Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Raoul Moat

Raoul Moat was a human being. He is now dead.

I have no sympathy for him, but an awful lot of empathy for a mentally ill individual in whom the switch got tragically flipped. I felt the same way about Thomas Hamilton after the Dunblane massacre. Predictably, there are now large numbers of people shouting and wailing about what a monster he was, how he was a beast, an animal, not human. And they are all spectacularly missing the point. Something has gone disastrously wrong for these people, something massive and, fairly literally, mind-blowing, in order for them to do the things they do; and it is something for which the potential exists in every one of us, because we are all human beings just as they were. The same is true of the Nazis in Germany in the thirties and forties, from Hitler down. They were not subhuman in any way (and how ironic that people sometimes use that particular word to describe them, showing their complete obliviousness to what was wrong with Nazism).

The human mind is enormously complex, perhaps the most complex thing in the Universe, certainly one of them. And cases like Raoul Moat's, or Thomas Hamilton's, should encourage us to try and find out what went wrong in theirs, not simply to condemn them and try to distance ourselves from them by pretending it couldn't happen to us. The whole, tragic point of these cases, and of that of the Nazis and many others, is precisely that they ARE human, that they are exactly like us, and that therefore the potential for that behaviour exists in each and every one of us. We ignore that at our peril.

1 comment:

  1. This excellent quote just in:

    Monsters remain human beings. In fact, to reduce them to a subhuman
    level is to exonerate them of their acts of terrorism and mass murder —
    just as animals are not deemed morally responsible for killing.
    Insisting on the humanity of terrorists is, in fact, critical to
    maintaining their profound responsibility for the evil they commit.

    And, if they are human, then they must necessarily not be treated in
    an inhuman fashion. You cannot lower the moral baseline of a terrorist
    to the subhuman without betraying a fundamental value.
    --Andrew Sullivan