A few days ago, someone, 41, lawyer, in a small town in Germany went on a shooting spree. The first victim was the 44 year old spouse, killed by shots in the head, followed by the 5 year old son, smothered with a plastic bag. With the help of explosive oil, the person set fire to the apartment. Armed with ammunition up to the teeth, the offender went across the street to the local hospital, killing a male nurse before being subdued by the local police force with several shots. The circumstances point towards a family tragedy, revolving around divorce, a parental custody fight and other sorts of disappointments having to do with family or the remains of it. It is not completely unheard of, we have had these kinds of rampage shootings in the past. What's new is, that this time they were committed by a woman.
I don't want to sound sexist now, but when men do that kind of thing, killing their families or shooting random people, or being violent in general, we still question their motives, but we are not that surprised. It just happens more frequently.
Since Columbine or Winnenden we know for example that young males are prone to violent rampages. But these are different kinds of acts, committed by students, although the outcome and the sequence of events seem to have some similarities.
This current one seems to be about family and everything it entails.
This woman obviously was in pain, hence the reports of psychiatrists saying she was in emotional distress, her ex-husband was in a new relationship, some years prior she had a miscarriage in that same hospital she went during her rampage.
These are all pieces of a complicated puzzle, but they cannot serve as explanatory proof for anything. People deal with these kinds of troubles all the time. In Germany more than a third of marriages end up in divorce, many women have trouble carrying a child to full term, and even though multiple of those factors combined don't happen that often to one singular person, they statistically appear from time to time. It just doesn't seem to be an extraordinary set of circumstances.
It would ease our minds immensely if we could pinpoint one particular reason. There probably is none that would satisfy our need to believe that there is a big difference between her and us. The wiring of brains may diverse slightly, but our general setup clearly points towards homo sapiens. There probably is nothing fascinating about it. Still, why do we feel the need to create a mystery, a mythology of rampage?
In the papers you may read questions like:
What special circumstance drove her towards doing such a horrible thing?
I am afraid, that those kinds of questions seem to divert us from the real problem.
The real question, to put it most eloquently, is:
What makes a brain go nuts? Not only hers, but yours, mine, everyones.
Is the fact that she had access to weapons and ammunition sufficient?
No. Even I have a kitchen knife.
Is the fact that she was a sporting marksman some sort of hint to the build of her personality? Good try, but wouldn't it be more efficient to choose variables we do know something about?
Do you have to have a special pre-existing mental setup to enjoy a hobby that includes shooting at targets?
You'd like that wouldn't you?!
How did her brain function? Did it misfunction? Does it make a difference, how we look at it?
There is only one thing that makes us different from her. The fact that we haven't done something like that. We cannot deny the possibility. Our brains may be the same. Aren't we all familiar with pain, disappointment, jealousy, loneliness, anger, desperation, anxiety? Aren't those many of the forces that drive us to do all kinds of things?
Isn't it always better to look for similarity in behaviour rather than difference to explain human phenomena?
Yes, at least, if we really want to know the answers.