Other than having read more than my fair share of Freud, Jung, Skinner and various others in their field, I have no training in psychology or psychiatry. So it would seem that trying to understand the psychology of what motivates people would be best left to those with greater credentials in the field.
I do have training in other of the social sciences – all of which are inexact in both their methodology as well as their conclusions. But it is not on this training that I will rely in this post – rather something quite different. That is my own power of observation.
Perhaps it is a function of genetics, perhaps the environment in which I was raised or both but I am very observant. I say that with no aim to self-promotion. On the two occasions that I have witnessed a crime the police have commented that, “they wished more witnesses were as descriptive and accurate as I was.” By the way, the guilty parties were both apprehended. (One conviction – one plea bargain).
I have been trying to make sense of the seemingly endless stream of impersonal group murders that have been making all too frequent news. Whether it’s a movie theater or a Sikh temple or a military installation or a high school. Yesterday’s shooting in a conservative organization’s offices in Washington, D. C. might well have been added to this list had it not been for the brave intervention of a security guard.
Can these all be incidences of copy cats run amok? Or is there something else going on? The motivation and the targets seem to be disconnected. Yet, I believe there is a connection, if not in terms of the victims, but in terms of the perpetrators.
It is difficult to walk up to someone and insult that person to his face, let alone take his life. Direct confrontation makes things very personal. But it is not difficult to say something malicious about someone and post it on Facebook so that thousands of people can see it.
Are we becoming disconnected from one another on an interpersonal basis? Let me offer this example for you to consider.
One of my acquaintances asked for my advice about her relationship with her boy friend. She told me she wanted to talk with him about where it was going and what their mutual expectations were. So she called to speak with him, actually wanting to have a sit down face to face conversation. He chose not to do that – although he was willing to discuss the matter – but only if they did so by texting each other. After hearing this it took me two days to recover from the shock. By the way, my advice was, “Move on.”
Our technology has done many wonderful things for us. We can communicate faster and stay informed under almost any circumstance or location. That is a good thing. But the bad thing is the impersonality of how we achieve this as we sit behind our computer screens and our smart phones.
Would it have been as easy for James Holmes to pull the trigger in the Aurora, CO movie theater if he knew the victims he was about to shoot? Would the shooter at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin have been able to carry out his plan if some of the worshippers were his neighbors? Perhaps there is something so twisted about these people that it would have made no difference to them. But perhaps not.
If we are becoming people who can only express our feelings about our inter-personal relationships through texting; if we view each other merely as out-of-body avatars and gravatars; if we give up our innate need to communicate on a personal level with each other through touch and compassion and feeling, is it any surprise that these sort of events are occurring with greater frequency?
I can’t help but think of the proverbial poor fish who are swimming in the barrel, the hunter poised to strike with his rifle outside their little world, looking in on his victims. And we are the fish.