I am unsure of what to write about this week.
I was going to write about how people mix or don’t mix with others who are different from themselves. There’s a lovely simulation tool that shows how ghettos form and how communities can naturally separate. I think I’ll save that one for later.
On Tuesday of last week, a group of barbarians descended on a school in Pakistan with guns, ammunition and the intent to use them against as many people as possible. 148 people were killed, 133 of them children. Thousands of lives have been changed forever.
Every time I hear of yet another atrocity, I find myself filled with a burning desire to go to whoever did it, pluck them out of wherever they happen to be and to put them in a room and speak to them. I need to know why they did what they did. I want to discover what can turn a presumably-rational human being into someone who can do unspeakable acts to another human being. I am going to assume that people are rational, as a rule, and that the people who slaughter children in schools do it for reasons that they consider to be rational. There is motive behind their actions and something, somewhere, has convinced them that, when looked at in a particular way, the only logical action in a particular circumstance is to enter a classroom, set fire to a teacher, then mow down the terrified students with automatic weapons.
In my mind, I ask them to explain what they did and the reason why they did it. And the reason behind the reason. And the reason behind that reason. And so on. At some point, the realisation dawns that they have caused unmeasurable distress to another living, breathing human being, and ended their life. Healing can only begin after this realisation has taken place.
All I need is invincibility mode coupled with a touch of omniscience and the ability to walk through walls. Should be done by Friday.
And now the government of Pakistan is falling for the provocation by announcing that it will execute 500 people convicted of terrorist offences, lifting a moratorium on executions in place since 2008. Fighting fire with fire is always a recipe for peace, of course. And all of those people in prison have cast-iron convictions. Naturally. Vito Cornelius puts it succinctly in The Fifth Element when he says “evil begets evil, Mr President: shooting will only make it stronger.”
My children had an interesting thought, last week. We were talking about consent and bodily autonomy. My eldest said “wouldn’t it be good if war was by consent?” We thought about this for a bit and decided that war would come to a complete and abrupt halt if everyone had to obtain consent before shooting at someone else. “‘Scuse me, but can I shoot you?” “No.” “OK. I’ll be going then.” Sadly, that is as unrealistic a hope as my plan to dig into the psyche of those who shoot up schools.
During the week in which some of us celebrate the birth of Christ (also called the prince of peace), I’m going to take a moment to ponder an alternative approach to those who are different from ourselves. A refugee right from infancy, Jesus went about showing others how to be fully human to each other: how to value everyone you see as a person, even those from different communities, even those who have been caught in the very act of naughtiness.
But I’m not so naïve as to forget what his own people did to him.