The 2013 Isla Vista shooting signified a watershed moment in my personal life. I had moved out of Isla Vista only a year before, leaving behind Santa Barbara for what I thought would be the last time. Isla Vista is an unincorporated town bordering the Pacific Ocean, home largely to students from the adjacent UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Community College; it is Southern California distilled into its absolute essence. The town has a reputation for its house parties and bohemian surfer culture. It’s not uncommon to walk around on a weekend night and end up invited to an ad hoc party provided your group contains a girl or two.
On its surface, Isla Vista is a fairly welcoming place. It’s easy to talk to random people when you’re both in varied states of inebriation. By the end of the night, you’ll often find yourself with a larger group than you had initially gone out with. The drunken friend, in all his inescapable ephemerality, is among the most agreeable of souls. He is excitable, earnest, and adventurous. You will never see him again beyond the night you met. Your haphazard plans for hanging out again will fall through despite his prior insistence.
Californians love to make plans and never follow through with them. If you don’t have a specific date and time set to meet with someone, they will never show up. Even if you do, they still won’t show up. It’s somehow acceptable here to make arrangements at the end of a conversation and silently disregard them the following day. Word is most definitely not bond around these parts. I’ve often postulated whether alcohol is the only substance holding our postmodern social fabric together. Alcohol makes what so many find unbearable about company temporarily endurable. It’s no small wonder that mastery of the fermentation process was one of our earliest agricultural achievements.
Beyond the opaque façade of revelry and distraction, Isla Vista can be an incredibly sinister place. When you are not invited to the parties, when you are alone, the entire town comes to resemble a rowdy bar in which you’re the only sober person. Being in a bar while sober is a test of patience. The drunken man exists on a mental plane far apart from the sober man. His freewheeling speech and brazen antics become unwelcome provocations on your limited patience. Some men become aggressive while drinking, and though I consider this to be an exceptional circumstance, their presence can often sour a night out.
No more is the sexual Pareto principle in effect than in Isla Vista. I can imagine it has only gotten worse with the advent of online hookup apps. The top ten to twenty percent of young men in regards to appearance and reputation have unlimited access to the affections of the young college girls populating the town. In a place known for its laid back culture and open-mindedness, the competition for sex is a constant Pyrrhic war of deception and deceit.
Your status as a young man is proportional to your sexual desirability. Young men do not compete so much for economic or scholastic achievement, as they do for the favors of women. Even the perception, manufactured or legitimate, of sexual prowess among your peers is enough to catapult you into the upper echelons of social status. Men want to be you; women want to be with you. The former case inspires an effete, but caustic jealously among your male peers. Those unable to compete with you in the extended domain of struggle are hell-bent on hindering you, damaging your reputation and dragging you down with them into the mired pits of involuntary celibacy.
French philosopher Jean Baudrillard wrote that in Santa Barbara, the question you always hear is, “What are you doing after the orgy?” To paraphrase from a friend on Twitter, Elliot Rodger asked us, “What are you doing when you are not invited to the orgy?” During my time in Isla Vista, I arrived at the inevitable conclusion that violence would one day come to this town. Someday, someone would snap under the immense psycho-sexual burden bearing down on them and lash out against man and woman alike.
Elliot Rodger was a victim of Isla Vista, as much as those whom he killed were victims of his unfulfilled desire and rage against a society that enables unchecked lust and hedonism. While I must profess that, for the sake of public record, I do not endorse his murders; I understand completely the unfortunate series of events that led to their occurrence. Reading through My Twisted World, one comes to comprehend the entirely foreseeable and deterministic character of his birth and upbringing. What the media, in all their faux outrage seems to have missed, was how a young man of his breeding and background would invariably choose the fatal path he walked.
Elliot was born of an East Asian mother and a Northern European father, creating at birth the genetic aberration of the Eurasian or Hapa male. The Hapa is a castaway Frankenstein monster of East and West, a byproduct of mass transit and globalization unfairly rejected by both of his disparate cultures. The sexual marketplace of Isla Vista predominately favors those of the tall, fair Nordic phenotype. The ‘surfer dude’ of California is in fact a blond, blue-eyed male of impressive stature and physique. At the outset, Elliot was unsuited to his future life in Isla Vista. This, coupled with a detached father figure and an isolated adolescence, would portend his eventual rejections and untimely demise.
While race is seldom a deciding factor in one’s fate, one can often internalize unwanted or undesirable aspects pertaining to their racial phenotype. The rejection that hurt Elliot the most was not at the hands of any girl, but the initial and lifelong rejection of Elliot by his father. Fathers want to see themselves reflected in the visage of their sons, an insurance of their reproductive success. It is likely this phenomenon that underscores the primeval demands for marital fidelity and unspoiled brides. Fathers have yet to learn, if possible, to empathize with the biological results of their interracial pairings.