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Echoes of Virginia tragedy

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Boris Kaimakov) - The Virginia Tech massacre shocked Russia. Not that violence is new to this country, but the number of the cold-blooded killer's victims strikes the most uncaring mind.

No one doubts the killer's madness. But then, it would be too simple to explain the tragedy by insanity alone. Russian online discussions also point to the American way of life and youth mentality.

In their coverage of the university bloodshed, Russian media outlets focus on almost unlimited arms trade in the United States, so the majority of the public is sure that is the root of the evil. True, when just anyone can get a weapon, we Russians have ample reasons to cite an old sinister joke: "He who shoots first laughs best."

The more advanced Russian Internet users, however, take a broader view, blaming tremendous psychological pressure in the U.S. - and in all developed countries, for that matter. Russia is no exception here, though political correctness has not penetrated it that far yet, and social rules are not so stringent.

An urge to break the law is present in almost every subconscious mind. Reaction equals action, so the urge is at its strongest and ugliest in America, with its unquestioned supremacy of the law. Though the South Korean student killer's message has not been completely decoded yet, his sensational "Blame them, not me" shows what he thought of the American public. "America might have proclaimed freedoms, but its rules of the game are overly strict, and one feels it even as a toddler," is one remark from a Russian blog. Many blogs say innermost human emotions clash with political correctness to cause inevitable rampages - a view born of young anarchism and social protest. "They've robbed us of the right to anger," a Russian blogger quotes an American friend of his.

The massacre gives a formidable argument to Russians demanding a ban on violent computer games, which are overwhelmingly popular in this country. As Russian psychologists see it, such games give the young mind an idea of death as virtual make-belief. One blogger reasons: "I am not sure to what an extent the substitute works but many children find an aggression outlet in computer games. When they get older, they feel the whole world is a huge game. That, too, may be a factor behind mass murder - one just sees no difference between virtual and real death. Lawyers, as I've heard, occasionally use that point to defend killers. 'He felt he was playing. He pulled the trigger as he would a joystick,' they say."

Some young bloggers advance strong arguments as they accuse "adults" of propagandizing social competition in a de-humanized world where might is right.

"There is an alarming contradiction in American life. On the one hand, socialization, in its many forms, is a permanent and very aggressive demand. Political correctness is one of such forms. We Russians come down on it, though it is the least of all evils - if an evil at all. On the other hand, there is cutthroat competition. It is encouraged in every group while the community does not feel responsible enough for its individual members. What we have as the result is, first, huge problems bred by giving up coercive socialization and, second, doubtful emotional reward voluntary socialization brings. Some people protest, which is natural - and there is never a shortage of weapons. Then, the extent of one's madness alone determines the outcome," blogger dr_fedor says.

Russian students come to shocking conclusions as they look at their own environment. "It's a wolf pack," they complain. Some say American student life is no different. One blogger who attended high school in America, says: "It's absolutely horrible. They pack several hundred 16 to 18-year-olds together and TEACH THEM NOTHING in particular. The guys mix any way they like. No wonder, hazing is awful."

Some bloggers compare Russian young people's all-pervading cynicism to their U.S. peers' belief in the American Dream: "Russian students tell the world to buzz off, but only under their breath, while Americans have a sacred belief in their dream. That's the most terrible thing of all. They are under the worst kind of pressure: they PUT PRESSURE ON THEMSELVES."

Professor Yenikolopov, one of Russia's foremost experts on violence, stunned the Russian web community by assuming that serial killers were a purely American phenomenon. Amazing though his point is, statistics support it - the number of serial murders in the U.S. exceeds the Russian several hundred-fold.

Will America manage to control rampant violence? Russian bloggers are pessimistic. "There is a cult not so much of abstract wealth as of routine consumption. Your colleagues, neighbors, girlfriends, parents and kids - all judge you by the price of your car, cell phone, watch and all that. The more expensive things you buy the greater social success you are. Otherwise, you are a loser, and God help you. That's true not only for the States. It's like that everywhere - in Russia, too. You have to show off day in, day out. You always feel uncertain of your success, and afraid of becoming the underdog. How to relax, to get away from it all? We Russians have vodka, and Americans have guns," sums up a blogger.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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