Running amok

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Running amok, sometimes referred to as simply amok,[1] also spelled amuk, from the Malay,[2] is "an episode of sudden mass assault against people or objects usually by a single individual following a period of brooding that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Indonesian culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behavior occurring worldwide in numerous countries and cultures".[3] The syndrome of "Amok" is found in the DSM-IV TR.[4] The phrase is often used in a less serious manner when describing something that is wildly out of control or causing a frenzy (e.g., a dog tearing up the living room furniture might be termed as "running amok.")

Indonesian origin

Amok originated from the Indonesian word mengamuk, which when roughly defined means “to make a furious and desperate charge”.[5] According to Indonesian culture, amok was rooted in a deep spiritual belief.[6] They believed that amok was caused by the hantu belian,[7] which was an evil tiger spirit that entered one’s body and caused the heinous act. As a result of the belief, those in Indonesian culture tolerated amok and dealt with the after effects with no ill will towards the assailant.[8]

Although commonly used in a colloquial and less-violent sense, the phrase is particularly associated with a specific sociopathic culture-bound syndrome in Malaysian culture. In a typical case of running amok, an individual (often male), having shown no previous sign of anger or any inclination to violence, will acquire a weapon (traditionally a sword or dagger, but presently any of a variety of weapons) and in a sudden frenzy, will attempt to kill or seriously injure anyone he encounters and himself.[9] Amok typically takes place in a well populated or crowded area. Amok episodes of this kind normally end with the attacker being killed by bystanders or committing suicide, eliciting theories that amok may be a form of intentional suicide in cultures where suicide is heavily stigmatized.[10] Those who do not commit suicide and are not killed typically lose consciousness, and upon regaining consciousness, claim amnesia.

An early Western description of the practice appears in the journals of Captain James Cook, a British explorer, who encountered amok firsthand in 1770 during a voyage around the world. Cook writes of individuals behaving in a reckless, violent manner, without cause and "indiscriminately killing and maiming villagers and animals in a frenzied attack." [11]

A widely accepted explanation links amok with male honor (amok by women is virtually unknown).[12] Running amok would thus be both a way of escaping the world (since perpetrators were normally killed) and re-establishing one's reputation as a man to be feared and respected. Some observersTemplate:Who have related this explanation to Islam's ban on suicide, which, it is suggested, drove Indonesian men to create circumstances in which others would kill them.

Contemporary syndrome

"Running amok" is used to refer to the behavior of someone who, in the grip of strong emotion, obtains a weapon and begins attacking people indiscriminately, often with multiple fatalities.[13] An episode of amok may be triggered by a period of depression or highly aggressive behavior. The slang term going postal is similar in scope. Police describe such an event as a killing spree. If the individual is seeking death an alternate method is often suicide by cop.

Amok is often described as a culture-bound (or culture-specific) syndrome,[14][15] which is a psychological condition whose manifestation is strongly shaped by cultural factors. Other reported culture-bound syndromes are latah and koro. Amok is also sometimes considered one of the subcategories of dissociative disorders (cross-cultural variant).

Officially classified as a psychiatric condition

In 1849, amok was officially classified as a psychiatric condition based on numerous reports and case studies that showed the majority of individuals who committed amok were, in some sense, mentally ill.[8] However, DSM-IV does now break amok down into two official categories; beramok and amok. Beramok is considered to be the more common of the two and is associated with the depression and sadness resulting from a loss and the subsequent brooding process. Loss includes, but is not limited to, the death of a spouse or loved one, divorce, loss of a job, money, power, etc. Beramok is associated with mental issues of severe depression or other mood disorders. Amok, the rarer form, is believed to stem from rage, insult, or a vendetta against a person, society, or object for a wide variety of reasons. Amok has been more closely associated with psychosis, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, and delusions.[8]

Historical and cross-cultural comparisons

Early travelers in Asia sometimes describe a kind of military amok, in which soldiers apparently facing inevitable defeat suddenly burst into a frenzy of violence which so startled their enemies that it either delivered victory or at least ensured what the soldier in that culture considered an honourable death. This form of amok appears to resemble the berserker of the Norse, the cafard or cathard (Polynesia), mal de pelea (Puerto Rico), iich'aa (Navaho), Laos, and Papua New Guinea.[16]

In contemporary Indonesia, the term amok (amuk) generally refers not to individual violence, but to frenzied violence by mobs. Indonesians now commonly use the term 'gelap mata' (literally 'darkened eyes') to refer to individual amok.

In the Philippines, amok also means unreasoning murderous rage by an individual. In 1876, the Spanish governor-general of the Philippines José Malcampo coined the term juramentado for the behavior (from juramentar - "to take an oath"), surviving into modern Filipino languages as huramentado.[17] It has historically been linked with the Muslim Moro people of Mindanao, particularly in the island of Jolo.[18]

Norse berserkers and the Zulu battle trance are two other examples of the tendency of certain groups to work themselves up into a killing frenzy. The 1911 Webster Encyclopedia comments:

In 1634, the eldest son of the raja of Jodhpur ran amok at the court of Shah Jahan, failing in his attack on the emperor, but killing five of his officials. During the 18th century, again, at Hyderabad (Sind), two envoys, sent by the Jodhpur chief in regard to a quarrel between the two states, stabbed the prince and twenty-six of his suite before they themselves fell.

See also

Notes

  1. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
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  5. Hempel, A. A., Levine, R. D., Meloy, J. D., & Westermeyer, J. D. (2000). Cross-cultural review of sudden mass assault by a single individual in the oriental and occidental cultures. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 45(3), 582–588.
  6. Van Loon, F. H. G. (1927). "Amok and Latah". Retrieved March 30, 2013 from PsychINFO. [1]
  7. Template:Cite web
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  9. Saint Martin, M. (1999, June 1). Running Amok. Retrieved 1 April 2013 from PMC.[2]
  10. http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=23464
  11. (Jackson, Y. (Ed.).(2006). Encyclopedia of multicultural psychology. University of Kansas: Sage Publications)
  12. Template:Cite web
  13. Template:Cite web
  14. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
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  16. Template:Cite web Template:Dead link
  17. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}
  18. {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}

References