There's something a tad self-absorbed about the outpouring of media grief and analysis over a shooting rampage that left six dead in Arizona.
Usually analysis is meant for things that have larger numbers attached to them, like the uneventful and painfully slow death from starvation each day of at least 16,000 children worldwide.
If reality were such that a mere six children died abruptly of hunger one weekend, it would be unusual and tragic, but not fit for too much in the way of broad analysis.
But this lone terrible deed, the killing of six people in a shopping mall, because it suits an ongoing political narrative, has given way to an outpouring of media self-analysis. I'm trying to figure out what is getting analyzed, and more suggestively, what isn't.
The first thing that stands out is that those who rush to throw the first stone are those with an axe to grind. Republican leaders, feeling a bit under the gun, as it were, rushed to denounce the wicked act of an individual, a wicked white male individual who therefore belonged to no group to associate guilt with, as a wicked black or Hispanic male might have.
Working the blame game, Democrats are talking about the need to control toxic and violent words increasingly used in far-right political attacks on them. History offers us teachable moments, but for some they are merely spinnable moments.
Essentially random violence can't be explained simplistically, especially in a society where violence is featured unceremoniously in video games, cartoons, movies and gun ads, not to mention real-life wars, which casually model gun behavior as normal.
Getting to the violence motif is just too easy - a bit like trying to explain alcoholic individuals in a society that flaunts alcohol, or to explain individual obesity in an obesogenic society.
I'd like to raise a few possible background factors conducive to unhinged and outraged violence that have not been discussed as reasons why one Arizonan went off the rails.
A chance visit this week by Christopher, my wife's cousin from Germany, helped me make the equity connection to the ongoing prevalence of personal rage. Christopher is a truck engineer in Stuttgart, centre of Germany's high-wage industries that are creating good local jobs by winning export contracts everywhere around the world.
When he transferred from Japan, his new boss thought the first thing Christopher needed to know was that six weeks holidays are obligatory, not just paid for, in Germany. That and 35 hours maximum per week might significantly lower stress levels and take road rage down a notch in North America, I thought.
But what impressed me most was Christopher's payroll notice, which refers to a 1 per cent deduction called "solidarity surcharge."
I've never seen such a deduction on this continent. The surcharge goes to raise living standards in the former East Germany so everyone there can be lifted to the level of the former West Germany.
In North America, such a way of thinking about proper relationships with the less fortunate is practised only in Quebec. Anywhere else, people down on their luck might get to feel the stigma of charitable compassion but mostly are left on their own, wondering why the job-rich economic recoveries of the 1950s and 60s got replaced by the jobless recoveries of the 1990s and today.
They have few social connections that help them get beyond envy of the breaks that go to the group one level up from where they are or bitterness at the easy life of those just below.
Add to the generalized sense of being lost in an uncaring universe one alienated American with a mental health problem. The alleged gunman, Jared Loughner, was identified as having severe psychological difficulties by classmates and authorities. Even if he'd tried, Loughner would've had trouble accessing long-term therapy since so little free help exists in the U.S.
Then there's my particular axe.
Hamburgers and fries are rarely accused of causing violent behaviour in male youth who subsist on them. But the standard junk food diet of North America is dangerously low in many nutrients, notably the omega fatty acids found most easily in fish and walnuts, fats that were likely crucial in early human evolution.
I say "dangerously low" not only because of the body's physical need for such fats, but because these fats deliver mental health benefits that counter depression. Washington-based National Institute of Health clinician Joseph Hibbeln created a momentary stir in 2001 with research showing lower murder rates among prisoners who ate fish regularly.
Harvard's Andrew Stoll wrote about EFAs as "the new pharmacology of aggression" in his 2001 book, The Omega-3 Connection, and expressed "hope that at least part of the answer" to such problems as intermittent explosive disorder "may be as simple as omega-3 fatty acid."
I am not remotely suggesting that Tea Party talk show hosts should chill on salmon, and I'm aware that the ready availability of fish has not brought out Sarah Palin's inner peacenik.
But when talking about all the angry people who live in one of the most blessed and wealthy countries in the world, we need to picture people who go through a regular day feeling unnerved, edgy, out of sorts, enraged and close to the boiling point for several reasons.
Despite all this, there's no reason to get overly sociological about the causes of these tragedies, or, on the other hand, to look inward too much, since it's unlikely the source of the problem comes from strictly personal defects. Still, there is much to think about in between.