Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Dark Side of Human Nature

In my post "Mental illness vs. Terrorist" I wrote that Cho didn't need anybody and he never did. I regret writing that. I didn't mean it. I was angry and sad and full of hate for this killer. I couldn't make him human in my mind because then I might care about him along with the people he murdered. But he was human. He was dark in his thinking. He was depressed. He was suicidal. He was desperate.

When I was much younger I had incredible rage inside of me. I had my own hit list. I was dark in my thinking and suicidal and desperate. I was also incredibly fortunate. I was able to reach out. I had friends and family and hope. God knows where I would be now without the support of the human angels who appeared to me seemingly out of nowhere during my worst nightmares.

The horrific massacre at VT was not about mental illness. It was about human nature and the darkness that resides in each and every one of us. Of course we want to deny that darkness. Most of us succeed in that denial until something overwhelms us to the point of either imploding or exploding. The darkness gets expressed in one way or another. Sometimes creatively, sometimes not.

A large group of people in the YouTube community are commonly called "haters." They write horrible, flaming comments on even the most benign videos. There are thousands of these haters. At first I couldn't understand why they would want to hurt strangers just for the sake of hurting them. But someone made a video about them, talking about how they actually represent the general population of people.

People who carry that much anger are all around us, in our neighborhoods, schools, and communities. But when we walk out our front doors to go to the store, for example, we don't see them because the anonymity is gone, unlike the haters on YouTube. Those haters can hate all they want on YouTube or other Internet websites, but they show a different face in their own neighborhoods and towns. It's not okay to hurl hate at any stranger on the street, but it's okay on the Internet, especially since you can easily get away with it.

What really goes on behind closed doors? How much hate and anger exists right before our eyes? How common is this dark side of human nature?

I believe it is much more common than people realize. I believe it is as rampant next door as it is in the headlines and on the Internet. We've just learned to show a different face when necessary, and we've learned to abide by the boundaries of expression. We've learned that talking about such things is taboo. But hate and anger and depression do exist. It's all part of the human experience.

Granted, not everyone commits murder or other horrendous crimes. The difference between those who do and those who don't remains to be seen. I could write an entire post on that topic, but for now, I will end this post with something I read today on Bipolar Blast :

'School violence: threat assessment'

Please consider the following profile of a troubled young adult, based on an actual case history:

1. Talked about suicide for weeks at a time.
2. Reportedly wrote dark poetry about thrusting a dagger in his heart and "draw[ing] blood in showers!"
3. Was described as "indifferent to transpiring events," and having "little to say" for extended periods.
4. Was known to "go crazy," requiring the removal of knives and dangerous items from his room.
5. Used opiates and cocaine.
6. Wandered around with a gun during periods of suicidal ideation.
7. Was fascinated by a woman he was too shy to approach.
8. Was described as being in a "morbid" state.
9. Collapsed while speaking openly of his hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.
10. Was eventually diagnosed with "recurrent major depression."

Who was this risk to society? The answer is Abraham Lincoln .

Source: Joshua Wolf Shenk, Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness (2006)."


Anonymous said...


Threat Assessment & Response Canada said...

Very good post!

Anonymous said...

In this Darkness of human nature, do you think these people reach a point of: "I have nothing else to lose."??? Maybe they think.. "People aren't listening to I'll do something extreme where they have no choice BUT to pay attention"...only now it's too late.
Much of the time our human nature is not to appreciate what we have until it taken from us..or threatened...and THEN, when it is gone - or the threat has passed, the real value and meaning appear at the surface...until time passes and life settles down again and what was immenant floats back to bottom somewhere.
I wonder if this expressed rage and violence is a person's last act in communicating just how
tumultutous their inner world has been.
We missed the signs - the oppotunities....OR we chose to not address the signs - the writings - the mumbling - the attire that suggests "leave me alone." But people ignore these signs everyday. We all make choices about who we will interact with - for how long - and about what topics...and who we won't.
I hope I learn to pay better attention to the people who are around me from now on.