Incomprehension must not be a reason to stop thinking but a spur to try to understand, nor mourning a reason to put off the day’s work, but to redouble it. We want to say we do not understand the evil that strikes death at children, because otherwise we admit to what humanity is.
To all, we would hope, children are precious, inviolate, a joy to all, and everyone in society has a sacred duty to protect them and see them nurtured, because we were protected and nurtured when as vulnerable, and they are the future of society and all its hopes and dreams.
When a man enters a school and shoots at children, as has happened many times in America, and once n Britain too, it is alien; utterly beyond what we can contemplate. Yet it happens.
I said “to all in society”, but what of the man who has torn himself out of society? We see in children that boundless joy they have and a remembrance of our own childish joy – what if that man never had that joy or has driven it out of his memory – what if he is enraged in jealousy of that joy? We see children as the new growth of our towns and nations and humanity – what if he declares all mankind to be his enemy, to be cut off at the root? Brevik on Utøya slew the playing children because he thought it would cut off the next generation of a political party at its root: imagine the man who wants to kill the whole human race. We see children as sacred – what if this is an invitation to the worst revenge against a society he sees as his enemy? We know children are vulnerable – what if he takes that as an opportunity to exercise godlike power? Such a mind is twisted by hatred, with a horrible logic behind it.
This is speculation – we cannot see what happens inside the head of a man who would do such acts, and those who have done so end up dead by a police bullet or their own hand. We can though see what has been done even in our age by tyrants and demagogues and mobs. They too have murdered the weak and vulnerable, even children, and it is that latter aspect which raises the worst horror of them in the mind.
We know who those guilty men were and we call them monsters, but they were, are, human beings like the rest of us; they were all sweet, vulnerable children once playing joyfully; and all grew up in society as we all do. The tyrant murderer could have been like the rest, but for the lust for power, which is the primary motivation of man, and the achievement of power creating a promise of liberation from the constraints of social bonds – it may be political power or the personal power felt by holding a gun in the hand, with all it can unleash – that may be enough to be the difference between a normal man and a monster.
The monstrosity is not an abnormal defect but part of the lurking natural Caliban nature. If we choose not to understand it, we cannot counter it. If we know where to find it, maybe those with pastoral care and political power can mould their response accordingly, but otherwise they yield the floor to the killer and we will weep many, many times more.
- The road and Damascus
- In fear of Jahannam
- The Noble Savage, Caliban and Hobbes
- Of the natural Condition of Mankind as concerning their Felicity and Misery
- Mourning – a mystery
- By Thomas Hobbes:
- By Anthony Burgess:
- By H G Wells:
- By Aldous Huxley:
- By George Orwell:
- By Jordan Peterson: