The Psychotic Other: A Look At The Virtual Society We Are Living In

Posted on August 1, 2012 in GlobeScope

By Binita Kakati:

An essay on the recent tragedy in Colorado. This piece doesn’t intend to underplay the horrific nature of the crime in anyway, but it does call for a reassessment of the world we are living in.

Of late there has been a lot of talk in the air about how deplorable the massacre at Aurora was, how demented and insane a former neuroscience student and researcher can be, we have all been touched and transformed by the incident. Transformed from normal people living normal, office to home lives to drawing room Jesuses. It is a title we unknowingly give ourselves every time we sit and condemn the killings, call the student a plain psycho and for once we become crucibles of virtue. We become model citizens of India who are concerned about the people in the U.S of A, because we are a generation which is connected through the internet (in our times the negative effect of not having a Facebook account is simplified into ‘you become psycho’) we are a generation which so vehemently condemns and endorses and sometimes even lobbies for various causes. Our Facebook profiles are full of humanitarian actions, we talk against terrible things happening in Ethiopia, Syria, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Andorra , name the country, sometimes even the privileged ‘other‘ from America (yes the land where, when our kind goes there we call them NRI with reverence) figures in the list.

We only know how to condemn and endorse. Somehow in the whole social web of networking and interlinking and lobbying we forget to understand and ask questions. We are a generation of intellectuals who very vehemently disapprove everything for awhile, without ever questioning. We criticize, we disagree and we rally for just awhile on such astonishingly conventional lines. We say what someone has already said on a Facebook status update, we put it on twitter. We gloat in the moment of our new found glory. At suddenly condemning people, at condemning acts, at condemning governments, sometimes even condemning the victims. We suddenly take the lost armour of Jesus and all the rest. We become kind Samaritans. It is only in our generation that people are judged by words instead of action. Forget Kony, children have been starving to death in our backyard for ages.

Well nothing is wrong with any of the above. It is okay to disapprove, condemn, rally, walk, become Jesus and all his disciples combined in one, after all it is a free country, it is a free world it is okay. But what frightens me is how we dismiss. We dismiss things even before we question them.

I’m not the president of the “United Association of the Psychos and Mass murderers of the world” sitting in my booby trapped apartment, being the un-appointed attorney to my psychotic kindred. No, but what I’m trying to say is we live in a world where a breed of ‘sane till yesterday’ people is on the rise. We are living in a world full of psychos. The psychos are amongst us, they live their lives like us, studying, reading, writing assignments, projects, pleasing teachers, parents, boyfriends and girlfriends, maybe even rallying some cause like you and me, but one fine day they become monsters. Sometimes they consciously, deliberately plan to make complicated mechanisms to make their apartments impenetrable, sometimes because of lack of knowledge, not motivation; they just strip and kick a teenage girl.

We condemn these psychos living amongst us when we get the chance to. Even we want to strip, molest and then shoot them. Because suddenly the psycho we were friends with till yesterday becomes ‘them’ and not ‘us’. The concept of us is very intriguing to me. The world is full of them. We are a world of separate realities, we are a dualistic world. It is a principle which has wrecked havoc in people’s lives since stone age.

We live in the dualistic world till such time as we realize ‘oh it is wrong,’ it took us a hundred years to realize apartheid was wrong. It took us even longer to realize slavery was wrong. But we still live in a world where a black is called a black because of his colour. They don’t care, because what’s in a name? They’ve been through worse. We live in a world where Indians condemn acts of racism against Indians in Australia, but do not ever pass a chance to gape at a Negro when we see one. We gape and gawk at them from afar and take our children away from the vicinity of a Negro and a tiger at the zoo.

What I’m driving at is, psychologists and all other intelligent people have proclaimed the Aurora mass murderer to be possibly insane, to have certain resentment towards society, a compounded resentment because of the absence of a social life and by God’s sake a Facebook profile. He is a killer because he does not possess human emotions of empathy, compassion, love. Absence of these emotions comes about because the person is not integrated into society. To him we are all ‘them’. The other kind, which he resents and must kill even if it is to get a moment of fame and glory, we get it by condemning him in our drawing room. He got it, being a little more calculative, by brandishing three guns. What is strange to me is that social life, social success, and most importantly, social integration is so virtual. It is not something we feel for each other. It has become something we feel on Facebook. We feel it virtually and hardly ever in reality. When a person is driven to insanity because of lack of participation in virtual life, it is a scary thought. I’m a virtual kid, I have a blog, Facebook profile, a flickr profile and a profile in any other website which came my way. It is an easy way to connect and I love the internet for all it teaches me. But when a lack of internet space leads to insanity we are headed for trouble.

Long back, a sociologist had done the first systematic study of suicide. He advocated different types of suicides and underlined the various social reasons which lead to them. Suicide was taken to be any act which directly or indirectly resulted in the person’s death. The person in question is conscious of his action and the result, but for some reason, be it social isolation and lack of integration into society or even being overly integrated into society, as is the case of soldiers, he still chooses that course. Apart from breaking common misconceptions about suicide being an action only attributed to the psychologically unstable, it also for the first time, established the importance of one’s integration into society.

The integrating principles of today’s world are not to think and reason but to condemn and condemn some more. Once upon a time in faraway lands, boys and girls were integrated into society through a ceremony, which the brighter white minds when they saw it called it ‘rites of passage’. They deemed it to be a very important social mechanism for the children to grow up and take the roles whose responsible execution was crucial for the functioning of society. They were put into isolation and then through a ritual, integrated into the society. In our times we only know how to isolate, not to integrate.

Taking an economic standpoint, we are living in a world where a neuroscience student on scholarship cannot get a job after graduation, that too (with breathless reverence) in America. It might possibly be because the employers saw through the cool veneer; they saw the psycho hiding within, but all reports point otherwise. He seemed, till the day before the incident, exceedingly normal. He even tried reaching out to the counsellor at the university by submitting his diary detailing his psychological decline and also elaborating on his plans for the massacre. But of course no one really had the time. We live in a world where given a chance we would tear a girl apart in the street. Even if we consider the fact that the prime accused did it for TRP (very motivated journalist, we need that kind now days, you see with the cut throat competition, a motivated journalist must make news instead of waiting for it to ‘happen’) and it was premeditated. It was started by cold calculative, manipulative psychos, what about the 20 others who joined in merrily, giggling in flights of such absolute intoxicated delight? We live in societies of “ us and them”; of bad girls and good girls, of blacks and whites, of psychos and Jesuses.

We live in a society where every intellectual pontificates and deliberates and tells us that social isolation culminated over years to cause the psycho to go into psycho ballistic mode. Not once do we think we as a society are isolating each other, we are isolating ourselves, from human touch, from human feelings, from human reality.

We are more entangled than the wires connecting our super gadgets. We are entangled in misconceived concepts of integration. To be integrated into society nowadays, one must be acceptable in terms of having a proper job, in terms of having a Facebook profile, in terms of having a bb pin, in terms of a lot of other things. But none of them being just ‘human’. That is not enough. You will be condemned for it. On Facebook.