Thoughts on Muckers

The Exiled editor Mark Ames, who spent many years as an American expat in Russia thinking about the basic weirdnesses of his home country, has written a book polemically comparing workplace and school shootings to slave rebellions in the American South and Caribbean in the 18th and 19th Centuries. According to his research, public attitudes towards the earlier paroxysms were much like they are now: "gosh darn it, why do such evil random things happen in the world?" -- because, Ames argues, thinking that is easier than examining the intolerable conditions of your own time that might produce such violence. "Going postal" we think of as a more modern phenomenon, though, and was in fact foreseen fairly accurately by a '60s science fiction writer. From a web page posted by Carnegie Mellon statistics prof. Cosma Rohilla Shalizi:

"Mucker' is a word coined by...John Brunner in his great novel Stand on Zanzibar. The word derives from "amok," which will require a bit of history. It is a Malay word, and a person who goes violently insane, rushing through the village and murderously attacking everyone in his path, is said to have "run amok." In what was an egregiously idiotic statement, even for him, the eminent French critic Georges Bataille called running amok the purest manifestation of revolt, "the movement by which man rises up against his own condition and the whole of creation." (Bataille never ran through the streets of Montparnasse madly slashing with a kris, so he either lacked the courage of his convicions or was a hypocrite with a small - a very small - modicum of brains.) The Malays, inevitably, were and are more sensible: they kill those who run amok.

A "mucker," then, is someone who runs amok; the times havin' a-changed, now they use guns. As always, they are people driven to murderous madness by intolerable frustration, repression and conformity, whether in an isolated kampong or the Postal Service. So far muckers seem to have been mostly Americans, but just the other day the radio carried news of one in Germany.

It does Mr. Brunner's prescience great credit to have foreseen the need for this word, back in 1964; and it does the rest of us no credit at all, for letting such a word be needed.

Mark Ames, like Bataille in the above passage, sees mucking as a form of revolt. Am not sure either writer is so dumb as to think it's the best form of revolt--Bataille only said it was the "purest." Stand on Zanzibar is a book about a world population explosion (published in '68, not '64), and Brunner's "mucking" wasn't political so much as biological (population self-thinning, possibly, but mostly unexplained). Ames ties the phenomenon specifically to Reaganism, which isn't particularly scientific but has a nice ring to to it. Here's an interview excerpt:

Put it this way: rage murders in the workplace never existed anywhere in history until Reagan came to power. Reagan made it respectable to be a mean, stupid bastard in this country. He is the patron saint of white suckers. He unleashed America's Heart of Vileness -- its penchant for hating people who didn't get rich, and worshipping people who despise them, and this is the essence of Reaganomics.

I hate to sound like a Clintonite here, but let's remember Hillary Clinton became the most hated human being alive because she tried to give most Americans the opportunity to lead longer, healthier lives, while these same Americans adored goons like Sam Walton, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump -- everyone who has dedicated their lives to transferring wealth, health and pleasure from the masses to a tiny elite. Liberals are hated in America precisely because they want to help people, which is seen as "patronizing."

You can see how this kind of cultural insanity, unleashed by Reaganomics after decades of New Deal (relative) harmony, could make someone snap, when the cognitive dissonance suddenly strikes on a very personal level, and you realize that you've been screwed hard by your own dominant ideology.

Ames pegs the workplace shooter, then, as a bitter Republican who finally comes face to face with the realities of a tough-love economic philosophy. In a similar vein, Ames recommends profiling schools rather than individuals to determine where the next outbreak will happen: "Just look for white kids, and you'll have a potential Columbine." On a level of sheer cinematic poetry, it's hard to beat Michael Moore's juxtaposition of the Littleton CO events with an interview of a local technocrat standing under an enormous bomb that is being manufactured in that city -- while the students are at their desks preparing for a bright future in the work world.