America is no stranger to mass shootings. From cinemas to kindergartens, it seems would-be mass murderers spare no one in their rampage.
However, by far the most prolific venue for mass shootings is a college campus. Columbine is the first that comes to mind, the incident happened in 1999 and took fifteen lives. Fifteen years have passed and we have witnessed the 2005 Red Lake massacre, the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre and the 2013 Santa Monica shootings just to name a few.
The most recent incident to add to America’s bloody history of mass shootings happened at the University of California, Riverside campus last month. Now dubbed as the “Isla Vista shootings”, a 22-year old by the name of Elliot Rodger shot twenty people and killed 7 of them.
As with every mass shooting, the spotlight was quickly on the gun control debate. With the nation split between two factions: one arguing for stricter regulation on gun ownership while the other faction pointing the need to arm civilians to defend themselves in case of a mass shooting.
In Elliot Rodger’s case, to limit the conversation simply on the gun control issue is to miss the point completely.
Yes, Mr. Rodger’s did use guns to kill half his victims but the other half were killed by stab wounds with a knife. But in fairness to gun control activists, America’s gun laws allow for too much loopholes for mentally-unstable individuals to access firearms.
However, there is a bigger issue in the Isla Vista shootings that the media has failed to cover. Or maybe they found it too weak to sell to cover, who knows?
You see, before Mr. Rodger went on his shooting rampage he released a “manifesto” of his own. A 107,000-word document he aptly titled: “My Twisted World”, which he then e-mailed to about a dozen people including his therapist.
In this document, Elliot narrated a story of his life full of disappointments. No, he did not experience extreme hunger nor thirst nor was his family evicted from their home and forced to live on the streets. None of those genuine problems.
Instead, Elliot Rodger expressed his bitterness over the fact that he was 22-years old and still a virgin. (Just imagine what starving North Korean children who are forced to worship a human being say)
Mr. Rodger narrated in his manifesto how “Girls gave their affection, and sex and love to other men but never to [him].” He also hated seeing men of Asian or African descent mingling with Caucasian women, saying that it “makes you want to quit life.” He further expressed his anguish over his failure to gain attention from white girls: “How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves.”
His rant would go on expressing disgust for men of other ethnic backgrounds, as well as his hatred of women in general for not taking an interest in him. On this subject he writes: ” I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime…”
Upon hearing of the details of his manifesto in the news, everyone was disgusted by the ignorance and racism Elliot Rodger spewed out. And rightly so, I might add. But little do people know, the root of Mr. Rodger’s crime is the same mistake most of us have made or are still doing today.
You see, Elliot was furious that women were not interested in him. Yet, no part of his letter did he write of any attempt to mingle or even to befriend females. The mere hint of any effort to talk to the opposite sex was in a paragraph where he told of a story of a white woman crossing his path and him greeting her with a “hi” – which the woman apparently ignored.
Apart from that sole encounter there was none. It almost seemed like Mr. Rodger felt that he was entitled to a relationship with a woman simply for being a male. He didn’t feel like it was his fault at all, in fact he thought it was the females fault for ignoring him.
Elliot Rodger thought that women owed him something, but they didn’t. He thought the world owed him something, but it doesn’t. Yet then again, take away the creepy, racist manifesto and the twisted mass shooting and we can see an Elliot Rodger in all of us.
Human beings, most if not all, tend to feel like the world owes us something. Not realizing that the opposite instead is true, that it is we who owe the world something.
How many times have we held a grudge at a would-be employer for turning you down on a job? It’s annoying, yes, but employers seek to further their business as best as they can by utilizing the best expertise they can get a hold of. If your standards are not on par with their expectations, why would they add you on their payroll?
How about when we go to a boutique and that stylish shirt we want is either too expensive or does not come in the perfect size and we get angry? To be angry would be to think that the store or the clothing brand owed us the perfect shopping experience. Sure, they may advertise that but in reality they are just a business looking to make a profit.
They don’t owe us anything. The world doesn’t owe us anything.
And it is that second sentence exactly that everyone needs to repeat in their heads over and over until they finally grasp the message. No one owes us anything, period.
I came across this brilliant philosophy about two years ago, when I read a letter from the late investment analyst Harry Browne (1933-2006). It was a letter from Mr. Browne to his then nine-year old daughter on a Christmas day.
Instead of giving her a gift, Harry Browne instead chose to impart on her a very important life lesson – which in turn has influenced many people including myself.
The letter was titled, “No one Owes you Anything.” You can read that letter here.
It was that simple line that caught my attention in the first place. It was a short and straightforward point yet held such a huge life lesson. The letter contained more than a thousand words but I will include my favorite part below:
No one owes you anything.
It means that no one else is living for you, my child. Because no one is you. Each person is living for himself; his own happiness is all he can ever personally feel.
When you realize that no one owes you happiness or anything else, you’ll be freed from expecting what isn’t likely to be.
Although Mr. Browne used the masculine pronoun we can easily translate that to best fit Elliot Rodger’s predicament, that is that each women is living for herself, her own happiness and that she doesn’t owe him (or any other male for that matter) anything – that includes attention or attraction.
Surely millions of my fellow males experienced rejection and heartbreak in the past, myself include. Heck, even Tim Tebow got dumped by Taylor Swift. But thankfully we are not all like Mr. Rodger and do not go Rambo-esque on innocent people.
However, we are still guilty of being bitter. Either by hating that woman, hating ourselves or blaming other people or circumstance for that disappointment. Why? Because we thought we deserved that ‘yes’ from that girl. We thought it was our God-given right to have that trophy partner around our arms, that it is an entitlement to replicate those jocks in those cliche high school flicks that drive nice cars, star in their sports teams and date the curviest cheerleader.
But in reality, all that has to be earned. The world doesn’t revolve around you, people look after themselves and they decide according to their best interests. Employers employ the workers they think could help them the most, girls date the guys they are most attracted to, clothing stores supply what is most demanded by the market.
Bottom-line is, the world doesn’t owe us our happiness. We make our own happiness, and that means having to work for it.
That girl you like only dates jocks? Go play a sport and be good at it. That way, you will catch her eye AND be active in a sport. That company you applied for doesn’t feel that your customer relations skills are any good? Go out and mingle with people, master the art of mingling; once you’ve done it go back to that same employer and show-off your newly-found skills which in the process of acquiring has given you more friends.
Aren’t these win-win situations?
On the flip-side, we owe the world our everything. We owe it our productivity, in order to better humanity (and in being productive we better ourselves). We owe it our charity (as when everything fails we become a charity-case ourselves). We owe it our kindness, our love, our friendships and our service to one another – because these good things reciprocate, and it is in our best interests to be the receiver of such kind virtues ourselves.
Harry Browne’s letter to his daughter can be summed up to the simple line: “No one owes us anything.” Yet, in that same letter he claims that it took him “years to learn.” And without a doubt so too would it be for all of us.
But we can always carry that thought with us everywhere we go: that no one does owe us anything. This provides us with a wide range of new challenges to set for ourselves, a better motivation to better ourselves.
It may be too late for Elliot Rodger to learn that message, but not for any of you reading this at the moment. Make the most of your life by making the most of your time here on earth. Start off by shrugging off any expectations you have from other people, because the only thing that we should expect is we’re all in it for ourselves and so too is everyone else.
No one owes you anything.