I get a kick out of inventing theories in fields in which, a priori, I'm a complete ignoramus. In fact, some of my best discoveries and revelations occur in this way... and there's even a slight chance that some of them might not be totally wrong. For example, ever since I've been living here at Gamone at the down-river extremity of the vast oval-shaped canyon known as the cirque de Choranche (the Latin word circus used to designate simply a circle), I've been wondering about the way in which it was formed, and the time period in which this formation took place. Now, I've never studied geology or practiced speleology, so I'm out of my depth in this domain [a dangerous situation in the case of a mountain torrent such as the Bourne]. My "theory" is based largely upon common sense, and we all know that intuition is hardly a trusty yardstick in science. It's quite possible, however, that about half of what I have to say concerning the creation of the Bourne canyon [French-language explanations in my Choranche website] is more or less correct. It's a matter of deciding whether my half is more significant than the other.
I wish to turn my naive theory-making attention now to a totally different domain: the tragic shooting events that have been taking place over the last week or so in the USA.
Non-American observers often feel that the basic problem behind such horrible events is the ease of purchasing weapons. Many Americans would appear to be surprised by this criticism. Indeed, since last Thursday's massacre at Northern Illinois University, some students who were interviewed claimed that they should be allowed to carry concealed weapons into their classrooms, so that they would have the means of retaliating to an attack, instead of sitting there passively like ducks waiting to be shot. You have to admit that this kind of reasoning sounds logical for folk who're not dismayed by the thought of turning each US classroom into a potential OK Corral.
My theory concerns the curious behavior that consists of calmly murdering a bunch of fellow students before turning the weapon on oneself and committing suicide. This raises an obvious rhetorical question. Why are these individuals intent upon mowing down others as a messy prelude to their ultimate self-destruction? I used to imagine that a fellow who decides to shoot randomly at a crowd of innocent bystanders must be motivated by immense hatred, and that he kills in order to vent that hatred. Then, when he has done a fair amount of damage, he simply turns his gun on himself in order to end his terrible book of life, as it were. Well, today, I've revised this interpretation of happenings. I have the impression that the shooter, at the outset, is essentially suicidal, but not basically murderous. His hatred is directed almost totally at himself, whereas the others are a mere backdrop. So, why does he nevertheless murder others instead of calmly killing himself, say, in his home bedroom?
I believe that the answer to that question hinges around the notion of courage... or, rather, a lack of courage. The slaughter of others serves as a kind of bloody prelude enabling the shooter to build up enough destructive adrenaline, so to speak, to have the courage to commit suicide. The preliminary killings exert a snowball effect upon the shooter. Each bullet aimed at an innocent victim is like a fiery lump of snow added to the emerging snowball... which is rather a fireball.
When the killer has attained a climax of destructive paroxysm, the fireball is big enough to hit the man with the gun: the ultimate victim of himself. And this suicide occurs in a spontaneous fashion, as if it were mere fallout from the preliminary killings.
If the existence and role of this fireball syndrome were to be fully recognized and analyzed by psychiatric specialists, they might be in a position to imagine some kind of substitute solution to the senseless slaughter of innocent bystanders who happen to find themselves on the path of the killer. Maybe the would-be shooter could be persuaded to consume a pharmaceutical product—a mysterious fireball cocktail—that would give him the courage to commit suicide quietly, in solitude, without the murderous preliminaries.