Resisting the Urge

Generally, the immediate response of law abiding citizens to horrible crimes such as the rape and murder of a child, is to sentence the offender, even if not yet convicted, to life imprisonment with hard labour, hanging, or perhaps half-hanging before drawing and quartering.

But generally too, by the time the court case comes around, we’ve come to terms with the fact that none of the above sentences is available to us any longer because, in our wisdom we have drawn up more considered laws about the way to manage these things, and so emotion is forced to move aside for reason.

And yet, executing these offenders would be a satisfactory solution in as much as that particular person would never offend again, and we would have our righteous vengeance. But it would not eliminate the problem. Murdering rapists will not cease to exist.

Our immediate response to murdering terrorists carries with it similar emotions of horror, vengeance and, in addition, blanket fear. It is not a new problem. And we have the relatively recent example of the Bush/Blair catastrophic decision-making to guide us on what not to do.

And yet, USA, Russia, France and England, the world’s biggest arms dealers, are talking about retaliating to this latest terrorist attack by bombing the hell out the terrorist and any unfortunate civilians who cannot get out of the way. Instead of considered solutions it appears that hanging, drawing and quartering is the order of the day. Hang ’em high without considering the outcome.

You cannot stop terrorism any more than you can stop rape and murder. Which is not to say that pacifism and appeasement is the answer. The terrorist army is already being bombed and at times routed by local armies. But ramping up the bombing on civilians as well as soldiers is simply giving rein to those old urges.

This is not what we want or expect from national leaders. In the list of options at their disposal the one usually at the top (do nothing) should be carefully considered, or at least do nothing more than we are already doing until we look again at the list of options in a few months time.

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Chris Horan

Chris is a former social worker, probation officer and Family Court counsellor, living in Hawea in the South Island.