Sunday, 16 December 2012

Newton massacre: the hardest lesson

Newton and Sandy Hook, from Google Maps
If truth is the first casualty of war, it can be no less persecuted in the search for meaning. And in the understandable quest for meaning behind Adam Lanza’s shocking gun rampage in Connecticut it’s not impossible that the press-driven quest for narrative will prove injurious.

For example, the Telegraph mentions Asperger’s and personality disorder in relation to Lanza. He may well be diagnosed with these, but it seems significant that these are the two conditions mostly used as catch-alls to hold individuals who fall between the cracks in psychiatry.

The American Psychiatric Association refers to "limited data available about this newly introduced disorder" (Asperger’s), while the diagnostic criteria in the US Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) are rather broad.

Personality disorders are a wide spectrum of conditions whose symptoms are not exclusively linked to the individual’s inner experience: DSM-IV comments that "An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior the deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture", potentially stigmatising many of us and dependent upon the diagnosing clinician’s assessment not just of the individual but also of the "expectations of the individual’s culture". Does somebody on a sink estate with aspirations to succeed have a personality disorder?

Lanza owned a copy of The Catcher in the Rye which the Telegraph article calls "the classic tale of troubled youth", but over 60,000,000 copies of the book have been sold and there haven’t been 60,000,000 massacres. (I found it marginally less interesting than watching paint dry.)

Reasons can help us understand, which may be important for many Newtown residents as they grieve for the victims of this awful massacre. But, tragically, perhaps the only reason is that there was no reason and there are no lessons to be learnt, except the hardest lesson, that of carpe diem. May the victims of this atrocious crime rest in peace.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


  1. Catcher in the Rye caught my attention. I had to read that book at school. I hated that book.

    It caught my attention because someone like Lanza reading that book could take it all the wrong way. The rest of us who were forced to read it probably loathed it!!

  2. Good point! He maybe saw things in it in the sense that Manson saw things in Helter Skelter etc.

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