Why Has Killing Become so Commonplace?

The other day I went to the newspaper kiosk, and as I was looking at the several dailies on display, the seller there remarked, ‘tous les jours nek touye, coquin, viol…’ On another occasion, as I was waiting my turn for a haircut, someone commented, ‘dimoune pe tire la vie couma dire pe coupe li cou poule!’

What does one answer to that kind of thing save to quietly nod and accept the facts that depict an ominous reality of our times, across the world perhaps? Formerly one read about the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’, and then we have had serial killers before serial rapers came on the scene. Now all these perverts seem to be at it most of the time, and all over the place. As we say in medicine, this has become an acute-on-chronic situation: it is present all the time, with the individual incidents on a daily basis being the acute phases. It is a wonder that most of us are still able to preserve a degree of sanity and go about trying to do our things as normally as possible.

The most disturbing aspect about many, if not the majority of these crimes is that the perpetrators are known to the victims, either are related or are close friends or trusted partners. And nobody seems immune, from the lowest to the mightiest, from the poor to the moneyed rich. And many murders are accompanied by a gruesome violence that we can’t imagine. As someone noted, formerly when thieves used to break in to steal, they would go away if they did not find anything ‘worthwhile’ taking. But increasingly, they either assault very grievously the victims, or may even go to the extent of killing the person(s) so as not to be identified. And this despite the fact that in practically a vast number of cases the police and law authorities do eventually track down the criminals, often quite promptly.

And the motive in many murders is purely and simply: money. Here is the caption that accompanies a video that I saw online recently: ‘Julia Charlene Merfeld, 20, of Muskegon, Michigan, is filmed arranging for her husband to be killed by a hitman, in reality an undercover policeman. Merfeld agrees the time, price and method of the killing in the two filmed conversations, released to media after she pleaded guilty to solicitation for murder. At one point Merfeld says killing her 27-year old husband Jacob to cash in his $400,000 life insurance policy is easier than divorcing him. She is due to be sentenced on 30 July.’

Frightening! What was even more so was the way that this young lady was discussing the plan cold-bloodedly with the ‘hitman’, even smiling a few times, as they agreed on the sum he would be paid and she showed him a picture of the husband that she had brought along as well as gave details of the exact location.

This is a very sad state of affairs indeed, and it does not seem that it will abate anytime soon. Throughout history disease, famine and wars have been the major causes of deaths, and some thinkers have even advanced that these three great causes are the ‘natural’ means of population control. This leads one to ponder whether this explains why, despite all the progress that humans have made and our claim to be civilised, there still persist zones of famine, warring and disease – although the world population is still rising, and is expected to reach about 10 billion by 2050. Will we be able to feed and house this huge population? Some scientists are optimistic that we will indeed be able to do so…

To come back to our main topic, killings, those taking place under what are presumed to be civilian conditions have become more frequent in certain regions and countries. The ‘rise of protest’, as the phenomenon of citizen uprising has been termed, and that started in Tunisia, has seen people lose their lives by the hundreds. The latest to take place in this respect is the death of 51 protesters in Tahrir Square in Egypt, in a confrontation between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood of Mohamed Morsi, the Prime Minister who has been placed under arrest. As usual, each party is blaming the other for the happening, but what is more relevant of course is the tragic loss of these lives. Families will never get their loved ones back, that’s the bottomline in this confrontation.

Add to these the terror killings taking place almost everyday, ‘honour’ killings and so on, and we have more than enough to be not only pessimistic but very worried about. I shudder to think any further about what the future holds for us…

* Published in print edition on 12 July  2013

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