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PC's Opinion: Hell's Half-Acre?

This opinion piece is the ninth in a new series of "PC's Weekly Opinion" - a pithy, heavily spiced editorial from Peter Cresswell that can be delivered to your in-box once a week. If you like what you read then feel free to forward it to everyone you've ever met, and to subscribe at www.libz.org .

PC's Weekly Opinion
Hell's Half-Acre?
By Peter Cresswell

Another New Zealander murdered yesterday - her husband taken into custody for the killing. That makes nine New Zealanders murdered this month (and that's without counting attempted murders like last weekend's axe attack in Panmure).

It's been a bad year world-wide: Hundreds have died at the hands of Islamic suicide bombers and Israeli guns and missiles; we all watched as over five thousand human beings died in the ruins of the World Trade Centre. And now as we approach Christmas at the end of this particularly brutal year, the senseless slaughter of these nine New Zealanders becomes almost too much to contemplate.

Here in New Zealand we like to think we're immune from the violence that all too frequently sweeps the world, but the quarter-acre pavlova paradise increasingly seems more like Hell's half-acre.

With a new outrage almost every day, picking up the newspaper each morning is becoming an act of courage. New Zealander Peter Blake - murdered in the Amazon by Brazilian pirates - was the first, but each news day has seen a fresh outrage in which other New Zealanders have been brutally murdered much closer to home - including two young girls murdered in their beds by what looks to have been their own step-father.

It is impossible not to contemplate the questions the slaughter raises: What kind of world - what kind of a country - is it in which these things can be done to other human beings: in which the lives of two children are snuffed out by the stepfather (allegedly) who is supposed to be caring for them; in which a young woman out jogging is run down and then raped and beaten before being eventually strangled to death; in which another young woman who is hitchhiking to a family reunion is raped, beaten and then drowned in a ditch on the side of a country road; in which three people are bludgeoned to death (and one into a coma) so the perpetrators could steal the price of a Honda Civic …?

What kind of bloody place is this where such unthinking, mindless brutes exist that can do such things to other people? Of what use is it - we might ask ourselves - to proselytise, to persuade and to philosophise when the newspaper is full of new atrocities every time we pick it up? What use is philosophy and reason when brainless brutality seems the order of the day?

Bertrand Russell once observed that "many people would sooner die rather than think - in fact, they do so." If only, we lament, it were only the wilfully mindless who were dying! But it's not - the bastards are taking others with them before they go.

'What refuge is there from this noxious tide of irrational brutality?' I wondered as I drove through central Auckland this morning to work with a client setting up their new business. As I drove I watched hundreds (if not thousands) of other people going purposefully about their business - carrying out their plans, making deals, and enjoying the adventure of life in this teeming city. And as I drove, I realised that - despite the headlines - these senseless killings are the exception rather than the rule. The slayings are still news precisely because they are not normal everyday events: The norm was outside my car window, in my client's new architecturally designed offices, and in the heaving, pulsating, guffawing city all around me.

I realised the overwhelming majority of people, in this hemisphere at least, are simply going about their daily business - planning, acting and producing wealth and happiness for themselves and for others. The mindless brutes are not all around us; what we see around us instead are people much like ourselves - people whose actions are the exact inverse of the mindless morons - people whose actions are purposefully productive. It is such actions that move the world, not the actions of a few mindless thugs, however brutal.

It is true that those of us who value reason and happiness will often become frustrated by the mindlessness around us - particularly when violent mindlessness is so inundant. But the fact remains that, in the western world at least, the violently mindless are still very much in the minority.

The meek will probably never get the chance to inherit the earth, and nor perhaps will the brutes: We will - those of us who do choose to think, and to act. But some days it still seems like we'll have to fight the brutes for it all the way.

Pass the ammunition.

© Libz.org 2001

This column may be reproduced anywhere, anytime, by anyone - just as long as it is reproduced in full, with attribution to libz.org, and that you let Peter know at organon@ihug.co.nz .


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