Of course we should be concerned about individuals who can be manipulated into carrying out acts of terrorism and mass murder. We should be equally concerned about individuals who need NO manipulation – who act from their own vile and insane motives and drives.
But we need to ask WHY such individuals behave as they do, and WHY they are easy to manipulate. Or WHY they sometimes have innate or inborn drives to terrorise, injure and kill. HOW can we prevent or hinder such manipulation, and such vulnerability? how can young people develop the strength and the independence to think for themselves, to resist manipulation, to cope with peer pressure and the falsehoods they encounter in real life as well as on the Internet?
These questions become increasingly urgent in a year when horrendous acts of terror and murder are being carried out at an ever-increasing rate – in the USA, in France, in Germany, in Japan, all over the world. Thousands more die in war zones, and thousands die as they try to flee those places in order to find refuge in other countries.
Yesterday it was the turn of the German ambassador to the UK to talk on the Today (BBC Radio 4) programme about “the growing incidence of mental ill-health in young people”. Today it was a representative of the French government talking about yesterday’s acts of murder in Normandy, as well as last week’s mass murders in Nice.
Why does it take such extreme and disgusting acts to get us to reconsider the state of our nations, and our young people? Are there any short term solutions? What can we do for the long term?
As educationalists our concerns are with the wellbeing and mental health of our young people and our older people alike. All of us are to some degree vulnerable, and all of us should learn more about ourselves and about others as we go through life. This type of learning we call personal intelligence and social intelligence. Here we’re dealing with qualities such as insight and empathy, which are complementary to intellect, scientific knowledge and factual knowledge.
The study of ourselves and of others cannot be done from books, though it can be done with help and guidance from books, lectures and the internet. Insight comes from observation and reflection. You just have to do it. Empathy comes from relationships with others. You just have to create them, nurture them and reflect on them. Feeling is as important as facts when it comes to motivation.
First question: are we spiritually healthy? Not in any ‘religious’ sense. In the sense that unprovoked acts of aggression which harm others cannot be carried out by spiritually healthy people. Even when people believe they are acting positively on behalf of a cause or an ideology they must understand that any acts which cause physical, mental and spiritual harm and suffering to others demonstrate a spiritual sickness. We’re not talking here about acts of self-defence, obviously. We’re talking about premeditated and sometimes spontaneous violence. We’re talking about anger management, the management of destructive emotions and sometimes we’re talking about personality disorders and psychopathy.
We’ve been writing about these issues literally for years on this blog. We’ve been practically pleading with successive ministers of education to make personal, social, emotional and health education compulsory. We’ve been insisting on offering young people high quality relationships and sex education. We’ve been calling for life skills, philosophy, values education and personal wellbeing to have equal status to literacy, science and maths. And STILL thousands leave school with very little in the way of academic qualifications (which are supposed to automatically lift them out of lives of poverty and desperation according to successive UK governments) and thousands leave school with very little in the way of life skills, self-confidence, critical thinking skills, relationship skills, spiritual strength and resilience.
We’re not going to cease writing about these matters, but we will go on posting links to posts we’ve already written and which still have validity. Please share and discuss.
Since it’s estimated that one in a hundred adults is a psychopath, why is it we pay so little attention to who these people are, how they live their lives, and what is being done, if anything, to identify them at an early age in order to address their therapeutic and learning needs as individuals?
One obvious answer to this question is that we generally know very little about this human condition, and we tend to care even less, unless it directly affects us. We also assume that we won’t have the misfortune to encounter a psychopath. We quite frankly never even consider what effect psychopaths have on society as a whole.
If you take somebody who has no concern for others and no interest in other people, with no ability to feel empathy whatsoever, plus no decent value system, you find yourself with a psychopath. Last night’s documentary on BBC2 on Anders Behring Breivik painted a portrait of the most loathsome type of human being – one who abuses his intellect and who becomes, through lack of essential intelligences, a mass murderer. This is someone who doesn’t even have the excuse that he killed in a fit of ‘passion’ when in the sudden grip of destructive emotions.
3Di would argue that you can’t possibly have any level of spiritual intelligence if you’re a racist or a psychopath. Spiritually intelligent people are anti-violence. They live by human values and discipline themselves to practise human virtues. Breivik would appear to have NO spiritual intelligence or social intelligence. Is he mentally ill, or simply lacking in vital areas of intelligence? Or both?