In working with young people displaying extreme behavior two elements appear necessary and often sufficient to precipitate relatively unprovoked violent actions. We may disregard much of the “weird” clothes and mannerisms as causative; upsetting to some adults (this is what the kids hope for), these are largely age- appropriate, if not always socially so. The first critical factor is chronic secretiveness, veiled motives and a marked loss and almost fearful rejection of trust and confidence in adults and some peers-- except as a source of hand-outs to further their own life- style. This factor is relatively frequent among youngsters from high crime and poverty areas but has been frequent, and quite significant as it occurs in well-off families. All by itself this may lead to antisocial behavior including drug and alcohol abuse (some times indulgently over- looked as “youthful high spirits”), but this also requires the presence of a factor that includes a preoccupation with violent death and dying. A fascination with torture may be included but is not always a prerequisite for deadly violence. The interest in death carries with it a marked urge to take control of it by making it happen-- either to themselves or others, the signs often hidden from those peers who do not share these same morbid interests, but who may later become targets.
Somewhat relevant here, I recall that a feature of a Totalitarian government has been described as the idealization of a golden, heroic and lost past, together with a concurrent deifying of the latest in technology, armaments and weaponry. That recipe is definitely not advanced here; there has always been evil in the world since the fall. As in John 10:10, “The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and they might have it more abundantly”. But pride is now frequently made synonymous with the personal power to operate “independently” in adulthood. In earlier times pride was often put under the category of virtue-ethics, even among laity. There, pride was represented by a sense of honor marked with self-respect. Such a goal for any youngster has much to commend it. Largely gone out of fashion now, it is something that needs to be earned-- under constantly caring and watchful eyes.
Presumably this current pride in independence is recognizable when one gains some sort of victory over others in the arena. But all the loners, all the disturbed kids who might one day kill, all the recluses and even some of the self-made entrepreneurs of this world already know the false god of independence. They find it easier to keep one’s distance (and one’s plans, or material gains), than to risk the fires of interpersonal conflict; possible scorn and criticism, cruelty or erratic anger from undependable others (and even the possibility of having all this aroused in one’s self). These are the experiences that will always teach “independence”, but a far cry from the commandment to love one another and treat others as we would be treated This latter rule has many advantages; fellowship, intimacy, peace in one’s relationships, and life eternal for starters. By comparison competitive rivalry seems to have taken up a lot of space in our present day culture. (But note the allotment and sharing of diversified gifts in 1 Cor. 12:4-12). There are bright people who maintain that only conflict breeds progress. If they are coveting the progress mostly represented by technology, they may at the same time be disregarding those qualities of life that have always been, and are even now, available to the seeker-- and which are probably of greater value for eternity’s sake.