James Eagan Holmes The Joker Copycat Neil Edwin Prescott Could Be the Beginning of a Scary Trend


One of the deepest, most profound, scenes from the film The Dark Knight is the one where Mr. Wayne tries to identify the Joker’s motives -- only to be enlightened by Alfred Pennyworth’s statement, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with, some men just want to watch the world burn.”  

In less than a week, there have been two incidents involving men who proudly identified themselves as “The Joker.” As troubling as it is to think there are such people in the world, we must inquire why. It can be well argued that the increasingly unreasonable pressure of achieving success has become such a burden in today’s world, that it is only going to lead to the breeding of more individuals who will identify with “the Joker” and his desire to "watch the world burn."

By now, it has become well known that James Holmes recently dropped out of grad school. Could it be that the tragic events that occurred in Aurora, Colorado, would not have happened if Holmes had not experienced a sense of personal depression and frustration that resulted from his experience of failure?  Such depression is not so uncommon for grad school students. In 2004, a study conducted at the University of California at Berkeley found that 54% of grad students felt so depressed that they had a hard time functioning.

I asked my friend Sharita about her own experience with the pressures of being a grad school student. She replied, ”They put all this pressure on you to assure you it’s the right thing to further your education, but they don’t seem to understand the increasing everyday stress of a 27-year old working full-time in addition to going to school who would much rather be happily married and taking it easy than spending my time on grad school in order to increase the uncertain hopes of having a better career. I often find myself lonely and hopeless looking at a computer screen feeling as if I’m throwing away four years of my life that I’ll never get back. It gets to the point that at times I want to give up because it’s as if no one wants to understand or offer a helping hand.”

Police reported that another massacre was thwarted in Maryland when Neil Edwin Prescott threatened his employer after being dismissed from his job, “I am a Joker.  I’m going to load my guns and blow everybody up.” Prescott was facing termination from his job as a contractor with Pitney Bowes, a leading company in producing postage meters and machines.

While no one in his or her right mind would justify the actions of either Prescott or Holmes, we can only imagine what would have happened had these men not experienced the shame of failure and humiliation in their respective situations. Are we to blame them solely without confronting the “dog eats dog/survival of the fittest” system of injustice that resulted in the depression and suffering that triggered them to snap? 

Although I would never stoop to the levels they did in dealing with the realities of depression and humiliation, I will go on record as saying that if we merely dismiss them as evil madmen in such refuse to confront the injustices of the system that resulted in their failure and frustration, this may very well only be the beginning of more people taking on the persona of “The Joker” -- and in such, become overtaken by the desire to "watch the world burn."