Home | Blog | Diversity, the enneagram, and the Isla Vista massacre

Diversity, the enneagram, and the Isla Vista massacre

diversityMy blog on the massacre in Isla Vista from an Enneagram perspective has received many heartfelt comments, all of them positive, though I am sure there may be reactions that are not so positive. First I wanted to share some of these comments, then put forth some further ideas on this horrific situation, particularly in relation to violence and some diversity aspects of this situation:

General comments
“A well thought out perspective on this very complex situation.”

“A very insightful perspective into how a disintegrating “4” might get violent and even feel entitled to the destruction he created. I am left with so many questions and a big concern. My concern is, Are we getting immune to this type of violence? I am feeling heart broken and helpless.”

“An excellent overview. It really goes beyond the Enneagram. It left me with great food for thought. Typing him as a 4 is just that…typing. Interesting to know the internal motivation, but I appreciate how you are not “fixated” so to speak on that and look to contributing factors.”

From my step-daughter whose son has Asperger’s
“I still say there was a lot more going on with him than an autism spectrum diagnosis. His psychological state/personality traits were morphed into something much more throughout his life.”

“Every comment by a parent of a kid with Asperger’s responds that there is no way Rodgers was Asperger’s/Autistic.”

From two Fours
“Each of us has our unique blend of tendencies and perspectives; the Enneagram helps me to understand, grow and coach leaders to become more aware and make positive conscious choices. I sincerely hope other “artist/outsiders” [Fours] realize their own perfection.”

“The Enneagram needs to be taught in schools so kids know how to respond to the stresses their personalities brings them.”

On violence
On May 28th, a mere five days after the Isla Vista massacre, police arrested another Isla Visa male, a 22 year-old, for “negligent discharge of firearms” and released on $2500 bail. But it is actually worse than this. The young man had seven legally purchased guns and one of them accidentally went off when he was “playing with it,” nearly hitting another person in a nearby apartment. They also confiscated 1000 rounds of ammo. What is anyone doing with seven guns and a high-capacity rifle magazine, yet only gets charged with negligent discharge of one of them? You can read about this situation, which must have terrorized Isla Vista residents when they learned of it right after the memorial service for those slain the Friday before, here.

On diversity as a context for the Isla Vista massacre
Diversity and the Enneagram could and will be a topic I plan to write about in the near future, but it does pertain to the Isla Vista massacre. Diversity refers to how people perceive themselves and are perceived as different with respect to identity group differences. The primary diversity dimensions of identity-group distinctions include race, gender, sexual orientation, physical abilities, culture/nationality, education, religion and socio-economic class. Beyond how we identify ourselves and how others perceive us, these different diversity dimensions have differing degrees of privilege, a set of rights or entitlements that are socially determined and sanctioned.

In the case of Elliot Rodger and his social identity references from his manifesto, he appears to have had challenges related to his race, gender, sexual orientation, physical abilities, and socio-economic class. His perceptions, even if distorted, intersected with his Enneagram type Four self-perception that he was not only different, but he was deficient in all of these ways and people were (in his mind) ridiculing him for it.

Rodger was of mixed race (white and Asian), and he appears to have been both disdainful and hateful toward African-Americans, Hispanics, and people who are 100% Asian, as if he were superior to them. Interwoven here is what appears to be self-loathing for his own mixed race, which could be understood societally as a form of internalized oppression (due to his being a person of color of 50%, a person of color in a social system that generally confers more privilege and status to those who appear white) and personally as his own psychology. In this case, Rodger was (in my view) a very disintegrated, low functioning Four predisposed to assume that almost everything that is not affirming is a personal slight highlighting deficiency.

In almost every society, maleness comes with more privilege than femaleness. However when a person has inherent privilege, he or she often does not notice this because it is a given, a right of birth. Instead, a person who has privilege may notice the pecking order within their social identify group; in this group to which I am a member, where do I rank? Within this group of maleness, Rodger felt low status, not recognizing his gender still conferred on him more privilege than if he were female. But it appears from his manifesto that he was obsessed with one factor that confers more status within an already privileged group; being able to attract and engage in sex with females considered to be desirable. From a societal perspective, slim, tall, blue-eyed (usually), blonds are given more “points” in a primary white environment, and this is more true in Hollywood culture than even other places. So mix this with Rodger’s sense of intrinsic deficiency and an explosion was in the making.

Sexual orientation
Although Rodger states and even overstates how heterosexual he was (and heterosexuality, in generally, has far more privilege associated with it than does being a gay male or a lesbian), given his lack of sexual experience of any kind and his self-loathing and hatred of women, it is hard to tell whether he was straight, gay or someone who wasn’t really interested in sex with another person. In his manifesto, he appears to be sex obsessed and, at the same time, confused about his sexuality. Enneagram Fours are on a constant search for the answer to the question, Who am I? They think, often, that they are their feelings, but their feelings can shift and change with great intensity. The question of his sexual identity may have added even more confusion to his already challenging question about who he really was.

Physical abilities
Those who appear able bodied generally have more privilege than those who do not have the same physical abilities as others. This area of diversity describes both visible abilities and invisible ones, for example, being hearing impaired to a degree that makes some or most sounds challenging, but others may not know this about you. From his manifesto, Rodger did not refer to psychological issues as a cause of his life situation or unhappiness, and it is not clear if he really had them or if so, what he did have. Since he found it more than easy to cast blame on others for his unhappiness – his parents, schoolmates, siblings, other men, all women – and had the Four worldview of “something is wrong with me; I must find out what it is,” he never mentions any sort of mental disturbance. This, of course, does not mean he did not have one!

But he seems to have latched on to his shortness as a cause of his deficiency, and yes, taller males have more privilege than shorter ones in terms of being considered attractive, transmitting authority, and more. But this doesn’t mean that as a shorter male, he had less privilege than females. Unless, of course, you follow the Men’s Rights Movement, which he did, which blames women – and particularly attractive women or feminist women for their woes. There is a possibility that, as a Four, he always felt so different from others and also isolated (though much of this was self-isolation, as is true for many low functioning Fours) that he found comrades, community and a male group in the Men’s Rights Movement, and in particular, a sub-set of this movement of men who called themselves involuntarily celibate. Fours so much long to fit in, but they so much want to feel different. Here, Rodger may have found a home, albeit a negativistic one.

Culture/nationality, education, and religion
Elliot Rodger spoke very little in his manifesto about the impact of his culture/nationality, educational status or religious preferences. Perhaps these areas were not an intrinsic part of his social identity or they were not part of what he used as self-talk to main his feelings and justifications for his Four-based deficiency worldview.

However, he mentioned the power and privilege of his father’s father numerous times, almost as nostalgia for what might have been had his father’s family not lost their wealth in the Great Depression. To nostalgically romanticize the past is classic type Four behavior – they live in an idealized world of past pleasures, as well as past hurts, or in the future world of beauty, elegance, and ultimate fulfillment.

Socio-economic class
It is in this area where Rodger had the most distress, pre-occupation, and sense of inferiority/superiority, the latter being consistent with type Fours. Some may focus on education, others on looks, some of relationships, etc., even if they are moderate in self-mastery. Fours continuously compare themselves to others constantly unless they have worked intensively with this issue, and their sometimes superiority is a hedge against their sense of inner deficiency. The problem is that low functioning Fours don’t recognize this psycho-dynamic and hid behind their “innate” superiority, and this can be read throughout his manifesto.

There has been some writing that Rodger was not from a privileged family because there were multiple times in his upbringing where his father did not have a job and his mother had to rely on friends and family for support. This, however, misses the point of socio-economic privilege and confuses wealth with privilege.

Roger went to private schools numerous times, had multiple nannies, was well-traveled internationally (flying business or first-class when possible). His parents could buy him nice cars, and as a child, he always got the newest computer game systems soon after they were out. He could buy designer jeans and wore Gucci sunglasses. Both parents were Hollywood connected, an entry into power and privilege that few people experience. Did he want more? Absolutely! Did he already have more socio-economic privilege than 99% of the population? Yes!

On almost every dimension of diversity that seemed salient to Elliot Rodger, he was a child of privilege. A male from a well-connected family, the only two other significant diversity areas for him were race (where he had some privilege, given that he was half white and half Asian in a culture that grants whites high status and Asians more status than others who are not-white) and sexual orientation, which is a bit confused for him. Culture, education, and religion appear very little in his writings in terms of agents of his low self-worth and deficiency.

So who is to blame for this tragedy? His parents? Mental health professionals? The police? The gun culture? The NRA (National Rifle Association)? The politicians who take money from the NRA or who don’t have the courage or conviction to change gun laws, mental health funding, and systems that support this kind of violence? Is it the material culture that suggests that you must have certain objects, including women as objects, to be a real man? His online comrades or past teachers who now say they are not surprised he became a mass murderer? The list could go on. Thus far, the answer is “They couldn’t have done anything more” (whoever the “they” is in question). So no one is to blame but Rodger himself (who clearly is to blame). Really?

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x