Why Columbine? Why did the taunting and teasing of Columbine High School, common in most any American school system, generate a violent reaction?
For teasing to be considered normal and passively accepted by the victims or targets, five conditions must be present:
1. The teasing cannot go too far. The underclass of the school society must be able to survive, even though in a lower social status. Even if they will never date the cheerleaders, they must be able to find a date, to function socially and sexually. They must know that, even though they will never have the best jobs and leadership positions, they will be able to find work, to buy homes and raise families in relative security. The hierarchy formation in high school, or before, must determine only social level, not social or economic survival.
2. A prerogative of leadership. The underclass must accept the attitudes of the social elite as part of a larger social role, that they are not simply bullies, but more like big brothers. Along with the right to a certain amount of teasing and egotistic showing off, must come a sense of accepting responsibility as social leaders. The social elite must be accepted as the future leaders of the community, who, as members of the chamber of commerce, county commission, etc., will take responsibility for the strength of the community, and the ability of everyone to find employment, buy houses, etc.
3. Relevancy of the microcosm. The social hierarchy and attitudes of the school must be seen as an accurate reflection of, and training for, the reality of adulthood. The role of football captain, or other student leadership, must be seen as meaningful preparation, that will translate into the ability to lead the entire community successfully. If they are seen as the future Ed Bundys of the world, and the losers as potential Bill Gates, the egocentric teasing becomes meaningless. And if the elite suspect their authority and respect will not survive high school, they will only become more cruel.
4. Lack of any alternative or comparison. It is interesting that one of the Columbine gunmen had lived in New York City. Compared to the street reality toughness of New York, the swaggering bullies of suburban Denver must have been both intolerable and artificial. In addition, the media based reality presents cultural views that question the real world meaningfulness of the school social ladder, both for those benefitting from it and for the victims.
5. Finally, and as a result of the first points, all levels of the social system must identify themselves as being within that system, both during the high school years, and as their expected future as adults. The lower castes of the social group must still participate in rooting for the school teams over their perceived rivals from other communities. If the underclasses identify more with subcultural network of similar students in other schools, or expect to be able to flee the community after graduation, able to succeed independent of the school society, the fabric that holds the social system together, both in and out of school, has begun to come apart.
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