[The following blog pertains to my online reply to psychologist Dr. Ang’s Fb musing about the fate of Amos Yee, posted on TISG (The Independent SG) in mid 2016.]
Dear Dr. Ang Yong Guan:
Rhapsodizing recently about his fate on your Facebook, you pose the question, “Will Amos be able to find his Dr. Sean (to save from self-destruction)?” … as you related memorable sequences in the film Good Will Hunting. Not surprisingly, writing as a mental health professional yourself, you projected in a positive light the efficacy of psychotherapy as portrayed in the movie. As a thought experiment though, I lifted verbatim a cut from a poignant scene in the flick depicting therapist Sean at work on his patient Will the 20-year-old maladjusted brainiac, just to get a sense if such talk therapy could/would otherwise benefit someone like Amos. And here are the exact words of Dr. Sean to Will (otherwise Amos) coming from a shoot by a pond in the movie: “I don’t see an intelligent, confident person. I see a cocky, scared shitless kid… no one possibly understands the depths of you; you presume to know everything (stuff you rant about); (you go on a tear) trying to rip apart the life of everyone… I can’t learn anything from you unless you want to talk about you, who you are.”
In the above fairy-tale ending, Will was successfully psychoanalyzed and was thus ‘saved’ from the path towards ruination. In real life though, one can only wonder if Amos Yee could have averted his imminently ominous fate just now had he gotten timely, appropriate therapy. About a year earlier, following his first brush with the law, Amos was suspected of exhibiting autism spectrum disorder by the prison psychiatrist. From all indications, it’s obvious the kid is beset with serious emotional issues. His mom has already acknowledged that early on he did receive psychological counseling for his errant behavior but the treatment was discontinued following his son’s objection. Speaking even as a layperson, it’s obviously hard to outright deny the fact that his affective manifestations possibly have something to do with, what’s known in the APA (American Psychiatric Association) business, DSM Cluster B personality disorders, of which NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) screams out the loudest. As well, the unresolved psychodynamics between Amos and his probably abusive/neglectful father could have well added another layer to the etiology of his psychological condition.
We can now forget about a ‘Dr. Sean’ to the rescue. The window for any early intervention was lost years ago when his parents failed to see and adequately deal with his aberrant behavior as it surfaced. And as mentioned, his psychological conditions may have been compounded by his unrelatable and possibly abusive father. But the one crucially critical window for opportune therapy was let slip — through fault of the court and also his parents — when no follow-up counseling was effected after his final release from the penal system last year. It was out of sight, out of mind, until of course the ornery dragon within began to rear its head. Evidently, Amos’ perverse behavior belongs to the extremes in terms of his recalcitrance and willfulness. Simple routine counseling/ observation by say a probation officer will not likely cut it absent the help of some highly professional headshrinker. These shrink services could be time-consuming and cost prohibitive, not exactly the luxury of ordinary families with average means.
Amos spent 53 days incarcerated last June and July which entailed a 4-week punitive sentence as well as a stint in mental asylum for his guilty finding of rabble-rousing on the Net — a punishment that was doubtless excessive for first-time, non-violent, juvenile offender. But as sure as night follows day, mere months after his release upon completing his first sentence in 2015, hell’s bells! he was at it all over again in November of that same year. Not only did he not appear chastened, he decided to throw all caution to the wind and up the ante several notches, to tread where even angels fear to go. He mindlessly tempted fate with his series of profane videos and writings on Islam, scandalizing the nation once again with his outrage against a religious faith known for its issue of fatwa of death. When American pastor Terry Jones of Florida decided as a public protest to set the Koran on fire in 2012, he was henceforth a marked man in the crosshairs of certain Islamist radicals, requiring him to tote a ubiquitous sidearm for self-protection. While at home, Amos can expect to be protected from violent religious elements but once he steps abroad in places where there are Moslems, the religious scandals he’s created will dog him putting him in ever grave danger.
In the final analysis, spending some additional quiet, reflective time in quod may indeed do Amos a world of good to keep him at least in the interim from transforming into a total, runaway human freight train. Indeed, as we have seen, give this kid enough rope and he will hang himself, no pun intended. He’s already determined to be the master of his own fate — neither god nor demon can undo the done now — he’s made his bed, lie in it he shall. For repeat offenses, he knows he’s looking at some stiff time, that much he has presciently figured out himself. Alas, if there was any satisfaction for Amos, it would be his witnessing coming to fruition a self-fulfilling prophecy he himself so willed. Perhaps 20 to 30 years from now, Amos in looking back — that is if he managed to elude and survive whatever prospective fatwa of death that may yet come his way — he would be the first to admit he was no misunderstood kid in his day but was just a plainly wayward, willful hellion of a teenager, with an ego run amok, hell-bent on gaining notoriety by being his own worst enemy. In time, Amos will grow out of his proclivity for mischief and sublimate his raw, rambunctious, teenage spit and vinegar into mature, disciplined, adult discourse. Regardless, it’ll be a tall order for him — or for anyone similarly situated — to live down such tempestuous teenage years.