Monday 13 December 2010

Marc Lépine: in remembrance of December 6, 1989

This past December 6, we marked the 21st anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre or the Montreal massacre as it has become known. While the magnitude of the event and the fanatical focus of the killer on one specific group remain both astounding and perplexing, there can be no doubt that all of us will be analysing this incident for a long time to come probably without ever arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. Why would a 25 year old man go to a school and deliberately kill fourteen women and wound ten other women? Why, in his suicide note, would he make the statement "I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker" (...j'ai décidé d'envoyer Ad Patres les feminists qui m'ont toujours gâché la vie)? How does anyone arrive at the conclusion that a group whether it be based on race, religion or gender is somehow responsible for the ills of the world or should I say the ills of "their world"?

In reading over the story of Lépine, this almost seems like a classic case of a terrible childhood: an abusive father who was contemptuous of women, his parents separating when he was seven, being forced to live with other families seeing is mother only on weekends, him going so far as to change his name out of hatred for his father. This is very much a sad tale that would adversely affect anybody. However it does not fully explain why and at what point Lépine would cross a line and see himself in a delusional manner to be someone on a mission of importance beyond his station in life.

What possessed Kimveer Gill to kill one and injure 19 others at Dawson College on September 13, 2006 then commit suicide after being shot by police? Why would two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, kill 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999 then commit suicide? Why on April 16, 2007 did Seung-Hui Cho kill 32 people and wound many others at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University before committing suicide?

I find it disturbing to even write these words. The level of violence carried out by these individuals is absolutely frightening and I feel a degree of edginess just in merely contemplating such actions on the part of people who are so obviously deranged. It is odd how an event happening far away or even a while ago can still have an effect on us; it can still bother us if not still scare us. This may seem like a strange reference but I think of the part of movie Star Wars when the planet Alderaan is destroyed and Yoda says that he feels a disturbance in the force. Yes, all of the above events when they hit the papers were a "disturbance in the force" and I for one was left emotionally off-kilter even though I was not personally involved or personally touched in any way.

I find it perplexing why any individual would arrive at the conclusion that the next logical step in their life is one of death and destruction. Obviously it's insane as how could anyone explain rationally what is so patently irrational.

Violence against women
StatsCan shows 2010 numbers which do not paint a flattering portrait of Canadian society. We may have a tendency of speaking about bad things happening elsewhere in the world but we also have a tendency of overlooking what's going on in our own backyard.
  • Police reported 610 homicides in Canada during 2009, virtually unchanged from 2008.
  • After peaking in the mid-1970s, the national homicide rate per 100,000 population generally declined until 1999 and has been relatively stable since.
  • As in previous years, the large majority of victims knew their killer. Of the 454 homicides that were solved by police in 2009, 14% were killed by a spouse, 19% by another family member, 39% by an acquaintance, 9% by someone known to them through a criminal relationship and 18% by a stranger.
Slight increase in spousal homicides
  • Police reported 65 spousal homicides in 2009, 3 more than in 2008. Despite this increase, the rate of spousal homicide has generally been declining since the mid-1970s.
  • Women continue to be about three times more likely to be victims of spousal homicide than men. In 2009, 49 women were killed by a current or former spouse, 4 more than in 2008, while 15 men were killed by a spouse, 2 fewer than in 2008. In addition, there was 1 same-sex spousal homicide.
  • Also, women continue to be more at risk than men of being killed by an ex-spouse. In 2009, 14 of the 49 female spousal victims were killed by a separated or divorced spouse, compared with 2 of the 15 male victims.

StatsCan: Police-reported dating violence 2008
Some 2008 numbers:
  • In 2008, nearly 23,000 incidents of "dating violence" were reported to police. These incidents accounted for more than one-quarter (28%) of police-reported violent incidents perpetrated by intimate partners. Dating violence represented 7% of total violent crimes in Canada in 2008.
  • Between 2004 and 2008, rates of police-reported dating violence increased steadily for both women (+40%) and men (+47%).
  • Victims of dating violence most often women
  • Overall, women accounted for 8 in 10 dating violence victims known to police in 2008. The majority of incidents of dating violence occurred once the relationship had ended. About 57% of incidents coming to the attention of police were committed by a former partner.
The Water Cooler: what's really going on
In my blog Sex: I'm a man and you're a..., I discuss the "double standard" when it comes to men and women. I also point out that while we think we have equality between the sexes, this is still in some cases more of a veneer than an actual equality. If you get a group of guys talking around the water cooler when they know that nobody is listening (read female), they will say what they really think and sometimes what comes out of their mouths is surprisingly not at all the equality between the sexes one would hope for. These men may say they're for equality but they don't necessarily have equality in their hearts.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all men. However there is certainly something out there bubbling under the surface.

True Story
Years ago I'm doing some computer consulting work. I'm at a small company talking with Bill the manager and Lori the head secretary. Out of the blue, Bill the manager decides to tell me a joke and says, "What's the difference between a woman and a walrus? ... One has a moustache and smells like fish, the other lives in the sea."

I was stunned. He says this in front of Lori. She nervously laughs not really knowing what to do. After all, Bill is her boss and signs her pay check. I didn't know what to say either; I was positively appalled he would say such a thing in front of a woman for starters but secondly; the premise of the entire joke is based on a sexist stereotype to which I do not at all subscribe. What an absolute idiot!

Are men naturally violent?
The Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women in its article "Violence against Women and Girls" asks the question: Is violence biological in men? They go on to answer:

If violence were a biological imperative in men, all men would be violent, and they are not. Many men are decent, loving, responsible and respectful people who do not harm women. To understand the problem, we must understand the various factors involved in the socialization of boys. Many boys are goaded into proving their “masculinity” through acts of violence and a lack of compassion. Violent role models for boys, such as wrestlers, boxers, war heroes, action figures, outnumber peaceful, responsible and caring ones. Weak, insecure men sometimes feel they have to control others, especially women, in order to be a “real man”.

Violence is learned from male role models early in life. Women experiencing violence by male partners are 3 times as likely to state that their male partners witnessed their own mothers being beaten by their fathers than are women who experience no violence from their male partners.

Boys are less aggressive when raised by a lesbian couple
As reported by the University of Southern California, a study of children raised by gay parents showed differences in their behaviour from those raised by heterosexual parents. For example, boys raised by lesbians appear to be less aggressive and more nurturing than boys raised in heterosexual families. While the aggressiveness of males may be attributed in part to the genes of the species, is aggressiveness also a learned behaviour? A study showing that lesbian parents have less aggressive boys would seem to point out that if Junior's a tough guy, he may have gotten that way from imitating dear old Dad.

Marc Lépine's father was an abusive father who was contemptuous of women.

Final Word
Cruelty seems to know no bounds. Hatred seems to have no limits. Insanity has no end. I am still utterly horrified of this picture of a viciousness which goes completely beyond my ability to comprehend how anyone could justify or sanction such a thing: see my blog Cruelty seems to know no bounds.

Is there hope? In my blog Because I Am a Girl, I talk about this campaign from the aid organisation Plan and its focus on the status of girls and women in the world. It is surprising to read the statistics and realise that the idea of a patriarchal society is very much with us and the goal of gender equality is still a long way off. Even in our own society, I use the "water cooler" scenario as the litmus test to see if we are actually non sexist or not.

I am truly sorry for the acts committed by Marc Lépine. The majority of men are not violent however we must admit that this is something in our culture which merits close examination. Yes, Marc Lépine committed an obscene act against women but why did Lépine and for that matter Kimveer Gill, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and Seung-Hui Cho all choose such an unbelievably violent and destructive end to their lives?

Despite my research efforts, I have been unable to find out what ever happened to Marc Lépine's father. However, I am certain that if he was ever confronted by the story of his son, he would never be able to make the connection between himself, his son's upbringing and the results of his own attitude towards life in general and women specifically. Are killers born or made? Is hatred innate or is it taught? It is a lesson to watch children play; they seem to have no concept of race, colour, creed or gender. They are a blank slate upon which we ourselves write what we want. That is a lesson we all should learn.


Wikipedia: École Polytechnique massacre

Wikipedia: Marc Lépine

Canadian Government: Status of Women
National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

The suicide note of Marc Lévine (in French)


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1 comment:

starviego said...

The shooting at Ecole Polytechnique was more in the nature of a CIA-style covert op, using multiple shooters, in order to shock the populace into accepting more gun control measures.