I need to preface this editorial by saying in no way am I trying to excuse the tragic actions of Kimveer Gill, nor is there any disrespect intended towards the victims. Like many of us, I am simply trying to understand how this could happen – again.
Like many in today’s world, Kimveer Gill was very angry. He wanted to smile but couldn't, he said. The clues to why he did what he did do not reside in the games he played, the music he listened to or the Goth culture he claimed to embrace. When I get past the media hype and scapegoating, I see someone who had some of the same interests as me: gaming, music and Goth culture. I am a 40 year-old female Native American professional designer respectfully employed in investment banking. Anyone who visits the inner sanctum that is my home can see what interests me out in the open. In addition to music, art and literature, I had a ferocious appetite for swords due to a strong interest in Medieval History and built up what I considered to be an impressive collection, which included several Samuri swords. They were prominently displayed until I lost them to an Ex. I love video games. I have two of the major consoles and own some of the most violent games on the market including the Grand Theft Auto series which some are calling to be banned.
Now if you believed everything that the media feels fit to spew about people like Gill and those involved in the Columbine massacre – my background having been bullied throughout school and even now as an adult combined with my personal interests are signposting the way to tragedy. I am on the road to Hell in a handbasket and gosh darn it; I will be taking scores of people with me. Preposterous – if only for the reason that nothing is ever as simple was we would like it to be when it comes to apportioning blame to some external factor or a few.
Not one article I have read or video report I have watched says anything specific about Gill’s family, friends, a girlfriend – there is nothing truly personal at all about the life he actually led outside of his age, the fact that he lived with his parents and was unemployed. The obsessions are with his interests in violent video gaming, heavy metal and Goths. He was more than the things he liked – even if one found some of his interests dubious at best. He was certainly more than the Goth culture he put on a show for and brought disrepute to.
But for all that, something about his embracing of Goth culture on his blog doesn’t seem genuine. It’s not something that can be expressed; it’s more an instinct. And I am trusting my instincts as a former Goth who still embraces aspects of its culture and who has acquaintances who genuinely live the life and have done so for many years. I think embracing the Goth label fed Gill’s own peculiar beliefs about himself and the image he wanted to portray, but it wasn’t the reason he did what he did nor was it really him. To a degree the Kimveer Gill version of Gothicism was hackneyed stereotypical posturing: trench coat, black clothes, combat boots and the like.
Like many a criminal before him, Kimveer Gill was definitely very intelligent and also manipulative. Having read all of his blog entries, Gill had mastered the media. He knew what would capture the imagination. He knew all too well in this digital age how to shape himself to be remembered far more remarkably than he might have been since the life he apparently led was mainly that of an insomniac slacker who didn’t have much incentive to do anything positive or productive with his life. The man was concerned with how CNN would report his death clearly had more of an ego than seems obvious. His life may not have ended entirely in the hail of bullets that he wrote about wishing for, but he has guaranteed that he will not be forgotten.
Many have written about his blogs and the darkness of his words. However, being a journalist, editor and a writer of fiction, I am more than familiar with how language is used as an extension of an author’s own image. Indeed, I know Goths who insist on writing in what is considered to be a rather dark vein, at times not dissimilar from Gill’s, but who struggle with it because it does not come natural to them. At the heart of Gill’s persona on VampireFreaks is smoke and mirrors. He may have been decidedly twisted, but there is quite a lot there that seems wholly unnatural. For a small fortune one can go to fashionista sites that cater to Goths and get ‘The Look’, the Goth sites are filled with their advertising and Gill definitely found one of them or a few. He was playing dress-up and had a bad haircut to go with it. His is not the only blog of its kind on the internet. It only has significance now because of what he’s done. Had the events at Dawson not happened, he would have simply been just another screwed-up adult who was in serious need of sorting out his priorities.
For all the judgements being made about VampireFreaks and similar sites in the wake of this tragedy, posting to it doesn’t automatically make one ‘authentically Goth’. And neither does it make one a misfit, social outcast or a danger to society. I have an account there and so to do other good people who just enjoy being who they are and have interests that point the way to a particular label. But we have other interests as well…and other site memberships that have nothing to do with any particular lifestyle. Gill wrote about a broad range of interests with films and music – for all any of us know he is someone innocuous that we conversed unknowingly on other sites based on those mutual interests.
Kimveer Gill was unbalanced, plain and simple. There were probably warning signs that had nothing to do with Goths or music or games. There were probably people around him who ignored those signs to their peril, refusing to acknowledge what was right under their noses. But we don’t even know who these people are – they are certainly not the people crawling out of the woodwork claiming an affiliation with the man. And God help those poor souls who truly knew him intimately if we ever do; the press and the public will show no mercy – as is already evidenced by those who have been flocking to his blog to flame every entry and abuse anyone who seemed to be an online friend. Predictably, people who might have actually found the chap agreeable are going to great lengths to either distance themselves from his acquaintance or defend liking him and praying for his immortal soul in the face of targeted hate campaigns.
Gill lived with his parents. He had a mother who only sees how good and sweet her son was to hear the media tell it; but she is no different than any other mother whose little angel has fallen so dramatically from the state of grace in her eyes. He was 25 years old, and yet he was unemployed and did not go college or university. He had quite an imposing arsenal of weaponry that he was legally entitled to own – and yet didn’t have the financial means off his own back to feed his interests.
Sometimes you can’t find the words. It isn’t always so black and white and clear. Sometimes all there is are the shades of grey and one’s own formidable instincts. But on the internet words and images don’t often tell the whole story or even the true story. Hindsight is always 20/20. Gill’s images and his words now so very conveniently smack of danger and a mind unhinged given what he’s done. But there are people like him all over the internet and the world outside it – even female versions of him. They are the people I have learned to steer clear of once I have the inkling that they are not altogether right in the head.
To have committed such a heinous crime Gill had long lost touch with anything resembling reality. And I do believe questions ought to be asked that are more than rants against stereotypes and popular culture. People calling for the VampireFreaks site to be taken down, for certain games to be banned and music artists to be dropped from record labels are missing the point completely.
Those who are out of touch with reality can seize on anything be it positive or negative and that can become the basis of a peculiar obsession: John W. Hinckley was obsessed with the film Taxi Driver and wanted to impress Jodie Foster by shooting former President Regan – so should Director Martin Scorcese and Foster no longer make films and Taxi Driver (a film considered to be a classic) be banned?; A madman went on a rampage in Montreal shooting several women because he hated feminists – so should feminism be outlawed?; People get rejected by someone who isn’t interested in them romantically and commit crimes in the name of unrequited love – so do we ban romance?; Managers are getting killed just for firing incompetent employees (a recent case here in the UK and the US) - so what is the answer for that?
Where do we draw a line when it comes to striking a balance between righteous indignation, understanding and the freedom to be who we are?
His interests didn’t push Kimveer Gill to the edge, what they did do was feed an appetite that almost needed satisfying in a tangible way. Gill was going to kill regardless – and the games stopped being enough of an outlet for his proclivities. Something in his immediate environment forced the issue that fateful, tragic September morning. In the time it took to light a match or flick a switch, something set the sociopathic and decidedly psychopathic Gill off. Unfortunately we will never know exactly what as he is no longer here to tell us.
I do believe that there could actually be a simple explanation; not the ones that the press and general public are seizing on and obsessing over, but one born of instinct and cool logic. Quite often when looking for an answer to the unthinkable, Occam’s Razor seems quite sufficient: of two equivalent theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred.
In the simplest understanding, Kimveer Gill may not have been born angry – he perhaps was just born evil.
It’s an interesting dichotomy that whilst acknowledging the evil ever-present in today’s society, relatively few want to believe that people can simply be born as they are meant to be, with society and experience playing the expected parts in shaping the individual. It seems to go against rational and religious beliefs – this notion of being a Demon Seed. Ideas of people being born evil seems too simplistic – and yet how else do you explain the sexual torture and murder of three year-old James Bulgar at the hands of two 10 year-old boys in England, the two six year-old boys that killed a five year-old girl in Sweden or 12 year-olds who raped with no remorse in the US? How else do you explain Ted Bundy, Fred and Rosemary West or Richard Ramirez? How do you quantify the evil actions of those who don’t come from abusive backgrounds? For all the people who are survivors of all manner of horrors – more than a fair percentage come out the other side to live respectable lives and not go down the road of a psychopath.
There will be seemingly endless rounds of hypothesizing and finger pointing at “things” to try and answer the ongoing “why”s of the tragedy at Dawson College. But there is only one only true answer for Montréalers: ultimately when all is said and done, the responsibility for the senseless, heinous actions of Kimveer Gill rests with Kimveer Gill himself.