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Men and Violence

26 December, 2008

Where does the rage come from?

What drives a man to dress up in a Santa Claus costume on Christmas Eve, drive to the home where his ex-wife is partying with family members, shoot two of his former step-daughters (aged 8 and 16), spread a flammable substance, burn the house to the ground, and drive away?  Yes, drive away while the house was consumed by flames.  Why?

Nine people were murdered, some of whom could only be identified by dental records because they were so badly burned.  The girls were hospitalized but survived the rampage that killed their mother and grandparents, two cousins, two uncles and their wives.

Why?  His wife discovered that he had fathered a child with a girlfriend years before they were married and that, even though he was not supporting the child, he was claiming the child on his income tax.  They argued over the deduction and they went through a difficult divorce.  He lost his job earlier this year and was depressed.  He was depressed, but rather than just shoot himself, he decided to take his wife and her family with him.  Why?*

I always come back to that question – why?  What rage burns inside an angry man that drives him to such an act?  What mechanism ignites that rage?  All inhibitions are overwhelmed and a berserker  appears – violent and unrestrained.  Why?

Men share this trait with male chimpanzees and gorillas, who also fly into a rage and kill members of their own families, tribes, and species.   It is an anomaly in them as it is in men.  But is it a defective genetic trait, did it ever serve a purpose, is it the emotional equivalent of the appendix – occasionally painful or life-threatening, but totally useless now?

I am filled with questions without answers.  Those questions always lead me back to that other one – why?


read the complete story here

watch the video in my vodpod on the right

*Correction:  He didn’t decide to kill himself.  He had planned to leave and was wearing a money belt to pay for his escape, but his Santa suit caught fire causing him third degree burns.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 28 December, 2008 21:15

    But is it a defective genetic trait, did it ever serve a purpose, is it the emotional equivalent of the appendix – occasionally painful or life-threatening, but totally useless now?

    This is an excellent question. We are told that altruism in animals (including humans) was an evolutionary adaptation to promote the survival of the species, and I believe that, so it’s difficult to believe that this sort of behavior would gain too much of a toe-hold in our species (evolutionarily speaking), yet it happens often enough that we really need to get a handle on what triggers this sort of thing. It’s not enough to chalk it up to “the guy was just crazy” though clearly he was not operating rationally, at least in the opinion of the tribe, though I’d bet a year’s wages that he thought he was acting rationally.

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