These shocking small events over the past week: where do they come from and why do they happen? They are not really major events like a war breaking out or a massive natural disaster. Rather they are small events at a human scale caused by the actions of one or two individuals. Yet they reverberate against our universe like lightning illuminating something incomprehensible. But somehow because they are small and singular they feel personal.
I am speaking of course about the killings by, apparently, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in Afghanistan, the killings in Toulouse by Mohammed Merah, and in Florida the bizarre killing of young Trayvon Martin. Each of these events carries its own special horror and I hope the various investigations can provide explanations that allow us to hold on to a belief in human progress and basic humanity.
In investigating accidents in industry we try to find root causes and to allocate responsibility among different “factors”. Human error is usually one of these factors. We often find mental impairment to be one of those factors. I then recommend better training, better shift management, testing, etc. We all feel better and move on perhaps managing things differently next time. Something was learned and we can do better.
But the technology we offer is irrelevant here. Understanding these events requires a much deeper look into our common human souls.