Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rationale and Inhibition, or Lack Thereof

Unless your moral compass is utterly beyond reproach, every so often there's a little voice, somewhere in the deep recesses of your head, that at least openly wonders what would happen if you engaged in an extreme, sociopathic reaction to some mundane act, or to no act at all in particular. Not just what we know as the id, but the most drastic possible form of id. What would happen if I took my half-eaten hotdog and smashed it in the face of the guy next to me who won't stop mugging for the Jumbotron. What would happen if I slammed on the brakes and forced that tailgater to ram into the back of my car. What would happen if I did this. What would happen if I did that.

Most of us quickly disregard these thoughts, though, as we know these actions to be immoral and wrong.

Most of us, anyway.

Now, perhaps you play video games, and perhaps you've gone on an indiscriminate rampage in Grand Theft Auto or something. The rules are different for video games; that's a controlled, ultimately safe environment in which nobody actually gets hurt. That is not what's at hand here. We're talking about real-life actions.

Nor are we talking about actions for which some sort of rationale, however twisted or flimsy, is provided. Even the examples provided at the top of this article don't really qualify. 'But he wouldn't stop mugging for the Jumbotron' and 'But he was tailgating me' are at least reasons. Bad reasons, but reasons. That is having a rationale. The issue at hand here is not a twisted rationale for sociopathy. The issue at hand is a total, utter lack of social inhibition control. The action for the sake of the action, and nothing more.

And it has happened. We'll examine here two such cases.

First, there's Thomas Venezia. Venezia in 2003 was given a five-year ban from hunting anywhere in the world, and was banned from Canada for life.

Venezia has claimed to have the "K chromosome", being quoted as saying "I love to kill. I have to kill." Luckily for us humans, for Venezia, that primarily means birds and deer.

Unluckily for us humans, Venezia would step on any toe to gain access to the grounds where he could shoot them. And Venezia stepped on a lot of toes, more or less the entire hunting community of Vermont. He would nudge people off longtime hunting grounds they'd used for years. He would park right next to people that beat him to a hunting spot he wanted. He would, in an activity where silence is paramount, scream "Lock and load, boys!" or "Come over here and I'll give you the nasty sting of steel!"

And it didn't end with straight hunting. According to an article from the Ludington Daily News,
Once, Venezia spontaneously leaped from a truck and started firing at ducks, then later at pigeons because, he said, he needed action because he had gone an hour without killing anything.

After the sentencing, Venezia was pretty much shut out of the community, to the point where one person in the linked Atlantic article, Saskatchewan investigator Ronald Maynard, hesitates to call him a hunter at all. But it hadn't altered Venezia's mindset. When reporter John Vaillant met Venezia after the sentencing, a group of pigeons flew overhead. When Venezia looked up at them, Vaillant asked Venezia what he was seeing, and Venezia- who remember was starting a five-year worldwide hunting ban- responded "Fodder." He went on to nod at them and say "See those pigeons?... Now they're in range. (beat) That one's dead. So's that one."

Second, there's a pair of girls in Perth, Australia, whose names went unpublished as they were below the age of majority at the time. This is the purest possible form of a lack of social inhibition. The two, during a sleepover, discussed what it would be like to kill someone, decided they'd feel no remorse, and then duly set upon a friend, Eliza Davis, in a cold, detached manner. At the ensuing trial, no further reasoning was given, no further emotion supplied.

They were both given life in prison, eligible for parole after 15 years due to their age. In addition, the two were separated on the rationale that they would pose an unacceptable threat to others as long as they remained together.

Normally, you'd try and analyze something like this by trying to discern why. But when the sake of the act IS the reason, it's exponentially more difficult.

But it has to come from somewhere, doesn't it? No matter how heinously or seemingly inexplicably one behaves, there are prior events and experiences in their lives that combined somehow to lay some sort of groundwork for it. One is not born a monster, and to dismiss someone as such is to disregard possible clues as to how they became who they became, thereby permitting others to follow similar paths in the future.

What might cause someone to completely lose their sense of social inhibition like this? Feel free to chime in below if you've got a theory.

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