Wednesday, 27 July 2016


Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer, was often laughed at as a boy when his desire to be liked made him act impulsively. The boy responsible for the Munich shooting had been ridiculed because of his foreign background. The attackers in Normandy acted upon belief in a twisted version of religion. Nice happened because society was blind to a disturbed man's increasing volatility. Kabul lost the same amount of people to the fractious society war has created.

These and countless of other events can be summarised and analysed in micro detail. Letters are found, diaries scrutinised, politics and social media sway the opinions of thousands, millions of people. Media and gossip create the narrative.
And yet it is not enough.
We still refuse to look at the root of evil. We spread the news as quickly as possible. We want and need to categorise events in safe bundles: Terror, Gender, Religion, Mental illness, Race, Trump, Putin, Syria, Politics, Erdogan, Arab Spring, Ukraine, Zika, Ebola, Brexit. We give names, and we tick boxes, we carry on.

The social fabric we live in is organic. It responds and reacts to millions of separate micro events. We don't notice them all and simply assume that reality 'is' as we witness it at any given moment.
We suffer from dependency, relying on second-hand information formatted for mass consumption. Judging people's behaviour and beliefs is facilitated by these elements of our understanding of the world. Not just the physical world but the rational one as well.

Black people are routinely gunned down by trigger-happy police in America. The cause? Racism. Why? White officers shoot black citizens. But why does that happen? What causes racism? Exasperation and exaggeration of politics on one side, poverty and social injustice on the other. Inequality, old-fashioned type of capitalism, lack of compassion and rooted ignorance play a big part in the breaking down of society.
Statistics prove that we have far less terrorist attacks now than we had in the 60s or 70s. That might be so, but the randomness and the chilling wickedness of recent attacks are no less unsettling. News and opinions blink at us from the palm of our hands and magnify the intensity. The stream of information bias feeds prejudice and influences judgement.
Reaching a verdict on blame solely based on that bias is the quickest way to bypass an underlying cause.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt described the systemic violence perpetrated by individuals in a mass ideology like Nazism, as the "banality of evil". Banality not in the sense of ordinary but to depict the normalisation of the unthinkable once personal responsibility is taken away by dogma.
The indoctrination of the masses facilitates and enables individuals to act without having to think about ethical behaviour. The choice to commit a crime, however, is still the responsibility of the person who, when acting on it, makes the choice not to adhere to conventions.
Decision-making is influenced by geographical, political and cultural surroundings but it is not an established trait. Conscious choice still plays a big part in shaping lives. For instance, not all Germans were Nazis; not all Italians are Mafiosi; not all Britons voted Brexit.
So when we label a killer as an 'ISIS terrorist', do we blame ISIS for his/her actions or the killer alone for acting on direct or indirect 'orders'? Do we care to understand why ISIS exists at all, what creates evil in the first place?

"Correlation does not imply causation": just because something is connected to the case, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is the prime cause. We jump to conclusions based on snippets of information available to us, relayed to us. The deduction on why things happen is drawn from categorised headlines and the subjects we link to our formulaic understanding.

Is it poverty that drives people to commit crimes? If so, everyone in underdeveloped countries or regions would be a criminal. That is not the case. It is more likely to be the inequality of the poverty in the surrounding environment and the unequal distribution of wealth. But it is not just poverty in the economic sense but the social aspect too and lack of inclusion, understanding and compassion.
People who are deprived of chances in life, who have no prospects, are more likely to turn to crime or support a violent regime.
A fear of the different, the unusual, drives divisions and exacerbates hatred and rejection, further alienating each grouping and layer in society.

The world around us evolves, moves on and morphs according to economic growth or slump, climate change, political upheavals or successes. If we don't consider the deeper implications of our actions in a broader sense, we don't stop evil from happening. What is evil to some, it is reason to others. We need to give people respect and hope, far more than money and ideology.

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