No right to remain silent

No right to remain silent

What we’ve learned from the tragedy at Virginia Tech (2009)
By Lucinda Roy

This is quite a sad story. Sometimes the killer can be a victim of mental illness himself too.

On April 16,2007, a Korean Seung-Hui Cho, a senior English major went on a killing rampage that resulted in the deaths of 32 students and faculty members before he ended his own life. Former Virginia Tech professor Lucinda Roy talked about the incident and how she struggled to know Cho – a loner who found speech torturous.

Lucinda Roy talked about several factors that contribute to this type of tragedy :

1. A shortage of teachers and resources
2. A lack of treatment facilities and services for mentally ill students of all ages.
3. The accessibility of guns and bomb-making equipment and manuals.
4. The prevalence of mental illness and suicide in the student population.
5. A “non-teacherly focus” in higher education.
6. A pop culture that routinely exposes children and youth to excessive violence.
7. A growing divide that separates youth culture from adult culture.
8. The prevalence of bullying.
9. A rise in alcoholism, drug abuse and prescription medication abuse in student population.
10. Open campuses with relatively little security or security funding.

There were some descriptions about Seung, the killer.
“I remembered seeing Seung’s handwriting because it was small and tight, and sometimes I had difficulty reading it. He wrote angry poems. In the poem he castigates all of the class, accusing them of genocide and cannibalism because they joked about eating snake and aother animals. He says he is disgusted with them, and tells them they will all “burn in hell.” He was seemingly so intimidating, that the professors request for other professors or teaching professionals to be around when seeing him.

During the admissions process, no one at Virginia Tech had been notified by Seung, his parents or his high school that he suffered fom selective mutism. This condition is defined as a constant failure to speak in specific social situationsk, despite being able to speak in other situations. (For example, many of those who suffer from this disorder can speak in the home but not at school.)

In How the Mind works, Pinker writes about the rampage phenomenon as it manifests itself in ancient culture: “Amok is a malay word for the homicidal sprees occasionally undertaken by lonely men who have suffered a loss of love, a loss of memory, or a loss of face.” (Though I don’t really understand Malay, but living in South East Asia, I do know that amok means mad in malay)

The amok man is patently out of his mind, an automaton oblivious to his surroundings and unreachable by appeals and threats. But his rampage is preceded by lengthy brooding over failure and is carefully planned as a means of deliverance from an unbearable situation. The amok state is chillingly cognitive. It is triggered not by a stimulus, not by a tumor, not by a random spurt of brain chemicals, but by an idea. In certain situations, one of the disorder found in young males is the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) which is one of the common traits of school shooters. In too many cases to document, name-calling, particularly names that undermine a boy’s macho image or suggest that he is not a full-blooded heterosexual male, can cause lasting damage, and is often cited by school shooters as the primary reason for their rampage.



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