Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bullies and Extreme Alienation

I just read an interesting article by Blake Fleetwood providing some background as to why Cho Seung-Hui might have started on the path that led him to the Virginia Tech shootings. Yes, I know - nothing can excuse Cho of the random killing of innocents ... but if we don't look into the mind of the shooter in order to gain some understanding, then we could miss some patterns and root-causes, making these shooting incidents appear random - and hence unavoidable.
Besides having undiagnosed psychological problems, Cho was apparently also subjected to subtle forms of bullying and racial intolerance at high-school. But one doesn't have to be ethically different to feel alienated. The two young shooters at Columbine were all-American but still felt outsiders in a world of "preps" and "jocks."
The issue of our extremely alienated youth is not simply evident in a small minority of violent individuals. Fleetwood reports that teen-suicides in America have more than doubled since 1960 and that while 2,000 teens kill themselves each year, 250,000 attempt suicide.
Here is a terrible fact quoted in the article:

In a recent survey by Bolt Media of more than 4,000 teenagers, 47% answered, "Yes" to the question "Could one of your classmates be a killer?" This large number indicates that teens themselves are aware of their peers' inability to cope. But educators are not recognizing the cancer that is crippling and killing so many of our youth. The American Medical Association found that 1 in 10 boys have been kicked in the groin by age 16. Twenty-five percent of these kicks resulted in an injury and, most tellingly, a quarter of the injured boys exhibited signs of depression a year after the injury.

If we seek happiness and flow through relationships with others then their rejection is a tremendous personal pain. As individuals, teachers and responsible members of society , we have a responsibility to support and nuture our youth - and sometimes protect them from each other.