Friday, 3 April 2009

This Culture is Insane

Sometimes, it’s difficult to really appreciate that this civilization is, in fact, truly insane.

Acculturated since birth as we are to accept the dynamics of the social hierarchies, it’s kind of easy to let glaring examples of how the violence flows only one way with impunity pass us by. I know, I do it too. I’m still struggling out of almost 50 years of engrained status quo.

But today I was shocked almost breathless by a prime lesson in how human kind considers themselves the peak and pinnacle of all that is. In an area not too far from where I live, called Hennops River Valley, amongst the low mountains of the Magaliesberg, a leopard has been spotted. Yeah, I know – it’s hardly likely to be striped. Anyway, a driver gave the latest report. He was very sure that he saw the leopard, and called in to alert the authorities. He was so very sure it was a leopard because – and listen with your soul to this – he tried to run it over.

No, he didn’t accidently nearly hit it. He deliberately tried to run it over and, presumably, kill it.

Now certainly a leopard is a large predator. However, how deep have we buried the knowledge that human beings are by far and away the most lethal animal we’re ever likely to come across? Do we spot a man and try to run him down? Well OK, sometimes perhaps. But such an act would draw immediate censure from most of our fellow human beings. The cold-blooded decision to kill the big cat did not draw such ire. I’m sure there are many folk in the area who would not only do the same, but be forgiven and even hailed for this premeditated murder.

A leopard is a pussy cat compared to each and every one of us.

And that’s a small ‘u’, meaning the hilariously named species Homo Sapiens.

Man, you see, can direct his deadly violence towards wild nature and get completely away with it. Some of us fear Her and some of us hate Her. But many, many of us feel justified in controlling Her entirely.

Connected to this notion of Man’s urgent primacy over wild nature – and his self-justified smugness at exercising it whenever the opportunity arises – are a couple of stories making the main stream media today.

In one incident, a Metro (Traffic) cop and his Police Service sidekick pulled over a taxi driver and demanded to see his license.

I know, I know. We all love to hate the taxi drivers – I can be found yelling at them in no very complementary terms any rush hour of the week. But these cops found it expedient apparently to pepper spray the unresisting driver, to handcuff him in a less than gentle manner, and to steal his day’s takings.

We need to think deeply about this, too. The only reason this pair made the news was that their brutality was captured on a CCTV camera. Appropriate outraged squawks from their managers. Yes, at least one of them has now been suspended from duty. But it brings to the forefront the way in which the Police force feel almost above the very law they claim to uphold.

Now this is a good point to ponder: the police in any country is supposed to be a force composed of people sworn to protect and to serve. Ask yourself now – just who are they protecting and serving? I submit to you that it is the non-person of the State who is the object of their tender protection, not the citizen.

This point was made again in the second police story of the day. A bare couple of days ago, a known murderer – responsible for the killing of at least five other people in the past – shot and killed two police investigators in Etwatwa on the East Rand.
The police spokesman came on air to declare that this person was well known to the police, and that now they were going all out to get him.

How many times have we seen this? A criminal can have killed, raped or abused any number of common citizens and the investigation will be 'ongoing'. But just let his victim be a member of the armed wing of the state, and suddenly all stops are pulled out, all personnel deployed, all leave cancelled.

The cops surrounded the shack in which this murderer was hiding, today. Surrounded it in force, all heavily armed. They shot the shack full of holes and the known killer was himself killed – whether by the police or by his own hand remains debatable.

This sort of thing is fairly common – I’m sure we can all think of examples. Kill a member of the public, and the case will be investigated. But don’t hold your breath. Kill a member of the violent enforcers of the State, and vendetta is called. You will be immediately hunted down and snuffed. With extreme prejudice. And members of the general public will applaud.