Thursday, April 19, 2007

"I Will No Longer Run"

See some good overviews (NYT and LAT) today. We have a little progress on Cho Seung-Hui's state of mind :

- he's not a traumatized war vet but he turns himself into one: the manifesto. A decent commentary

- warning signs appeared in the Fall 2005: In October 2005, his creative writing professor kicked him out of class because his writing was 'intimidating" and frightening other students. The department chair found Cho's response "arrogant" with an "underlying tone of anger." In November 2005, a female student complained of "annoying" contact with Cho but did not press charges. In December 2005, a second female student complained to campus police about Cho's instant messages. Police told Cho to stop contacting her. Acquaintances of Cho said he may be suicidal and he was referred to a mental health facility. A counsellor recommended involuntary commitment to a mental health facility; a judge signed an order saying that Cho "presents an imminent threat to self or others." There, a doctor determined that he was mentally ill but not a threat - which was apparently true at the time. In Fall 2006, in another creative writing class, Cho's fellow students refused to analyze his work, one of his English professors contacts a dean of students about his behavior. She gets no usable information, and deals with Cho in her own way - "Cho was allowed to remain in the seminar but was placed off to the side, where . . . he did not speak."

- Cho was "shunned" more than he was treated, even in class. He was one of those informal social pariah at whose cafeteria table dormmates won't sit - the classic "loser" whose misery and isolation produces even more pathetic attempts to make contact and even more aversion. Cho's roommate remarked that in the video Cho is a "totally different person. He was staring straight at the camera, and he never stared into our eyes or even looked at us." Cho's parents put him in the dorm in order to help him make these contacts. But Cho's life became defined by repeated failures to do exactly this.

- The pain of this kind of repeated, general rejection is excruciating. It can lead to the disintegration of the ego that is one of the standard sources of psychosis.

- "Psychosis" - what do we mean by this word? At first, Freud thought it could be traced to a "defensive conflict against sexuality," and Cho did lash out against alleged debaucheries at Virginia Tech. Then it seemed that psychosis takes over from mere neurosis when the ego loses contact with reality and lives entirely in a world of fantasies. These fantasies may compensate for the ego's crushed state, and we could cite the fabricated omnipotence of the gun-wielding campus commando that Cho became in his movie.

- Psychosis II: we could instead see psychosis not as the break with reality but as a final solution to a break that has already been established. The solution is a forced reestablishing of contact with those whom the subject feels have rejected contact. Strangers are included since the prior pattern of rejection is so complete and generalizable to anybody. The renewed contact is psychotic because it is willing to establish contact even at the price of destroying the contacted object.

- Murder is the final contact. And suicide is completely consistent with it.

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