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October 21, 2010

The Colonel Russell Williams case, who is guilty by association

Scott Stockdale

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I'm having some difficulty with this case. I thought we would agree that no one should be found guilty by association; for example, people plotting terrorist attacks went to a particular place of worship, so many automatically conclude that the religious leader was the instigator. That doesn't seem right to me or to conclude that the men's fellow worshippers are guilty by association because they socialized with them and found them acceptable people; or to condemn the whole community because a few have been found to be perpetrators of terrorism.

I read Pol Pot's biography and I followed the newspaper articles closely for the Bernardo case because I was trying to understand why people behave in such a way that is anathema to the way most of us consider acceptable.

We couldn't have a society of any kind were there not some degree of trust between the vast majority of people. 

I could not look into the Williams case because I stopped following these cases because I concluded that I simply couldn't find a reason why people do these things.

Yes, they are influenced by the environment, society and media they are nurtured in, but these people, I think are aberrations because millions of other people grow up in the same culture, yet don't even think about doing such things.

As for the portrayal of women in the media, yes it is sexist showing revealing clothing etc. But I think people like Williams would not be deterred even if all women in media were fully covered from head to toe, if anything this would add mystery for these types.

I have to wonder why the overwhelming majority of men live amongst these revealing images but never perpetrate such crimes. 

When Ontario legalized women appearing bare chested in public about 12 years ago, it was predicted by some that it would lead to attacks, but it doesn't seem to have materialized.

While in China, the students asked me why the guy went into the Texas college and shot many people. I said there are always reasons why people do things but many times, and certainly in cases like this, they're irrational reasons. There is no reasonable explanation. 

Many people were doing poorly in school, had trouble establishing social contacts, suffered a breakup etc. But they don't shoot people as a result, so I concluded that it's a weakness or a defect in the perpetrators, which could of course have been aggravated or triggered by the environment and society they live in.

I'm thankful to have been brought up with some religious education because I believe I and everyone else will be held accountable for their deeds in this world, so it is a deterrent against, never mind unspeakable crimes, but any kind of unfair treatment of others.

At the same time, others who went to the same Sunday School as I did, have shown that they have no problem treating others unfairly, although I know of none of them having committed crimes of any kind.

Interestingly enough, one neighbour commented that Williams always gave her the creeps from the first time she met him.  But again, that could be said about anyone that a person doesn't like for whatever reason. John English talked about MacKenzie King and said “Well he was a little strange, but aren't we all?”

In Bernardo's case, he was from a dysfunctional family where he had suffered emotional and psychological abuse which, although many others have had similar upbringings and not done what he did, helps explain, but not justify his actions.

I believe that when they start looking into Williams's upbringing, they will find it less than ideal, to say the least, and herein, in my mind, will be the reasons that warped his mind and thus led him to do such things, and the society and military provided a catalyst for his actions.

Penelope Leach, who wrote many books about raising children, said all children must have a good relationship with at least one adult in order to grown up an emotionally and psychologically well-adjusted person and I think the lack of this is at the core of the kind of behaviour Williams displayed.

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