Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Oh, mankind.

THERE are not a lot of things to like about humanity, when you take a magnifying glass to the species.

Rape and murder are common in much of the animal kingdom, but only humans think they're wrong and do it anyway.

The constant search for money and power are extensions of the drive to find food and safety, but I'm not aware of anyone who has a lot of either who is any the nicer for acquiring them.

Infanticide, abuse, violence - they happen to lots of creatures in lots of ways a lot of the time, but only among human beings are they ever turned into pornography.

That's not to say humans don't do nice stuff. Any species which can invent Mars ice creams, set up the NHS and tolerate Edwina Currie for more than five minutes can't be all bad.

It's just that, sometimes, you seem to be mostly bad.

Cast your mind back to December 2010, when a man called Mohamed Bouazizi was so upset about humans being horrible to each other that he set himself on fire.

Mohamed earned £86 a month selling fruit and veg from a cart, money he used to support his mother, uncle, siblings, and support one relative at university. He had been hounded by corrupt officials seeking bribes for years, and when they confiscated his cart and scales he went to see the local governor to complain.

The governor refused to see him, and a very upset Mohamed got some gasoline, poured it all over himself outside the governor's office, and set it alight.

It took him three weeks to die, during which time he was visited in hospital by his country's president and his story moved thousands of his countrymen to protest. Ten days after Mohamed expired, the president was ousted in the Tunisian Revolution and the Arab Spring was sprung, spreading across the Middle East and toppling decades of dictatorship for millions of people.

It's not sprung the same everywhere, and even in the places where it did like Egypt the bad men are being replaced by those of a fundamentalist bent, which never bodes well whichever faith they hide behind. In Tunisia there were elections, and while a formerly-banned group of Islamists were elected they're a relatively moderate bunch.

In September, just before those elections, a Tunisian woman was raped. She was sitting with her boyfriend in a car when they were approached by three men, two of whom attacked her while the third marched her boyfriend to a cashpoint to steal his money.

The woman complained to the police, who arrested the men she accused and charged them with rape and extortion.

Then human beings managed to make a horrible thing yet more horrible still, and the woman was herself charged with "intentional indecent behaviour" which carries a sentence of up to six months in prison.

The reason for this is that the men who raped her were policemen, and after they were charged they decided to say their victim had been in "an immoral position" in the car with her boyfriend, thus making her in the minds of many a whore who deserved all she got.

Never mind that unmarried people can sit in cars quite happily all over the world without it being a problem, and that even in the most repressive states which might arrest them for it no-one would expect to be raped and robbed as a result. Never mind that rape and robbery is illegal pretty much everywhere.

All over Tunisia and the Arab world people are arguing about who to believe, and whether the woman was responsible for her own assault.

In a moderate country with democratic elections and a recent history of being nice to its people, it doesn't take much bravery to sit in a car with your boyfriend, trust someone in authority or put your faith in strangers. Once you've discovered the world is not as nice as you thought, it is very easy to be scared, bow your head and keep your mouth shut.

It takes a brave person to complain of sexual assault; it takes a braver one still to complain to the police when their comrades were responsible for it. And it takes quite a feat of inhumanity by more than just the rapist responsible for people to think anyone in their right mind invites rape.

Animals do not think in that way; only humans do.

At the same time, thousands of miles away, a five-year-old girl has been missing for 36 hours.


April Jones was playing not far from her home, with friends, where she has always played in perfect safety, when she got into somebody's car and disappeared. Her parents are distraught, the clock is ticking, and although someone has been arrested there is still no sign of the little girl.

Already people are muttering about why she was allowed out; what the parents were doing; and what does anyone expect. A little bit of extra inhumanity, too early to be anything but distasteful.

Snatching children has to be one of the worst things human beings do to one another, because it hurts not just the victim but shatters families and destroys the trust of entire communities. The lifelong effects on all concerned are incalculable.

Hope is still strong that April has been looked after, but everyone is aware that as time passes the chances are she was not. Harming youngsters, whether your own or someone else's, is a fact of life in many species but it's only humans that do it for reasons of gratification - for revenge and control, like Mike Pederson, or for a sexual thrill like Brady, Whiting, Huntley, Sutcliffe and an untold many more.

To steal a child, to harm it, to know people are distressed, to draw out their pain for as long as possible - it's torture, and it's something only humans do.

But there is one thing among the horror which is a saving grace, and this is that in the darkest times people are at their best.

That's why in Tunisia they're protesting again, only this time it's for that woman and her right to not be raped, against the police who changed their story after they were accused of a crime and for the government they elected a year ago to act in the interests of a people who for the first time in decades are aware they can hope for better.

It's why in Mid-Wales hundreds of people turned up, of their own accord and without official guidance or request, to search an area 30 miles in diameter to look for April Jones all night in the driving rain.

It's why they went back to bed for a few hours, got up at 6am, and went back to look again.

Maybe it made no difference, perhaps it was a hindrance, but even if all it achieved was for April's parents to know everyone was doing their best then it was a touching, wordless, entirely altruistic bit of marvellousness.

There is something wonderful in the fact that when mankind is at its most inhumane, humanity wakes up and says "we're not all like that".

There's something awful too, because it only ever happens after something awful and in a nicer world it would happen every day.

But I've seen it every time I've seen horror, and I thought that I'd point it out. I've seen people be wonderful when digging mass graves, care for the crying when they don't have to, and help those who, through disease or starvation, are beyond any kind of help at all.

It's often pointless by any logical definition of what is worth your while, but that's almost the point of doing it. To say, 'this may not achieve much, but you are not alone'.

There are days when everything seems dark and hopeless, but if you look for it there is always a little chink of light - otherwise you wouldn't know it was dark at all.

Perhaps we call ourselves mankind more out of hope than anything else.

But you know what they say about hope.

10 comments:

John Hartnup said...

I was brought up in Aberystwyth, I know Machynlleth well, and if there's one place you should be able to let your 5-year-old play out, Mach is that place.

I'm finding this particular missing-child-story particularly tough to take, because I can picture the location, I know the places they're searching, and I can imagine the affected families more vividly.

Of course we don't know what happened to her yet, but even if our worst fears are confirmed, we should try our best to remember that these events are rare. The harm done do kids by over-supervision is obviously insignificant compared to an abduction -- but multiply it by millions of kids and thousands of hours, and it adds up.

Anonymous said...

Actually uncoupled male penguins will kill and then rape the young chicks of other penguin couples. And ducks are totally into snuff. The fact birds haven't yet managed to figure out how to work a video camera whilst doing it is by the by.

None of what happens in the animal world excuses human behaviour, but there are parallels there for virtually every horrible thing people do.

verytessatangent said...

That's powerful. Because it's true. Thank you.

Heather Mitchell

Foxy said...

The difference is, we know we shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

Not always. And that's more depressing than anything else. The fact that there are people who clearly don't have any comprehension that what they are doing is wrong is what (a) proves we are still animals, and (b) stops us from achieving our potential. It's because most of us do know that we shouldn't that makes the difference, but unfortunately we have to build society around the existence of those who don't. Even though they are a tiny minority.

Snowball said...

At work now, I can hear the search helicopters whirr overhead as they continue looking for April.

Thanks for this Blog, FSF, it's appreciated. For the last couple of days ONE IN TEN PEOPLE IN MACHYNLLETH have been actively participating in the search. This is a place where people look out for their neighbours.

As I'm stuck behind a desk, I've turned to Twitter to keep up to date. At least, I had done so, but I've had to turn it off. The number of people repeating their self-righteous 'where-were-the-parents' rubbish without caring how such a thoughtless, flippant remark could make the Joneses feel are the worst, but the ones hounding celebs for a retweet are bad, too, and the porn-slingers just jumping on a trending topic ... well, who fwckin cares about them.

The humanity I can see out of my office window is inspiring. The police have been doing an incredible job. These are the worst of times for the Joneses and for Machynlleth but the hope is still there for now.

Anonymous said...

We don't know that ducks don't

Anonymous said...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness... I am fairly sure it has always been like this with mankind - we are capable of very good and bad things as individuals or societies. Not exactly a revelation is it? As for knowing something is good or bad, often yes but occasionally no - depends on the value system you were raised in, what your religion or belief instructs you and your capacity as an individual. I am fairly sure your interpretation of what is right is different to a lot of other people.

UleyGirl said...

We hear you. Fortunately I haven't seen any of that crap in my twitter timeline. No matter the horrors that occur, we should never give up our right to play, enjoy life and to expect freedom. April was enjoying life in a very safe place. She was having the best of child hood.. Good piece foxy.

Anonymous said...

The cruelty of human beings towards each other seems to have no bounds, but so does kindness.

One man may be a brutal child killer or rapist whilst another possibly born in the same hospital on the same day may give his own life saving a child he doesn't know.

Go figure.

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