The “Colorado Movie Massacre” as it has come to be known, wherein a riot-gear clad man opened fire in a crowded midnight movie screening of the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” killing twelve people and injuring fifty nine was very shocking, sad and sickening. Eyes widened further when it came to be known that the shooter was a twenty-four-year old neuroscience PhD student with a good background. How could such a person commit this heinous crime?
From outward appearance his profile seems normal but deep beneath the surface churn murky waters. An online search turns up reports from people who say that there was something weird about him while others describe him as normal. The diseased mind seems to be a funny entity then, acting normal in some cases, strange in others and therefore consistently unpredictable. Tormented by the event, I tried to find online what psychology experts had to say. It seems like they have yet to do a proper diagnosis in this particular case, but I came across an article by a psychiatrist: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201207/the-colorado-shooter-psychotic-victim-or-evil-killer and an old blog post by him where he has given an example of another shooter: http://drdalearcher.com/imjustsayin/its-the-mental-illness-stupid
Going through what was shared on the internet, I found that experts are trying to stress the importance of eliminating the root cause of such incidents, that is, recognizing and treating mental illness instead of people ignoring it and only suggesting solutions like gun control, safety procedures, crisis training etc. I agree with the wise men. However, not having studied that medical field ever, it is tough to understand how the human brain can behave illogically and it is scary to imagine not being able to control our mind – something that mentally healthy people take for granted. Wouldn’t it be helpful to learn to recognize mental illness symptoms in a fellow human being and to take action of treatment on behalf of that person? But I also understand how this is easier said than done. It is very difficult to have the confidence to point out to or convince someone that there is a problem and help with a solution long before the psychotic person has taken the final drastic step. Until then, will everyone, including the affected individual keep on suffering and dying?
Such incidents where mentally unstable persons inflict pain on others brings back a memory. It happened a few years ago here in California when I was a graduate student. A late evening class was over and I was waiting for the bus opposite the university. It was dark and a cool wind had sprung up so I moved closer to the bus stop structure to take some shelter against the breeze under its roof. There were a few people waiting nearby. I was talking on the phone and did not completely notice a burly man with what looked like shopping bags moving about, muttering and gesturing to himself.
By instinct we tend to stand away from suspicious-looking people but I failed to do so. He came towards me in a rapid stride and with a quick movement of his thick mustard-colored boots, landed a strong kick on my right shin just below the knee. As I looked up in shock, this is what he said tapping his head, “Excuse me, I have a pain in my head.” Then to my relief, he walked away. A guy standing next to me sort of escorted me away and my boyfriend (husband now) who I was talking to on the phone let out a stream of angry cuss words when I hurriedly narrated what had happened. But all of us knew that we couldn’t do anything about him. First of all, the homeless man was huge but most importantly madmen, as a rule, are not expected to be rational. Who is to say that it is not possible that in the dark recesses of his fractured mind, he had no knowledge of what he had done or that what to us was a violent act towards a fellow innocent being was a totally justified alternate reality to him?
Many times, mindless cruelty stems from being just that – being ‘mind-less’.