Back from Hong Kong. News from the states isn’t good.
Reminds me of 9/11 in that the victims represent a cross section of the US: Indian, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Indonesian, Canadian, Chinese, Peruvian, Lebanese, Israeli, and other people whose families had been in the states much longer. New Americans and old Americans. People from everywhere living in an everybody nation.
Which is why I am always especially surprised by mass-violence in the states. When you target US, you target a part of yourself, I say. It’s like shooting yourself in the hand or foot.
The murderer is interesting in that he seemed to believe he experienced a personal pain and/or suffering greater than that of any other. He seemed to believe that his suffering was unique and unequaled. It’s fascinating to me how a person with such a small, selfish, child-like perception of the world is emotionally capable of successfully purchasing a gun and planning and executing a mass murder.
The logical questions are: How much of an influence did his Korean heritage have on his thinking and development? If there was a strong influence, does the Korean culture frown upon men seeking help from others (professional help)? Is sexual rejection a kind of dishonor to the family or gender? Is self-humiliation or violence a necessary solution to being dishonored or shamed?
If there was no influence from his Korean culture and heritage, then the murderer felt isolated for reasons that are unknown to me because I have not read anything about that. It’s simply another young American who violently imploded. I find it hard to believe that his culture and heritage played no part in his emotional development, however, as I understand that his parents sacrificed in their native country to come to the US and they came to the US to provide their son with a better life and more opportunities. If this were all true, then the son would have probably felt some obligation to the family. Obligation to perform or maybe even excel; Excel in education, marriage, family, career, everything. Accomplishments would legitimize not only the man but his family as well. Failure would do the opposite; it would have the potential to destroy the boy and his family inside and out.
Asian social pressure can be shocking to westerners. I have seen many Chinese friends dutifully choose the obligatory marriage proposal over a promising and bright career simply because they were turning 30 soon and you should be married by 30. With the younger generations social pressures are probably more difficult because young people do not yet have the emotional maturity to understand or deal with social pressure. Take for example the kids who jump in front of the express trains because of their educational inadequacies. They may let down the entire family and community if they don’t live up to extraordinary expectations. They become overwhelmed and exhausted and so choose a goal that is achievable for them.
Why do these social pressures exist in Asia? Well, I think that they exist in America too but in America they are subject to greater interpretation. The different social, political, and economic history of the US is reflected in our culture and social norms. I would argue that, in Asia, the generally more intense social pressures act as a safeguard. They act as an internal control for the behavior of the world’s most dense populations. Without such strict ideals of normalcy, there would be chaos or at least much less social stability in the parts of the world least able to afford that lack of social stability. Remember it is these “strict ideals” and “shocking social pressures” that have, in part, allowed the world’s oldest cultures to survive for so long. They serve their purpose. Sure you’ll get the people with unrealized professional potential and kids who kill themselves, but you also get a culture centered around the needs of the primary social group–the family–and that seems to be the key to survival.
I am no expert on Asian culture. I am no clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. I talk about my observations and experiences. I can be analytical and thought provoking. This bad news I hear from home stems from a kid who had problems that we need to understand in order to prevent this from happening again. There will be some good come out of this. For example, I can imagine business schools from universities across the country holding competitions for on-campus communications systems and the winning ideas being implemented around the world to make the college campus an entirely safer place for all students, faculty, staff and visitors. I’d prefer these kinds of tragedies not be the catalyst for any kinds of improvement, however they should always be opportunities for us to examine ourselves and learn how we can better live together.