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Friday, February 10, 2012

The gift of life


Just recently I read an article in a Surinamese newspaper about a man who went to a party with his wife and kids, drank too much, started arguing with his wife, and on the way back got in such a rage that he had his wife get out of the car, after which he drove into a river, thereby taking not only his life, but also those of the couple’s three children, ages 6, 3, and 1, who were in the car.

When one gets confronted with such nefarious acts, any comment seems pointless. I cannot begin to explain how many times my heart has cringed in sadness about the horrific last minutes of these innocent children. How dismayed must they have been to realize that the man whom they trusted to protect them from evil and misery turned out to be their executor? There is no greater disillusion thinkable! Where could we even begin to look for causes and effects? We can dig into this man’s family history or search for a pattern of domestic violence that should have alarmed his wife and family, but that doesn’t return the lives that are lost. We can try to find fault in the man’s culture or we can analyze his personal emotional baggage: it's all hindsight deliberation. Time continues in its ancient, unperturbed way, and this disheartening case is now part of history.

Yet, there are some points we may want to ponder as we move on.

First: mentality. I recently listened to a speech from Sam Harris, in which he made the assertion that culture reshapes the human brain. He referred to cultures where fathers murder their daughters if these are raped, because they are more concerned with the family’s honor than the wellbeing of their child. There may have been a similar twist in the mindset of the man who drowned himself and his children. He was filled with selfish rage against his wife, thus, he took her children away from her.

Then there’s the attitude of the man’s wife. One might wonder whether she could have tried to tactfully avoid any confrontation with the drunkard. Leaving her children in the car with such a heavy drunk turned out to be a fatal mistake. Yet, we cannot judge since we’re unaware of the circumstances.

There is also the issue of maturity: the man who drowned himself and his kids was only 28 years old. His oldest son was six. Yes, these things are "normal" in certain cultures, but maybe it is time that those cultures come to realize that some men are not mature enough at the tender age of 22 to engage in the responsibility of parenthood. I have yet to find formal research evidence, but I think in psycho-social regards men are generally younger than women of similar age.

Finally, my ever-recurring question: how on earth do we dare to consider human beings more sensitive than animals? As far as I know animals do not rob their children from their most precious gift: their lives.

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