Would I charge the VTech killer? April 20, 2007Posted by Administrator in Blogging, Cultural Pessimism, Death and Dying.
Probably not, though in my romantic fantasies of course I hit the bastard with a flying tackle and dislocate his shoulder while simultaneously giving him a concussion.
The heroes of Flight 93 are remembered because they did something exceptional and rare, not because they typified the human condition. They represent not the normal level of American Can-Do Courage from which our civilization has sadly fallen, but an extraordinary act of heroism which has been extraordinary throughout human history. And they had some distinct advantages over the people at VT. For the heroes of Flight 93 were people in a unique circumstance: they had time to reflect, to realize the full import of their situation, to realize not one of them could get out of their situation, to coordinate with others, to gather themselves emotionally and mentally, and to formulate a desperate plan. Also, they were up against men with box cutters who were distracted with trying to fly a big airplane.
The people at VT has none of these advantages. Death burst in the door and started shooting. The normal reaction of the human organism to extreme situations is blank disbelief and inaction. That’s why Jews cooperatively lined up and walked into the gas chambers. Wanna know why there is a Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination? Because Zapruder just kept on filming. He didn’t immediately drop the camera and spring into action, seeking to trace the source of the shots and organize a posse to track down the murderer. He thought JFK was joking when he grabbed his throat after the first shot hit him. People don’t really shoot the President. So he stood immobile and just kept filming.
A few years ago two jets collided and crashed at an air show in Stuttgart, killing several people on the ground. We have excellent videos of this because, not just the cameraman, but most of the crowd stood stock still as the fireball engulfed its victims. Why? Because planes don’t crash and kill people right in front of you. You don’t move. You don’t know what to do in this utterly unique situation. Nothing in your life prepared you for it.
Sitting in a classroom results in passive, accepting behavior. Having death in the form of a self-absorbed madman suddenly manifest itself in the classroom door allows in no way sufficient time to alter one’s mental stance.
There have been any number of times that I have been walking in public places and a stranger has been in my vicinity. I am one who then tenses up, surreptitiously checks behind me and prepares for battle. No reason or experience has me do this, save for what I see and read in the news.
But I can virtually guarantee that I would not do such a thing in the classroom for the reason mentioned above. Instruction encourages apathy and passive acceptance. Group activities are even worse in that you then focus on the group and pay no attention to what might be happening in the doorway.
Shea is responding to a John Derbybshire article asking why no one stood up to the Korean misfit who saw fit to take out his social aberrations out on innocent students.
I think Mark is correct. The reaction is certainly normal enough. We can only extol the virtues of heroes such as Liviu Librescu who stand in the doorway long enough to give time for his students to flee. Monday Morning Quarterbacking the actions of the staff and studentsof VTech (as well as criticizing the administration) is short-sighted.