When I was young one read about the likes of Jack the Ripper, the 19th century mystery killer of five London East End prostitutes as an extraordinary phenomenon. Also, as a child, my sister and I eager to read the Evening Post, were forbidden until our mother had first “censored” it by occasionally cutting pieces out. Years later we learnt these were reports of a murder.
Compare that to the modern era. Mass killers are literally a weekly event. Absolutely nowhere is now immune, as we learnt with the Christchurch mosque slaughter. When children or young people are the targets, such as a decade back in safe image Norway with 77 deaths at a Labour party youth camp, or 19 young children and 2 teachers killed in Texas a few months back, we react with special horror.
The recent Thai infants day care massacre in which 34 innocents were shot or stabbed to death shocked the world, 23 being infants.
That horror had a particular impact on me as for a number of reasons I know that area and particularly nearby Udon Thani, an attractive modern city in which I’ve had a number of dealings. But as said, mass murder attacks by a lone male are literally now a weekly event and nowhere is immune.
Consequently in America there’s a heightened clamour to control guns. It will not make one iota of difference for there are so many alternative ways to commit mass killings, from stabbings, poison, driving a vehicle into crowds, all in fact recent events, and so on.
The killers, nearly always male, are invariably revealed as socially inept loners. But large numbers of people fit that description without running amok. I say nearly always male, the exception being nurses. Every week, somewhere in the world a nurse is on trial for murdering her patients although usually no more than one or two. The British case involving a number of new born babies currently underway in Britain is unusual in involving half a dozen victims. So too with doctors, regularly somewhere in the world one being on trial. Frankly, I sympathise with them but the reasons they are able to do this is having the means at hand. For all we know accountants could be secretly seething away with murderous thoughts about some of their clients but lack the means to do so.
It’s horrible to have to say but seemingly there’s nothing we can do about this copy-cat behaviour.
A few years ago in Moldova, talking to an Israeli businessman in my hotel, I asked him how on earth he puts up with the regular, out of the blue bombings, shootings, stabbings and other random attacks.
“Just the same as you do,” he replied, adding that doubtless New Zealand has its share of traffic deaths, drownings and what have you, but in everyone’s minds they’re something that happens to other people. He was right. There’s nothing we can do to anticipate these events and must simply get on with our lives.
But in saying there’s nothing we can do, there are things that might prevent such events.
I don’t believe capital punishment would be a deterrent, which applies anyway in some American states. Indeed probably half the offenders get killed by the police or, as in the Thai case, turn the gun on themselves. For many of these killers it may feel like desirable martyrdom. But for the rest, what they would undoubtably hate is humiliation.
If for example, they were placed in public stocks for a few years and be pounded daily by the public with rotten fruit supplied for the purpose, plus a 3 hour session each day when passing males can pee on their faces, this prospect would certainly work as a deterrent.
But it will not happen as too many people would condemn it as medieval, sinking to their level and so on. So we must live with it and apply the Israeli “only affecting other people approach,” just as we now do in fact with traffic accidents et al.