Tuesday, April 17, 2007

So Many Opinions

My nephew was recently accepted into Virginia Tech. Recent events have not diminished his enthusiasm over being a "Hokie".

The story is unfolding...who did this? What was he in the general scheme? What is with that two-hour gap between carnage? Is there another shooter?

So many questions. And that many opinions. Hear the roar.

Ban guns! No, you can't ban them...that just gives the government more power. What we need is stricter gun laws! Oh you stupid Americans and your gun-crazy culture! We banned handguns over here and it's a million times safer. So? We get rid of guns, people will still find methods with which to kill. Okay, but guns make it easier!

Revelation of the gunman as Asian will galvanize a certain xenophobic segment of the populace, adding yet another issue into the argument.

I am a true crime buff, and two years ago, the shelves of Borders presented a new bound volume for my collection: The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind is Designed To Kill. The book was written after extensive research undertaken by the author, Professor David M. Buss, into the matter of murder. Using information gathered from individuals (either asked to consider their potential for murder in particular scenarios, or to share experiences where they felt a geniune fear of having another person take their lives), or case files dealing with murders (culled from the FBI and a center for research in Ann Arbor, Michigan), Buss came across a revelatory theory on the prevalence of murder: it is evolutionary. Man murders as surely as he breeds. Rather than use this as an excuse, Buss holds this discovery as a shocking contrast to the established explanations for murder, ie, culture, media, entertainment, poverty, drug abuse. As original man developed and achieved greater status through the elimination of threatening males in his circle, so modern man achieves a sense of self-worth and feeling of accomplishment through robbing other humans of their very lives.

Which is intriguing, if simplistic. Of course I've never been one to argue that the simplest explanation is instantly erroneous. Yet what I took away more from reading Prof. Buss' book was not that man's inhumanity to man is inevitable and thus doomed to be tolerated and abhorred. Rather, I find myself more and more subscribing to this theory: that the stereotype of the killer who "snaps" is untrue. Indeed, there is often such premeditation involved in murder, be it individual or mass, that to say murderers "just lose it" is to deny some deeper, more sinister ingenuity within the human brain.

Imagine a situation where you felt an overpowering hatred towards someone (or more than one). An animosity so great that it drove you to thoughts of murder towards this offensive party. Why didn't you do it? Probably, you weighed the pros and cons of the actions and decided that it would not be in your best interest to commit murder. It then seems not-at-all farfetched that a man who killed his wife, best friend, stranger, parent, or a multitude of people, goes through this same mental process. Only in their case, murder was decided upon as the advantageous course of action. At which point, they may plan ahead. They may stockpile weapons. They will not be stopped.

This, to me, is soul-chilling. It is foolish to brand those who commit the most grievous of sins as "insane." True insanity is the inability to grasp why what you have done is unacceptable in society and worthy of punishment. History is filled to the gills with killers who not only have acknowledged that what they did is wrong by the standards of our justice system, but nevertheless continued to take a life or many lives. This is not "rage over reason"; this is, to quote Mr. Buss, "improving one's fitness." Asserting one's authority. Righting a "wrong".

Those driven by these feelings won't be deterred by a gun ban. They will make bombs, or use knives, or even vehicles to cause the mayhem deemed internally necessary.

These feelings are within almost all of us, as Mr. Buss' studies showed (91% of males surveyed and 83% of females admitted to at least one instance of prolonged homicidal impulse). Thankfully, most of us want to live and let live. We see the benefits of fighting back the basest instincts of our ancestors and adapting ourselves to a far more advanced, complex world than they encountered. But it would be a mistake to think that overcoming said feelings is to eliminate them from our hotwiring altogether.

No comments:

Post a Comment