I live in Binghamton, NY, a city of 45,000 located an hour north of Scranton, PA and an hour south of Syracuse, NY. A few hours ago, a lone gunman killed 12 people before committing suicide. His act puts Binghamton on the map, and is probably the only time an acting Vice President has ever cared to mention our city's name. Binghamton is now among the infamous casualties of the collapse of Western civilization, a distinction shared by places such as Columbine and Virginia Tech who have experienced the phenomenon of random mass murder. When shootings happened in other cities, I was unable to really understand why these things occur, but now that there has been a slaying mere blocks from my own home, I find that the answer seems clear: these killings are the result of the collapse of our culture, which pits us against each other in the vicious game of capitalism.
About a week ago, as I was walking into the local Giant grocery store, I watched a woman being arrested for shoplifting food. Ten years ago 23.7% of Binghamton's population lived under the poverty line and since that time the situation has only become more bleak. There are no jobs here and those who can leave are doing so, our population decreased nearly 5% between 2000 and 2006. The only thing keeping the Binghamton economy afloat is Binghamton University and when those students graduate they do not settle locally.
I returned to the Giant grocery store today to see the mood among average people and it was dismal. I listened to one man speaking to a Giant employee. "These things are bound to happen when the situation is so rough ..." he declared. "Well, I heard this was actually about immigration ... that's the rumor I hear," replied the employee. Why is that after each shooting, some cover story is concocted to explain away the fact that random individuals are opening fire on other random individuals? Let us confront the truth: these violent acts are the result of a culture in decline, a culture that worships only Mammon and does not care for the ones left behind.
Binghamton is a city left behind -- a post-industrial wasteland dominated by a handful of greedy capitalists and corrupt local politicians who maintain power through a singular lie. They have convinced this impoverished community that only jobs can save them and that since the local corporations control the job market we must follow meekly behind the local robber barons. As a Binghamton activist, I have had to deal with the local power-wielders after their collusion resulted in the expansion of an industrial dry cleaning plant into my residential area and I can attest that what Binghamton needs is the same as what we all need: a new, anti-consumerist culture which leaves capitalism behind.
Binghamton will most likely be forgotten tomorrow. But the truth of the event that occurred today will remain. Today Binghamton is serving as a model of the collapse of capitalism. I hope that tomorrow it serves as a representative of how a community can take back its culture and come alive once again.
Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters magazine and an independent activist. He is writing a book on the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com
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