Creating a Monster Like Magnotta

We’re all shocked that anyone, especially somebody born in Toronto, could murder and dismember his helpless victim, a Chinese foreign student studying at Concordia University. Worse still, Magnotta videoed the whole thing. He wanted us all to see what he had done. He was desperate for attention and notoriety.

One of the best books I know on male violence is Dr. James Gilligan’s Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. Dr. Gilligan was the psychiatrist in charge of the most violent prisoners in the USA. He used the prison as his laboratory to study human violence. Here’s what he found.

The more violent the criminals, the more severe the abuse they had suffered in childhood. The connection between child abuse and adult violence is as clear and as preventable as the connection between smoking and lung cancer.

There’s a film Life With Billy that realistically portrays what can happen when a little boy is shamed and abused, can’t express his rage to his abusive parent and develops huge sense of shame about himself. When Billy married the woman he loved passionately everything was okay until they had a child. Deprived of his wife’s total attention, Billy became an abusive, out of control father beating and humiliating his young son. Anything his wife said to him sounded to his ears like a criticism or putdown. The rage he could not allow himself to feel about his childhood erupts and he ends up battering the woman he loves. This is a shockingly realistic portrayal of the shame-rage-violence sequence that turns adult men into raging monsters.

Back to James Gilligan: Dr. Gilligan also wrote Preventing Violence, a sequel to his first book. Dr. Gilligan tells us: “We know how to cause violence: by shaming people. Therefore we know how to prevent it: stop shaming them (page 80.) Gilligan presents a sociological solution as well as urging more empathic parenting. Poverty causes shame and therefore violence. He calls on the 1% who hold most of the nation’s wealth as well as the rich nations of the world to do their part in stopping violence.

The message is clear. If we want to live in a peaceful world free of violence, we need to work preventively.

That means improving parenting so that no child is  abused, neglected or shamed. Being poor is very stressful and stressed parents are more likely to neglect and shame their children. Eliminating child poverty would go a long way in creating a peaceful world.

(disclaimer: being abused, neglected and shamed as a child does not doom a person to become a violent adult.)

One comment

  1. Hello there, just wanted to say great post! I live in Toronto and have been following the Magnotta case, and I too love Dr. Gilligan’s work, he did a brilliant job of making clear “what went wrong” and what needs to be done to fix it when it comes to male violence, a real sickness in the colonist culture. That’s half the battle, figuring out The Problem, and now the harder part of the battle: getting the purseholders to cough up resources to PREVENT this global tragedy! In many ways, “the system” profits from this and other kinds of mayhem, which is an even bigger problem because that makes them more predatory & exploitative than the men Gilligan writes about.

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