I write this a week after the Boston Marathon bombing. I, like all of you, watched the unfolding of these horrific events and prayed for the innocent victims. I got angry with the senselessness and meanness of it all.
I struggled to rationalize what makes a human being do horrible things to another human being. I also worried about my own world, being the risk manager for the Pan American games. We, too, will be hosting a marathon, as well as 50 other sports in 2015.
In my anger and grief, I wanted the perpetrators found. I wanted them punished harshly.
Now, with one suspect dead and the other in custody, there seems to be calm around this tragic event. The feeling of immediate threat seems over. I thank all those first responders and investigators who made it possible for me to say this.
Now, with my risk manager disposition, I want to try to get to the root of issues. I ask: What can we do to prevent these kinds of events in the future? Is prevention even possible?
First, I struggle with the language we use around "terrorist" activity. Why not call a spade a spade?Why don't we eliminate the word terrorist and replace it with the word murderer? Call the killers what they are. This would be the first step in diagnosing the problem and ultimately designing a treatment plan.
Second, I want to know what drives these kinds of killers. How can they look their victims in the eyes, end their lives and then simply walk away? Are they hard-wired that way? Are they born to be killers or did something in their environment turn them into murderers?
When a youth walks into an elementary school and performs heinous, unfathomable mass murder and injury on dozens of innocent children and terrorizes a community, how do we rationalize that?
After strengthening gun controls and school security, we learned the killer was a victim of bullying. Was that what triggered him to kill? Was he predisposed to do it anyway? We'll never know.
Nonetheless, in the quest to prevent such a trend, we acknowledged bullying as a contributing root issue and have taken action. We now see awareness campaigns, programs, and counseling for victims of bullying.
So, when a youth walks down a street in Boston and heinously and unfathomably murders and injures so many innocent people, how do we rationalize that?
A Canadian political party leader spoke of this recently and his root-cause analysis of the bombing created much outrage: "There is no question that this happened because of someone who feels completely excluded, someone who feels completely at war with innocence, at war with society."
Sadly, even with all our efforts to combat exclusion and division, it is still amid us in our society. Likely, many of us have suffered from alienation at some point in our lives. But we don't all take matters into our own hands and hurt innocent people to vindicate our spirit. So what makes these killers do it? Are they hard-wired to perform heinous crimes? Or is there something else going on that we can actually intercept?
Should we be trying to change those activities that may marginalize or exclude people? Something in me says there may be risk control opportunities here ready to explore. But what is sure is that this problem is well beyond my root-cause analysis abilities and will require much broader attention.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is an internationally recognized enterprise risk management executive with experience in energy, health care, and most recently in the sporting event sectors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 1, 2013
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