This mind needs to be repaired. Urgently
In the past, households would take precautions against external violence. New houses started being equipped with burglar-proofing; yards were walled off against intruders. As these defences against external harm were proving inadequate, people had recourse to hiring private security services, barbed wires, electrified fences, etc., especially in the urban areas and seaside bungalows. Alarm systems have since made their way.
In this context of defending the private house against external intrusion, the family was seen as the cell which needed protection. It was assumed that the family constituted a unified structure which needed to be kept out of harm’s way coming from outsiders at all costs.
Things are changing so fast in the country that even the family as a unit has started being perceived as a source of danger. In other words, members of the so-called family have not hesitated to kill among themselves. If this feeling of absence of safety amongst the smallest unit that society has put in place were to generalise, the situation will really become ungovernable. We have been seeing in the recent past several cases of people who have been living together not hesitating to drive the knife against each other.
Not that such intimate crime did not exist in the past. Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ is a play built upon fratricide. According to the Bible, the first crime was committed by Cain on his brother Abel. However, family crimes were so rare that they were given out as examples of the most ignominious sorts of crimes which reasonable people keep off from. The impression that was made on minds by telling these stories was deep enough to put any behaviour going in this direction as the most wretched of things one might be led to do.
The spate of crimes in family circles of recent days shows that this kind of bearing has been lost in several cases. The anger or greed which lay at the base of criminal behaviour is no longer cast only on the outside world: it is directed inward against the family members themselves. This shows that temperance that used to be one of the cardinal values society taught us from very early days is no longer cultivated. The everyone-for-himself attitude is no longer limited to the office or to public places; it has invaded, with a serious dose of violence, the most intimate family quarters.
We were taught compassion, civility, respect for life and tolerance as guiding principles in life. We saw to it that we abided by them more often than not. Exceptions to these guiding principles were not common. There was always the fear that any aberrant behaviour of the sort would invite upon us a hard look from society as a whole, let alone by the immediate family members. And we cared that society held a favourable opinion about us.
The recent events in matters of family crime show that these values have been severely eroded by now. Cupidity has taken their place. Being seen as a respected member of the family, which itself was graded according to its standard of public behaviour, was a premium we all looked for. Now that even common sense appears to have taken the exit, the question arises as to how to arrest the downtrend in general culture in the very nucleus of society.
We don’t have the answers. There may be many facets to address. But one thing is certain: we have to travel back to the state when family values were really upheld whatever the cost. From there, we have to discover all the elements of deterioration which have invaded lives down the times and tackle them one by one. Surprisingly, the solution will come not by laying the blame on government, the education system, NGOs that would not have done their duties, films that would have portrayed violence as something routine and the more-the-better having, etc. The solution will come from the horrendous mental construct that we have allowed to set in in our individualism that cares for no values, no virtues. This mind needs to be repaired. Urgently.
* Published in print edition on 25 May 2012