For some reason the fate of Alek Minassian continues to haunt me.
How is it, I ask myself, that someone who killed 10 people and injured 16 more, some permanently, running them down in his rented van here in Toronto 15 minutes walk from my home, now convicted and awaiting sentencing, continues to elicit sympathy in me?
Maybe it’s somehow the enormity of it. To do what Minassian did suggests some kind of profound innocence, such a fundamental disconnect with the human world that you wonder if he fully understands what he has done.
This morning I searched The Basic Writings of C. G. Jung (Modern Library), a book of 552 pages that continues to reward me after thirty years of reading, looking for something that would help me understand Minassian. I came upon Jung’s description of what he called the ‘introverted irrational’.
This is a person difficult to grasp. Jung says they live deep in the unconscious realm, poorly connected to the daily world most of us know. Here are some of his comments:
Since their main activity is directed within, nothing is outwardly visible but reserve, secretiveness, lack of sympathy, or uncertainty, and an apparent groundless perplexity.
….they are mostly underestimated, or at least misunderstood. To the same degree as they fail to understand themselves – because they….lack judgment…..they are also powerless to understand why they are so constantly undervalued by public opinion.
The fragmentary ….character of their communications make too great a demand upon the understanding of [people who try to know them]
these types show very often a brusque, repelling demeanor towards the outer world….
Fate itself prepares for them….overwhelming external difficulties….
Without seeing Minassian’s detailed psychological profile, I can’t say how much this matches with him, but my gut feeling is that it matches pretty well. If so, then the idea that these men like Minassian (Incels) have of themselves, that they are as they are simply because of their lack of success with women, doesn’t match well with reality. There is probably much more going on.
Are they just a psychological/genetic mistake? That is not what Jung thought. He added:
From an extraverted and rationalistic standpoint, such types are indeed the most fruitless of men. But, viewed from a higher standpoint, such men are living evidence of the fact that this rich and varied world with its overflowing and intoxicating life is not purely external but also exists within.
Jung thought there might be a place for them, but in the unimaginative societies we have constructed there appears to be none. They feel trapped and they react accordingly.
Recently, also, I’ve found myself comparing Alek Minassian to Voltaire’s Candide, another innocent young loner tossed out into the world, where he falls into one trap after another. Candide’s misfortunes were not created by himself. They occurred because he had entered a callous, dishonest, hypocritical society that he was not equipped to understand.
Candide suffered his blows stoically, but most people don’t. Alek Minassian responded by killing as many people as he could. His story is a tragedy, not a satire.
Psychologist Brian Gilmartin, who created the concept of ‘love-shy’, has said that he thinks many men on the spectrum, including the Incels, overlap with love-shyness. He warned long ago that if they were not recognized and treated there would be severe consequences.
As horrifying as Alek Minassian’s crime was, I continue to feel only dismay at the prospect of life-imprisonment for him with no parole, the most likely sentence for him here in Ontario. Having experienced this society as a kind of hell, as he says, he will now probably be thrown into the most hellish part of it. He will have to live with hardened criminals, sociopaths, etc.
We don’t seem to have anyone of Jung’s stature looking at this, and all the other volcanic psychological turmoil bursting out in our world. Hopefully some reader will prove me wrong and draw my attention to some twenty-first century thinker who understands what is happening and has some solution to offer.