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Hate will not win was the refrain heard across the latest U.S city traumatized by mass murder.

A young white man, after sitting for an hour in their company, killed six women and three men in the Charleston Mother Emanuel Church bible class.

We heard a brother and a daughter with simple and poignant elegance state that they forgive this young man.

The perpetrator allegedly told Police he had wanted to start a race war.

In the aftershock of the recent mass murder in Charleston, we wonder “Why”? What has shaped the minds of men to commit such hateful acts and to see others through such a malignant lens? How is it that they can so easily take life? Is there a mental condition? (Was mental illness at play?) Did their hatred take root in how they were raised?

What, at it’s core, is the seed that is sown for this kind of violence. What, in it’s essence, is the fertilizer, the water, that causes that seed to grow, to tragic consequences?

Often we question whether the cause is individual or societal rather than looking at how the two factors interact.

In the individual perspective, one is responsible and can choose to act or not –choices based on values, the glue to decision-making. Examination over time shows that most mass murderers are men who are loners and depressed. And as Dr. Park Dietz (1) explained to SecurityInfoWatch, they are therefore even willing to die and angry enough to blame others for their pain.

(2)Neil Kaye, assistant Professor at Jefferson University in Philadelphia, noted that the mass killers become so for multiple reasons. However, even when a profile of people at-risk is developed, ‘99% never go out and do anything bad.’ And important note by (3) Michael Welner, a professor at New York University who when interviewed by the Washington Post in 2007 stated; “ it’s rare they are truly psychotic, rather it’s about tying one’s masculinity to destruction”.

The societal model posits that the problem evolves from factors in our society. One factor apparent is the influence of cultural values and how they translate into societal norms that differ within countries.

For example, Professor Geert Hofstede discovered that the value dimension of ‘identity’ has a scope ranging from the individual on one end, where identify stems from self (individualism) and the use of I/me. In other words, its all about what ‘I can do for myself and my immediate family’ – typical in the USA and Canada.

On the other end, group identity (collectivism) and the profound significance of being part of the group is seen in the use of words such as ‘we/us’.

Furthermore, the power of the group significantly impacts decision-making and communication due to the intensity of togetherness-Harmony is valued. It is worth noting that eighty percent of the world is described as collectivistic. The ‘so what’ to this insight is learned from French sociologist (4) Emile Durkheim’s classical study, where he found that suicides were more frequent in individualistic countries having less social opportunities and integration. In addition, he adds more mass murders occur in individualistic countries with its weaker societal structures and leads to vulnerable individuals feeling more isolated and less connected to others.

Felix Maradiago’s story is a powerful example of the two models synergizing to a positive outcome. He chose to live his life in spite of growing up with hate as a societal norm in his country. At the age of 13, he swam across the Grande River from a civil war to freedom and with his adopted family thrived in the USA. Later as a successful businessman, Felix returned to his home country creating new economic opportunities. He has to deal with people who tortured and imprisoned his family.

He has chosen to lead with values of collaboration and caring for others. Although raised in a more collectivistic society mired in violence, as an individual, he deliberately changed his value system.

We started with the questions of wondering why people choose to do terrible acts of violence and end up realizing that here lies an opportunity. What is observable is not obvious.

We have lessons to learn from each other and from the richness of different cultures. Wondering why provokes opening our mind merely by reflecting… even on tragic events. Social interaction and supports can be strengthened in a variety of ways different from our own. The question is: are we willing to change?

References

  1. Scientists try to Explain What Makes a Mass Murderer Jennifer Welsh Business Insider
  2. Scientists try to Explain What Makes a Mass Murderer Jennifer Welsh Business Insider
  3. Scientists try to Explain What Makes a Mass Murderer Jennifer Welsh Business Insider
  4. Why do People Commit Mass Shootings by Joachim Vogt Isaksesn, Popular Science

 

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