Tyler Clementi committed suicide last week. Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei are charged with invasion of privacy. We will never know why Tyler committed suicide. We can presume many things, but we will never know. He took those reasons with him to his grave.
From a sociological perspective, I am more interested in what motivated Ravi and Wei to take the actions that they did. Were they: (1) looking to become popular with their peers; (2) homophobic and looking for a way to punish someone who they presumed was gay; (3) extremely facile with technology and felt the need to utilize it to pull off a prank; or (4) so completely and utterly self-involved and bored that they thought this would be a good way to pass the time. What is clear is that their actions demonstrate a clear lack of empathy and compassion. To record another person’s private sexual encounters without their knowledge and permission is a direct violation of every shred of decent human behavior. I seriously doubt that their parents “taught” them that this was appropriate behavior, although it is up for debate whether their parents instilled in them a sense of hate, homophobia, and entitlement. Clearly they did feel a sense of entitlement – they felt “entitled” to invade Tyler’s privacy, “entitled” to publicly humiliate him, and clearly they felt “entitled” to benefit from said invasion and humiliation. Perhaps they can learn a new slant on the notion of entitlement – they will become entitled to receive whatever punishment is deemed appropriate for their actions under the law.
I seriously doubt that sensitivity training, anti-bullying campaigns or mandated “awareness” seminars will cause a sea change in this type of behavior. Those who are empathetic, sensitive, and non-bullying in our ways already choose the right path of human conduct. Those who belittle, denigrate and harass rarely have the aptitude or capacity to feel compassion or remorse. What they feel is “entitled.” And this, I am sorry to say, will probably never change.