If you look at news headlines, not just local ones, it is not hard to conclude that we live in a very hostile environment. True, it is usually events outside of the norm that attract media attention, and we can argue that the world has always been a violent place.
When we think about human progress, we can be forgiven for expecting that it has meant a reduction in the violence that has pockmarked our so-called evolution. But people are still fighting up mostly over religion, land and power, and there is a horrifying level of rage lurking under the surface, no matter where you go.
Here’s some of what happened in the last week alone.
On Saturday, Sergeant Major Jakrapanth Thomma, 32, killed 29 people in Thailand over the course of 18 hours. The trigger was that his superior officer had cheated him on a land deal, according to a New York Times report, which went on to say, “Nobody can escape death,” he posted online during his killing spree. “Rich from cheating and taking advantage of people … Do they think they can take money to spend in hell?”
On Sunday, the BBC reported that “suspected militant Islamists have killed at least 30 people and abducted women and children in a raid in north-eastern Nigeria.” Other news agencies have named the Boko Haram as those who burnt the travellers while they slept in their vehicles at an overnight stop.
On Wednesday, Patrick Crusius, 21, appeared in a court in the USA charged with federal hate crimes, following his arrest for killing 22 people and wounding two dozen more at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas last August. He told police his target was Mexicans.
Aljazeera reported that the FBI said that “Violence resulting from bias or prejudice in the United States reached a 16-year high last year,” with the number of victims in anti-Latino or Hispanic hate crimes rising more than 21 per cent—a Donald Trump initiative.
In India, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 introduced by the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stirred massive protests—thousands and thousands—and naturally, violence ensued. By yearend, there were more than 27 deaths, countless injuries and thousands of arrests. The Act served to further inflame religious passions, and to raise issues of equal rights for Muslims and Hindus in that multi-everything country.
On February 24, Trump goes to New Delhi to visit Modi, whom he described as a friend of mine and a great gentleman. Two politicians with a lot in common, meet to perhaps share strategies on how to further promote divisiveness and burnish power by playing on human weakness, human stupidity, and the rage that has risen to surface level in humankind.
At home, whatever we make of the tragic death of Mukeisha Maynard, who was beaten to death by her father Michael, who then took his life, we cannot ignore the conditions which led to this awful end of two lives. Emerging stories indicate that Michael had a history of violent behaviour. He was arrested and charged in 2011 for assault of both the child’s mother, and Mukeisha, who was eight months old, according to the police; and they had other reports as well. The mother was afraid to retrieve her son and daughter from his custody.
People knew of his violence, but nothing was done to protect the children. The lives of these two children is a heart-wrenching story that demands not just investigation, but at the very least, change in the way we respond to such situations. But there is another aspect that we have to examine, if only because it exists at a very common level. It is the uncontrollable rage that Michael Maynard experienced. It is clear that he had extreme bouts of anger, and the remorse he expressed after realising that he had killed his daughter was too much for him to bear.
This is rage that overwhelms. This is the thing that is embedded in the psyche of a large number of humans. It usually has a beginning in early childhood. It is festering, and in places like ours, where there is little or no support to help people understand its roots and manage its effects, they remain vulnerable to the surges, the triggers that unleash their demons. We have to pay attention. Support for mental health issues has to rise on the national agenda. Far too little is being done and the consequences will escalate.
We live in an angry world.
Even the planet itself seems to be retaliating against years of abuse. Fires, floods, avalanches of mud and snow, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, drought, swarms of locusts, and now a novel strain of a virus careening across the globe; everything is extreme.
None of these forces of nature shows any regard for geo-political boundaries. Large swathes of African nations are facing the horrendous effects of locusts—hundreds of billions, according to reports—and climatic conditions are favourable for breeding on an unprecedented scale; they are moving so fast and ravenously that not even soldiers can protect India-Pakistan borders from the marauding insects.
When you think about it, none of our human creations can really protect us in the face of nature’s awesome power. But we can reduce our self-destruction if we stop allowing people seeking power to continue the hate-mongering that takes root in our most intimate of spaces.
THE AUTHOR is also an editor and a cricket historian