Leave Vince Li The Fuck Alone: why your opinion of the ‘Greyhound murderer’ is stupid.

Before you use your mighty intellectual abilities to come to a poorly educated opinion about the case of Vince Li, use it instead to write down 5 facts you know about schizophrenia. When I say 5 facts, I don’t mean stories, fables, and hearsay. I mean facts. You have the most powerful, information-rich tools at your disposal, so use them. Specifically if you are any one of the army of clowns who aggressively promote ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ day, you should especially find comfort in this task.

If you find yourself comparing the state in which Vince Li beheaded his victim to symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and the like, then just pause and take the opportunity to smack yourself. Even if it’s a metaphorical smack, you now know that you have no working knowledge of schizophrenia yet have taken it upon yourself to impart criminal justice sentencing wisdom to society. So, here are 5 things that you should know about schizophrenia:

  1. Schizophrenia is known to cause psychotic episodes, during which you literally perceive your surroundings entirely differently than those around you. Another way of understanding this is to say that the person is dissociated from reality.
  2. It causes you to hear voices that don’t exist or as they frequently state in medical journals: “perceptions of speech in the absence of an auditory stimulus“.  Think about this–doctors have seen through fMRIs that during these ‘auditory hallucinations’ there is actual activity in the auditory cortex despite the lack of auditory stimulus (voices) (Shergill et al, 2000). These people are not crazy. They are not using the excuse of these ‘voices’ to deliberately murder. There are actual neurochemical factors in their brain that are causing them to hear things that don’t exist.
  3. There are cultural barriers that prevent certain people from ‘opening up’ about their possible mental illness or seeking formal help to remedy it.
  4. Schizophrenics can be influential people such as prophets and religious guides and often perceive themselves as the “savior[s] of mankind” (Goldwert, 1993).
  5. We don’t fully understand schizophrenia, we’re still learning. We have no ‘cure’ for schizophrenia but we have tools for recovery.

If you are skeptical of the fact that I’ve used at most 1 reference for each claim that I’ve made, good. Do more research. If you feel you’ve found enough to support your claim, abandon that feeling, and do more research. If you can’t elaborate on any of these points further or give information that substantiates or contradicts my claim, then you should seriously retract your stupid opinion and stop thinking about this incident in history altogether. It is beyond your scope. And fortunately for humankind, the legal system will not be using your opinion to reach its decision. So why does your stupid opinion matter you may ask? Alright, ‘let’s talk’ about why your stupid opinion matters.

You are creating a culture of hostility towards this member of our society without having any understanding of what you’re talking about. Do you think you’re special for having an antagonistic opinion of Vince Li? Think again. Read any of the other commenters on any of the major news websites and you’ll notice that this is the topic that unites all the dumb conservatives and the dumb liberals and all the dumb NDPs and the dumb Greens unanimously.

Schizophrenia is a really fucking challenging disorder to live with, so if you find your compassionate senses tingling for the mentally ill, this would be the perfect time to use them in full force. Yes, it is not the easiest disorder to accept, as are things like depression and anxiety, that are closer to human conceptions of ‘the norm’. The reason why it is imperative that you do reach a better understanding of it in fact, is because schizophrenia is so often implicated in criminal offenses. Take for example, Steven Singh Heer, who ran over his father Mohan Heer in 2011, while under the mistaken belief that his father was possessed by demons; Matthew de Grood who stabbed 5 young adults at a house party in 2014; Rohinie Bisesar, who stabbed a random woman at a Shoppers Drug Mart in 2015. All of these individuals were seemingly functional. If anything, Vince Li had the worst end of the bargain: not only is he schizophrenic, he is also Chinese. This places him a subculture with a much larger stigma around mental illness and presents language barriers which make it difficult for him to secure professional treatment.

A much bigger factor in the recurring instances of schizophrenia resulting in random acts of violence is because we as a society are not a 100% successful in providing support to those with these mental illnesses. The criminal justice system hasn’t failed, we have. So no, Nina Stone, unqualified CBC commenter. It is not the responsibility of the judge or the psychiatrist to pay for Li’s recidivism. It’s you.

Now, what does your outrage and hostility towards Vince Li do? It creates an environment that makes it close to impossible for him to recover or rehabilitate to be a functioning member of society. He attempted to change his name, but of course, news sources fled to their ‘responsibility to report’ and fed off of the relentless pursuit of viewer hits at the sake of this man’s well-being. Yes, these crimes are heinous and reveal the most disturbing side of human nature. Nobody denies that. Nobody will argue with you that the events that perspired on the Greyhound bus on the evening of July 30, 2008, were not tragic. However, making two victims out of the situation instead of one, is not improving society either. Stop thinking about the justice system as a means to exact revenge and retribution and pretending that it’s helpful.

I suppose then the real question is, was justice served? Indeed it was. The fact that our court system is enlightened enough to recognize the complexity of this situation makes it a source of pride, not shame. The only reason your opinion is a topic of concern is because you are a member of society and your beliefs reflect the laws that exist in our justice system and the direction in which we move. So, instead of pointing fingers, think of ways that you can help foster a better environment for those battling mental illness. While you’re formulating that, try shutting up and shutting up some more about issues that you are not educated about. Learn, and then learn some more, and after all the learning, it’s probably still best not to talk.


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