You can’t legislate a better society; you have to do it yourself

Erik Hoversten

Whenever tragedy strikes, people start looking for answers. Over the past week, legislators have talked about gun control, metal detectors, cops for schools and banning certain kinds of music.

None of these ideas would help. The kids had the guns for a considerable amount of time, so a waiting period is not an issue. The TEC-9 pistol they had was already banned by the Brady Bill in 1994.

Metal detectors and police may be a deterrent. But as we saw last year, if someone is hell bent to get at somebody and isn’t worried about living to tell the story, they can walk into the Majority Whip’s office at the Capitol Building with guns blazing. I doubt any school will ever have as much security as the Capitol.

One of the two kids had some apocalyptic lyrics from KMFDM on his Web page. This leads some folks to bring up the old music ban and take CDs from their kids.

This is not only futile but an actively bad idea. Granted, my psychological experience is limited to filling in bubbles with No. 2 pencils, but it wasn’t long ago that I was toiling away in a large suburban high school. Here is my two cents about why people listen to what they do.

KMFDM is a German trio that started in the 1980s and has made a name for itself in underground clubs. The All Music Guide lists the group as “industrial” and “alternative rock” and says each recording is more aggressive than the previous, which I find hard to imagine.

When it comes to KMFDM, you can divide people into three categories. If you’re like me, and someone turns on KMFDM, you immediately want them to turn the horrible racket off.

There are people who enjoy the intensity of KMFDM’s music because it makes for good dance music or it motivates them. In high school, people would listen to them before track races or while weight-lifting. I will criticize these people as soon as I start running 16-minute 5k races and bench-pressing 350 pounds.

The last group relates to the apocalyptic lyrics. Most people listen to industrial or heavy metal and hear “aarghh rrr mraa.” Others tune in to the “blow up the world” message while going crazy on the dance floor and then return to normal when they leave the club. But some people are actually looking forward to the apocalypse, and that’s rather disturbing.

I don’t think you can blame KMFDM. Obviously, if I was in the business of making industrial, guitar-driven dance rock, I wouldn’t be writing songs about bunny-filled meadows or the girl next door. When I’m thinking “intensity,” I’m thinking fire, explosions and a lot of screaming.

It’s been my observation that people who get the most caught up in industrial or heavy metal do so out of lack of hope. The music is an extension of their angst, which early teens have in abundance. Most people don’t have or don’t see a way out of their situations.

Gangsta rap catches a lot of slack for causing the ills of society, but that’s a pretty bogus claim. It just has a lot of appeal for teens.

If you want to play the Brandenburgh Concerto, you have to chase down 20 people in the neighborhood to play viola, but to rap, you just need yourself. The big appeal for gangsta rap is a need to belong. Gangs have a lot to do with getting respect, which is very appealing to people who get ignored or made fun of a lot.

The big warning sign to watch for in teens’ musical interests is if they listen to only one type of music and nothing else and dramatically change their appearances and behaviors.

The heart of the issue is you don’t go out for hamburgers when you can eat steak at home. Something is missing from people’s lives when they look to music.

Taking CDs away does nothing. What they weren’t supposed to be listening to they’ve already heard, so all parents accomplish is a breakdown in trust.

Having gone to a large high school, I know it’s easy to get lost in the mix. It can be hard to define who you are. I don’t care about walking five miles in the snow — it is more difficult to grow up today with bigger schools, more technology and busier schedules than it was 30 years ago.

If people want to improve the teen condition, they should build more, smaller schools, take time out of their busy schedules to sit and listen to annoying teen gossip, realize that their kids aren’t perfect and not expect teachers to do everything for them.

You can’t legislate a better society; you have to do it yourself.

Erik Hoversten is a senior in math and physics from Eagan, Minn.