One of my students asked me today, “What kind of person would do that?” It was a question that stopped me in my tracks.
We were talking about the killings that have been happening in Chinese elementary schools, and it was a seemingly innocent and understandable question, and maybe even one that seems a bit trivial or naive. But it bit deep into a real issue that I think really does bother most people when we read something like this.
So I thought for a moment, trying to answer this student, and was shocked at my own incomprehension. What would make a person do that to anyone, let alone 5 year old children who have never done anything to harm him? As I struggled, it dawned on me that the answer was that no human really would. It makes me think of Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune, and the test of the Gom Jabbar, where the point of the test is to make sure our young hero, Paul, is really human. Herbert suggests that some people are not really human, and the test is one of the greatest parts of that book, and it dives into a huge realm of psychology about the “nature” of human beings and how they react to fear.