. He could have written a brilliant novel or a screenplay that would have built him a new life. There are so many what-ifs. But instead, his mind became stuck on jealousy, anger, bitterness and vengeance—this is the symptom of his mental illness.

His jealousy that everybody else had what he most deeply desired created a total insanity in his mind. I do not believe that there is anything inherently wrong with, or misogynistic about, his valid desire to have love, intimacy and a sexual relationship with a woman in his life.

This is something that every man and woman is deserving of. As a long-time single woman who has similarly spent years in front of a computer screen designing websites, I can understand how the social isolation & loneliness, combined with computer screen addiction, creates a huge psychological block in building relationships.

I only wish that there had been a hands-on mentor for him to learn how to engage in intimacy with women. I wish there had been a compassionate Tantric Bodywork therapist who could have given him a loving sensually fulfilling healing massage that could have opened up a vista of understanding for how to relate with women and move through his fear.

There is no doubt in my mind that he spiraled into a mental pattern, reinforced through years of loneliness and sexual frustration, that turned him completely insane and enabled psychopathic beliefs about women. There is a great deal of discussion online about his shooting being a result of misogynistic beliefs about women; that he viewed women as nothing but sluts.

Indeed, towards the end of his manifesto, he does describe a truly demented vision for the world, in which women are put into concentration camps and slaughtered, and only a few are spared for breeding purposes using invitro fertilization in labs.

He idealized a world where sex and sexuality was abolished because he was deprived of it, “If I cannot have it, I will do everything I can to destroy it (sex).” This is a result of such intense longing for women and sexuality, that his jealousy turned him into a psychopath. He hated that others got to experience union with the feminine and he did not.

But Elliot’s story is not in an isolated bubble, it is a symptom of the cultural malaise—a culture that does not value community and loving, intimate relationships, but instead values hot women like Kim Kardashian and redirects the  attention of young men to porn, drugs, video games like “World of Warcraft” and violent television, such as, “Game of Thrones.”

We live in a culture that has an obsession with sexual imagery of women everywhere we look, but shames women for being sluts, and thinks even worse if a woman is an erotic professional.

I honestly believe that if Elliot’s loneliness had arisen in a different culture with different values, and a supportive ecosystem that meets the emotional, sexual and psychological needs of young people, rather than amplifying disconnection and shame, we would not be seeing this story splattered all over the news. This event could have been prevented, if society’s values were different.

In the end, every human being needs love; we all need to be loved and to have loving relationships in our lives. It makes us healthy human beings. It is not a joke to say that any one of us could die from a broken heart.


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Editor: Travis May
Photo:  YouTube still


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