Gun control would not prevent such a horror; the real cause must lie in our new culture
One non-discussed implication of the mass murder of 10 people and the injuring of 15 more on Toronto’s busy Yonge Street last week is that gun control won’t stop random mass slaughters. You don’t need an AK47 to do the job. You can do it with almost any motor vehicle. Vans and panel trucks are particularly suitable: they fit so nicely on crowded sidewalks.
In other words, if there had not been a single firearm in the possession of any man, woman or child in the entire country last week, the bloody toll on Yonge Street would have been exactly the same. The motor vehicle has become a murder weapon. What can be done about it? You can’t license them; they’re already licensed. Therefore, if we want to stop this kind of thing, we’ll have to get to the real cause, and stop dabbling in superficials like gun control. Why do some people want to randomly massacre their fellow human beings, and how do we stop them? That’s the issue.
In the Toronto case, the police and sensible politicians restrained themselves from speculation. They don’t know yet why a man named Alek Minassian, 25, took it upon himself to rent a van and run down the sidewalk of busy Yonge Street for three blocks, zigzagging to claim the maximum number of victims. He was an active member of something that described itself as the “incel” movement, meaning “involuntary celibate” — men who can’t find girl friends– and therefore cherish a hatred of all women and of men who can find girls friends. But whether it was this or something else that prompted this horror, the police were not yet ready to say.
That, however, was insufficient to suppress Canada’s federal minister of labour Paddy Hajdu, one of the more non-sensible politicians, from blaming the whole affair on Canada’s unbridled misogynist tendencies and declaring that it was time for Canadians to speak up and deny anti-feminism access to the web. After the prime minister himself refused to comment, Ms. Hajdu’s communications officer coyly issued a statement on her minister’s behalf withdrawing her comments as inappropriate, given the situation.
In the meantime, the attention of the nation was drawn to the “incel” movement, where Mr. Minassian– or somebody else using his name — allegedly placed a highly damning note prior to the Yonge Street slaughter. After I had read the details and the befuddled uncertainties, not to say semi-lunacies of the “incel” movement, I happened to find on You-tube a very old movie called “State Fair,” a delightful portrayal of agricultural life in Iowa around 1947.
I remember my wife had watched it once and described as a kind of “memoir to our former innocence.” There’s no visible sex in it, no political messages, no views with alarm, no exposé of environmental destruction, or minority oppression. But it does involve, among much else, a young man who is rejected by the girl he very much wants to marry, though it’s plain the marriage could never work.
He does not, however, become a candidate for an “incel” movement. He does not jump in his truck and begin murdering people. Instead, he accepts his rejection, and with that acceptance turns to a girl he has known all his life and wins her. Everybody’s happy. Tawdry, cheap, obvious, yes, yes, but definitely not boring. It’s what we all wanted to happen and it did.
It’s a long jump from the age of State Fair to the age of “incel,” — 70 years, and downhill all the way. We are now living in the New Society. We have not become more knowledgeable, but know far less than our forebears of the things that really matter. We have not become happier, but more miserable. We know more about sex than any previous generation, but we know less about marriage, less about marital love, and far less about raising children because fewer and fewer of us have any.
Our great quest is for what we call “freedom,” but what we have acquired through it is a captivity far more binding than any coercions we had left behind. Such is the paradox that lies within the Christian experience– that perfect freedom may be found only in the unrestrained service of God. But we’re not likely to find that out in things like the incel movement.
Moreover, such social insanities have a terrible way of correcting themselves. And if we don’t somehow recover what we had in the days of State Fair, it will be forced upon us out of necessity. And this will not be a pleasant process.
Ted Byfield was founder and publisher of Alberta Report news magazine, general editor of Alberta in the Twentieth Century, a 12-volume history of the province, and general editor of The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years, a 12-volume history of Christianity. His column on education appears in The Christians.com, a web journal. He has recently authored two little books on modern pedagogy: Why History Matters and The Revolution Nobody Covered. You can order both copies here.