Violent rampages: what we can do to prevent them
    By Diana Deregnier | March 17th 2009 01:13 PM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    As a lifelong student of human nature, less interested in degrees than consciousness, I write about social and psychological issues relevant to


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    Extreme violence resulting in multiple deaths occurs with mounting frequency around the world. March 11, 2009, a teen in Germany slaughtered 15 people, UK News reports. The German teen openly warned of his intention in an internet chat room the night before, "No one sees my potential. I'm serious. I have weapons and I will go to my former school in the morning and have a proper barbecue." The youth who reported the Web connection after the mass murder said he hadn't take the teen seriously.

    A gunman in Alabama slaughtered ten people before turning a gun on himself. Victims include his mother, his grandmother, the wife and 18-month-old daughter of a sheriff's deputy, other relatives and bystanders. Geneva, Ala. AP updated the information March 13: "The investigation into the recent life of Alabama's gunman paints a troubling portrait of a depressed young man who couldn't hold a job and was a self-proclaimed survivalist who ordered instructional videos on how to commit violence."

    Final acts are rarely impulsive. The individual has thought out what he would do. He has made comments to a colleague, friend or family member that were dismissed as just talk. He has visualized the scene, sketched pictures or written about his intention.

    After the fact, people closest to the perpetrator want to believe that there is nothing they could have done, nothing they should have done. They do not want to feel responsible in the deaths of others. How difficult it is to live knowing that had they spoken up they may have saved a life.

    In her 2001 book, "Life Lessons," Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said we each hold within the potential of a Gandhi and a Hitler. We are uncomfortable knowing our dark side but we must acknowledge what we wish to manage. It seems we are equally disconcerted seeing the Hitler in others.

    Until recently, it was commonplace for domestic violence to go unchallenged. In many neighborhoods it still is. If you hear that a neighbor is being beaten by her husband, will you call the police? With the increase in the news of wives who have disappeared and are later found dead, are you more likely to suspect foul play and examine what you know of their relationship?

    There are things we can do to prevent the tragedy of violence in our immediate surroundings. We can be alert to signs that something is amiss. When we hear someone has weapons in their home or workplace, we can anonymously ask local police to investigate. If the individual has a license, a legitimate reason for owning arms and keeps them locked up, we at least have more information to make decisions about our safety.

    If a person is talking about violence, glamorizing brutality, asking us to participate in some cruelty, sharing private thoughts, pictures or writings with a violent theme, we can ask authorities to intervene. Community mental health professionals, clergy and employers should be responsive to such concerns. If the individual is a student, parents and school officials should be alerted.

    If a victim of abuse asks you for help, refer them to an appropriate organization like Women Against Domestic Violence

    If calling an authority does not work, call another. If you have evidence that leads you to be apprehensive, do whatever you can to be heard. Point out other incidents where authorities, friends and family neglected to heed signs. For your own sake, for the sake of others, take warnings to heart. If you are making a mistake, any reasonable person will understand.

    For more about our violent society, see my articles: "Fame for murder: A dubious prize" and "Feel to heal: Silencing feelings begets violence."


    Diana deRegnier writes from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her articles appear in Web sites and print publications around the world. Contact Diana at © 2009 by Diana deRegnier


    "In her 2001 book, "Life Lessons," Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said we each hold within the potential of a Gandhi and a Hitler. We are uncomfortable knowing our dark side but we must acknowledge what we wish to manage. It seems we are equally disconcerted seeing the Hitler in others."

    Pre-WWII hyperinflation in Germany reached a peak of 3.25 × 106 % per month, which was the equivalent of prices for most goods doubling *every 2 days*. You can't take blame off the individual, but that is to say that sometimes the environment is just ripe for catastrophe. Just observing the media as a novice, it seems like a lot of the preventative efforts have been placed on detecting the individuals in time rather than trying to better-hone the environment.

    Although just this morning I heard about this story ( about a school that surveyed the students to ask specifically about who the bullies were, & then proactively stepped in to work w/the bullies. The principle reported that the bullies actually had a lot of social/problems anyway so it's been valuable to work w/them before they get in big trouble. Seems like a good idea.

    Diana deRegnier
    Certainly blame lies with the individual but we don't want to sit idly by as they perpetrate catastrophe. Absolutely change the environment that condones and encourages violence. I see relatively little efforts to detect individuals and a lot of heads in the sand.

    Schools are a great place to detect social problems and to deter violent behavior.  Understanding and connecting with teens is essential in creating a healthy society.