#28 Crazy Violence
     (B. Kaplan and D. Johnson, 1964)

He spent most of his time at his family’s sheep camp and had little contact with anyone other than his brothers, sister, and mother, who occasionally brought things to him. Shortly before our arrival in the field in 1961, he shot at his mother and brother and then shot himself. His mother described the incident:

On Saturday evening we were over with A. At six o’clock his brothers came around from working to eat with us. I didn’t know anyone had been drinking. The boys decided to take me and A to a Squaw dance. I didn’t want to go so I didn’t. A was drinking, but I didn’t know it.  He didn’t say anything all this time. At nine o’clock he asked me for the keys to the Hogan, and I asked what was wrong. He just said, “What’s the matter with you?” He got an axe and tried to knock the door down, and he did. I asked one of my boys, “What’s the matter with your brother?” I was shaking blankets behind the wagon – the car was by the wagon – I heard the shot. It went right through the trunk of the car. The girl and I ran off. We heard four more shots. I don’t know any reason why he should get mad. He shot himself in the head, and he’s in the hospital. (p. 217)

In the crazy violence pattern there is a “heroic” element of honesty and willingness to take the consequences, an element more than slightly reminiscent of some of Dostoevsky’s more violent characters. The person is violent and almost inhuman in his brutality, but he knows what he is doing. He is deliberately reckless, and he acts in spite of the consequences to come. He does not avoid pain, suffering, and trouble for himself any more than for his victim. Although his victim suffers, he is ready to suffer also. Evidence for this readiness can be found in the relatively large number of suicides that terminate these violent outbursts. Perhaps the key to this violent transformation from Navaho normality is the suicidal needs that are part of this pattern. The recklessness expresses a willingness to die and to be hurt.

[#28] Navajo: “The social meaning of Navaho psychopathology and psychotherapy,” from Bert Kaplan and Dale Johnson in Ari Kiev’s Magic, Faith, and Healing: Studies in Primitive Psychiatry TodayNew York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1964, pg. 217.

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