Rush Limbaugh made an excellent point, in reference to the killer in the Arizona shootings: ‘One of the first acts of insanity is to take an obviously deranged kid, insane, irrational, and try to analyze him with sanity and rationality.”
This is exactly right. People make this mistake all the time, and not only with criminals. People look at the actions of others and conclude, “These actions make no rational sense. What reason would the person have for doing them?”
Hello?! There’s a contradiction here. You don’t look for “reasons” as to why people do things outside the province of reason.
I blame a lot of this misunderstanding on the field of psychology.
For decades, psychology and “self-help” have actively encouraged people to seek rational understanding where none is to be found. Consider a brutal killer. “He must have had some reason for doing this; maybe not an excuse, but a reason.” However, any observation into any killer’s mind and life reveals a stark absence of reason. What does “reason” actually mean? It’s a conscientious, honest and logical method for making sense of what one observes in reality, for integrating concrete observations into abstract concepts. The kind of people who initiate violence against others are not using reason. They have departed from reason, and that’s precisely their problem. They have long since abandoned logic, if they ever used it in the first place.
Young Jared Loughner, the killer in the recent Arizona shootings, is described as a loner. This surprises nobody; it’s practically a clich Many such killers are loners. It’s not that independent, quiet people who keep to themselves are always sinister. Quite the contrary. However, people who depart from the use of reason tend to shy away from others.
While unfortunately most people don’t use reason and common sense consistently in their lives, most people are attempting to use reason much of the time. Because the violent murderer is no longer reasonable (and perhaps never has been), he naturally drifts away from people.
Some psychologists have used this observation to argue that “socializing” and being with others, as an end in itself, is the best way to prevent crime. This is mistaken. Sometimes people are off to themselves because they’re using reason to create or develop intelligent or even brilliant things. Human history is filled with inventors and thinkers who would never have hurt a fly, but tended to be off to themselves while they did their thinking and producing. Killers such as Loughner are loners for the opposite reasons. They think they’re being creative and innovative, when in fact they’re plotting death and destruction.
Emotionalism and sentimentality are part of the problem, too. Reasonable people cannot grasp how or why anybody would want to annihilate a nine-year-old child in a shooting spree. Unfortunately, sentimentalists take this a step further. They say, “Something had to push him over the edge.” Freudian psychologists insist it was childhood relationships. Behaviorists claim it was conditioning. Political theorists — almost always liberal or socialist in orientation — say it was a “right wing conspiracy” or Rush Limbaugh, or Sarah Palin. All these theories have one thing in common: Somebody or something else pushed the person over the edge. The theorist can now breathe a sigh of relief and sleep soundly again. “There, I explained it.”
Of course, it’s all wrong. The fact is: Some people are insane — even murderous — because they choose not to use reason. Part of evading reason is denying the rights of others to be free from the initiation of force, including violence.
Isn’t a psychotherapist’s job to help people understand what they do? Yes, in part. But remember: Psychotherapy is by definition a voluntary act. The choice to engage in psychotherapy or counseling rests on the premise, “I am willing to think.” The specific thinking done in psychotherapy is looking at one’s consciousness objectively. Anyone engaging in psychotherapy is, to that extent, quite rational. The type of people who open fire on an innocent crowd are not at all rational, and probably never were rational. You can be sure that they never participated in anything like psychotherapy or self-reflection, or if they did it was a brief pretense, at best.
It’s similarly foolish, if not insane, to try and ‘make sense’ of killings. This stems from the false belief that everything must happen for some kind of supernatural or mystical ‘reason.’ That’s not reason, but pure fantasy.
The hard fact is that while most people are attempting to be at least somewhat reasonable, a small number choose not to be reasonable at all. A few among this small number decide to be unreasonable in a violent way. Don’t try to understand it. Just do whatever you can to stop and prevent it.