Capitalism Begets Cannibalism?

by Abigail DeRoberts
Special to iVoryTowerz

In Canada, at the end of last month, on a Greyhound bus between Edmonton, Alberta and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Vince Weiguang Li brutally attacked Tim McLean, a 22-year-old carnival worker, who was sitting next to him on the bus. McLean was napping when Li began to stab him to death, and the other passengers quickly fled from the bus. After killing him with a hunting knife, Li decapitated McLean, parading around the bus and displaying the head to onlookers. Li then cut pieces of the body with scissors and ate the pieces.

While particularly extreme, Li’s mental breakdown and subsequent attack does not break the psychological mold set by other high-profile killings in recent years: Columbine, several knife-massacres in Japan, the Virginia Tech shootings, etc.

It is notable that many of these perpetrators are either cultural transplants or people vocally dissatisfied with the social and spiritual alienation that so often surfaces in our consumerist, media-centric environment. These outbursts are simply the most visible and intense expressions of the emotional strain that living without a support network wreaks on the human spirit.

With the increasing pressure to travel to a residential college far from home, and accept jobs in other cities or countries, less and less people settle down in their cities of origin. The breakdown of family and traditional community structures that results from this widespread culture of transplantation is only magnified in immigrant communities, where people leave behind not only their families, but their entire way of life. The only common ground left to us in this context is created by the media, and materialistic consumerism, both entirely impersonal and superficial distractions. Inherent to this void is a lack of space to discuss it — where can we find support for our lack of support? It is lamentable, though hardly surprising, that an increasing number of people simply crack, and the result is all too obvious.

(Graphic from radicalgraphics.org, which offers its material for free.)

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Tony Romm said...

It'd be fruitless for me to argue against the effects of anomie -- social alienation is, as you correctly claim, a massive problem (in the U.S. and elsewhere), for which there is no simple solution. But I'm not sure the Greyhound beheading is an example of that. If this article (posted at the end of comment because of Blogger's html restrictions) is at all true, Li suffered from a dangerous psychological condition -- paranoid schizophrenia. That, while possibly intensified by his unwelcoming environment, isn't something you can veritably pin on a social ill. So while all your conclusions are wholly true, I think Li's behavior instead points to the inadequacy of mental health services, not failed attempts at assimilation. Or maybe it's neither; maybe this was as random as it was shocking. Either way, there's nothing definite about it.

Article: http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=74af9925-382e-4175-8ff1-42ed0e4bb2d1

Rick Rockwell said...

To see the direct link that Tony is using as a reference, please go here.

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