Phi Beta Cons

V. Tech Massacre: Postmodern Decay? Or Plain Old Personal Humiliation

This in from Dr. Robert J. O’Hara at Harvard’s Residential Colleges and University Renewal

I’ve been following the discussions of the

Virginia Tech murders with interest on Phi Beta Cons and elsewhere.

You concluded a post on the subject by saying “Any light on the matter is

welcome,” so I thought you might appreciate the reflection I wrote

this week:
The

Question Mark Kid.”
I can’t agree with those who see some sort of postmodern cultural

decay as the problem — as my post tries to show, mass murders very

much like this one appear in the earliest Western literature (and we

can gain insight by studying that literature, as psychiatrists such as

Jonathan Shay have taught us). What connects Cho with suicide bombers,

in my view, is their shared sense of having been abusively humiliated.

One may debate whether such feelings are justified (and the crimes of

course are not justified, even if the feelings are). But it’s

nevertheless true that human beings have exhibited similar violent

reactions across history when they have regarded themselves as having

been abusively humiliated. The “ounce of prevention” is to treat

people with dignity from a young age — something most religious

traditions would support — before they become irreparably damaged.
Trying to shed a little light, for what it may be worth.

Candace de Russy — Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues.

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