When we study the history of humanity we realize that the intensity and severity of human violence and aggression has increased over the centuries. Only in the 20th century millions of humans have been killed by other humans by pre-meditated murder, including the use of nuclear weapons. If we review human murders we can classify them into the following seven groups based on emotional, social, religious, economic or political motivation.
1. PERSONAL REVENGE
There are many people in every community who have difficulties controlling their anger. If someone hurts them, rather than forgiving or reporting the matter to the authorities, they take the law into their own hands and kill their enemy. As a psychotherapist I am fascinated by the number of murders that happen within families; people kill those they had loved at one time. Their sense of betrayal transforms their love into hate, and lovers become enemies. Spouses who once vowed eternal love can kill each other because of jealousy. It is sad to see domestic and family violence killing so many people every year, especially children and women.
2. SERIAL KILLERS
While some people kill people that they know intimately, there are others who kill strangers. We call them serial killers and mass murderers. I interviewed Javed Iqbal Mughal who had confessed to killing one hundred children in Pakistan, and reviewing the research on serial killers, I was shocked to discover that the United States had the highest numbers of serial killings in the world. These serial killers, who were usually physically, emotionally and sexually abused as children, became revengeful against a particular group, be they blacks or women, gays or Hispanics, whom they killed indiscriminately until they were caught by police. Many such serial killers have psychopathic and sociopathic personalities.
3. SOCIAL VIOLENCE OF GANGS
As more and more people move from villages to cities and adopt an urban lifestyle, they face the pains of migration, social alienation and unemployment and some of them become involved in violent gangs to sell drugs to make quick money. Unfortunately, once they enter the drug and gang culture it is difficult for them to leave. It is fascinating how these gangs provide a sense of identity and belonging to young men and women who feel lost, confused and isolated in big cities. When there are violent confrontations between gangs, we see many murders. In some cases the local police themselves become involved in these violent crimes.
4. MENTAL ILLNESS
While the majority of murders are committed by psychopaths who do not suffer from mental illness, there are some murders committed by people who suffer from schizophrenia, manic depressive illness and paranoid psychosis. When these emotionally disturbed people feel threatened and attacked, they may think they need to kill before they are killed. Such people, rather than going to prison, are sent to hospitals for psychiatric treatment.
5. POLITICAL / NATIONAL VIOLENCE
As the concept of nationalism became popular in the West, states created national armies. Over the centuries, soldiers in the uniform of one country killed only the soldiers of the enemy army. As guerrilla war became popular, both sides have been killing innocent men, women and children. Some call it using human shields while others call it collateral damage. Innocent citizens are being killed with no twinge of conscience on either side.
Human beings can be executed by their own governments, under capital punishment laws ordered by the courts. These are murders committed by legalized state violence.
6. VIOLENCE OF RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISTS
Over the centuries believers have killed each other in the name of God. In the last few decades there have been a large number of killings between Sunnis and Shiites, Catholics and Protestants, Hindus and Muslims, and Muslims and Jews in different parts of the world. Ironically these violent murders were committed in the name of a merciful God. Some of those killings are done to create theocratic states. Many such murders are ordered by religious leaders who have charismatic and cultish personalities.
7. INTERNATIONAL VIOLENCE
In the recent past, Western governments have been sending their armies to other countries and invading sovereign states in order to topple their governments; they have killed innocent civilians and then rationalized their murders in the name of democracy, human rights and freedom. We are all aware that they are economic wars aimed at establishing the aggressor’s military presence all over the world, selling weapons and ensuring access to the conquered countries’ resources.
It is sad to realize that violent consciousness is on the rise and that the borders between just and unjust wars have blurred. Even in the 21st century we have not risen above a tribal mentality. I am afraid that if we do not develop peace consciousness and do not feel compassion for all of humanity, we might commit collective suicide and may not evolve to the next stage of human evolution.
It is ironic that in the contemporary world, leaders of religious, spiritual and secular traditions claim that their ideologies and philosophies promote peace, but we see their followers continue to kill each other. Whether they are followers of Christianity or Islam, Judaism or Hinduism, Communism or Capitalism, they kill innocent human beings and justify their murders.
I think time has come for all of us to learn to communicate better and find ways to resolve our personal, social, religious and political conflicts peacefully and respectfully, and accept that killing one human is like killing all of humanity with wrong.
Neuroscience uncovered why people behave so violently looking into the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007 with many other like incidents also which were still a small percentage of people. What happens in these individuals is that their cognitive control mechanisms are deranged. Mind you, these individuals are not out-of-control, enraged people. They just use their cognitive control mechanisms in the service of a disturbed goal. There are probably a multitude of factors at play here. The subject is exposed to influences that lead him or her to violent acts—including, unfortunately, not only the violent political rhetoric but also the media coverage of similar acts, as we are doing here. A variety of issues, especially mental health problems that lead to social isolation, lead the subject to a mental state that alters his or her ability to exercise cognitive control in a healthy manner. Again also childhood plays a big role. The cognitive control capacities of the subject get somewhat redirected—we don’t quite understand how—toward goals and activities that are violent in a very specific way. Not the violent outburst of somebody who has “lost it” in a bar, punching people right and left. The violence is channeled in a very specific plan, with a very specific target—generally fed by the media (like take the protesting that has gone on from Missouri to New York for a month or more with media showing every news flash each day)through some sort of rhetoric, political or otherwise—with very specific tools, in the Giffords case, a 9-millimeter Glock.
Now lets look at what are the signs of a person who is disturbed enough to take some form of action to killing. The signs are quite visible, although difficult to interpret without a context—and unfortunately they unfold very quickly , and people can rarely witness them before the action is taken (which happened with Brinsley in New York killing officers in Brooklyn on duty just doing their job), . The action itself is a sign, a desperate form of communication from a disturbed individual (Brinsley did put on the internet a warning the day it was going to be done, Sat 12/20/14. Unfortunately, nobody was chatting with the guy when he left his final messages on Internet before getting into action. But I bet that if somebody was communicating with him before the act and saw those signs and read those messages on social network he was using, that person could have done something, could have engaged him in a sort of conversation that might have redirected his deranged plans. Indeed, by connecting with the subject, that person might have redirected some of the activity of mirror neurons toward a truly empathic behavior, rather than in the service of the deranged imitative violence leading to action.
My readers I could go on with more examples of people killing but I am sure you listen to the news or read it somehow but I tell you this information not to persecute a person, not even a race or politician but to LEARN HOW THE BRAIN WORKS. Most importantly to PARENTS bring your children up AS A CHILD not as an adult until they reach adulthood with giving good direction and guidance as their primary mentor. You the parents make our next generation who are now children and even for future parents learn so they will have a more productive working society. For now the society in America works as a nonproductive unit of people to all races, creeds, genders, sex preferences, & nationalities of all kinds. Especially in being compared to the 1980’s; yes they had their problems but not like today’s with people treating each other with more respect even if things didn’t go their way. Our nation went off the deep end in allowing us to have freedom of everything without limitations or better rules/regulations legally in place not followed which we are paying a good price for and will take a very long time to fix. Remember when someone or now a group of people get hurt you can forgive but healing is like a wound it takes time to heal. Example: Look at Hitler, people still haven’t forgiven him, those that did have not forgotten it and they shouldn’t. Protesting can be effective where its peaceful, quiet, and not bothering other people in the area who aren’t involved. Look at El Paso and Ohio this past week, MUCH DAMAGE due to not thinking first but acting first on emotion and mental illness with fanatical thinking by one individual in both circumstances.