03 August 2010

Amoklauf in Connecticut

This time the site was a beer distributor's office in Manchester, where an employee had been called in for a disciplinary hearing on alleged theft from the company. From this source we learn that the shooter, who killed himself as the police arrived, accused co-workers of racial harassment. Early reports are often erratic in these cases, but the latest word as I write is that the shooter took eight people with him.

This impulse to take people with you is the heart of the current troubles, both here in America and in China. Disgruntled people aren't satisfied with taking out their immediate oppressors, or with killing themselves. It's as if a great number of victims would prove their worth or their power, and maybe it's a similar logic to that ancient style of thought that compelled kings to order their attendants killed to accompany and serve them in the afterlife. In simplest terms, to take people with them, and to get known for it, lets these people die (or more specifically kill themselves in most cases) feeling that they've mattered after all, that they've had an impact on other people in the bluntest possible manner.

I still wonder whether people like the Manchester shooter embark on an amoklauf expect to die, whether that decision to end it all is what emboldens them to kill others. How different is that impulse from that of the suicide bomber? Does the terrorist want to die first and foremost, or does he accept it as a matter of necessity that the easiest way to take out the most enemies is to blow himself up in their midst? Does he rationally accept death (irrationally enticed by promises of paradise) as the necessary price for the advancement of his cause, or does he, like his American or Chinese counterparts, choose to kill only because he's already decided to die? We assume that non-Muslims must be motivated differently because we presume that someone like the Manchester shooter isn't expecting a reward after death, and we know (or still presume) that his actions have no political content or context. The Islamist suicide bomber, in his own mind at least, is committing an ultimate act of selflessness, no matter how he expects to be rewarded for it, while the American and Chinese amoklaufers seem to be the ultimate examples of selfishness. But are such distinctions artificial or self-serving? Is this apparently growing impulse for mass murder a phenomenon of our time rather than of any particular culture? Cultural differences may extend to choices of weapons or the manner of the killer's own death, but are those definitive or superficial? Is there an answer to all these phenomena that goes beyond regulation of weapons or specific cultural or religious reforms. If amoklaufing is a global fad, is there a global answer good for every manifestation? Maybe there is no answer until we answer -- until we make the suppression of this murderous impulse in all its cultural forms the foundation of a genuine global culture, the construction of which may be necessary to keep not just nations but people from killing each other.

1 comment:

hobbyfan said...

Just read the Yahoo! account. Omar Thornton had complained about racist epithets and a picture of a hangman with someone on a noose, and got no response from his superiors. The frustration stemming from this and other similar, alleged incidents set him off.

The "amoklauf" has become too convienent for people who can't come to grips with job-related stress issues. It's become a crutch, a defense mechanism. It's the same situation, different day, different place. And it's not going to stop, unfortunately, until employers begin taking employee complaints more seriously and address those issues with legitimate concern for everyone in the company.