Saturday, February 13, 2010


Yesterday at work, an RSS news feed popped in my in-box and the strange yet sad title beckoned me to at least giving it quick glance, which progressively turned into a thorough read. The title read "‘Friends’ torture, kill disabled woman". As I started to read further, I released there was much more to the story than the title suggested, which is unlike the usually sensationalistic principle of a news website, whose sole motivation is to say so little so dramatically so that people get drawn into reading the entire story. Now, the story itself was very sad, horrifying and immediately prompted a reaction of disgust, anger & the emergence of a deep seated cynicism for humans, in my head. Without getting into the gory details, basically, a woman in Pennsylvania who was mentally challenged, befriended a group of people, fell victim to their pranks, taunts and teasing which may have led to torture and eventually her death.

My very first and basic reaction, like I mentioned earlier was anger & disgust at the perpetrators which included a couple of women and most being in their 20/30's. However from my colleagues that were reading this news article, I received all kinds of reactions, from indifference to anger of the extreme kind - one that supported capital punishment, to self-righteous funny - hiring John Travolta / Sam Jackson, characters from pulp fiction, to get a 'hit' on the accused. While, I could get into why people react the way they do and their reactions itself, I think it may lose the significance of the act committed. In reality, the news and the reaction to news are all deeply interconnected.

I tried to delve deep, into what may have happened, that led a group of regular, generally law abiding people to commit such an heinous act. Was it the 'group effect' ? which is related to conclusions obtained in various study, that people behave differently in groups than when alone. Was it the often unseen side of human psyche to make fun of fellow beings especially when they are not on the same mental/physical level as ourselves or was it just something that started harmlessly, took a nasty turn turning itself into a horrible crime at the end of it? Did peer pressure play it's part in not allowing anyone to speak up against what was happening? The answer could very well be any of these above reasons or a combination of all the above. The question that perplexes me is Why, if we are the intelligent creatures that we are having survived so many generations, can't we figure out the end based on the start? Why, is there this clear disconnection between the emotions and the logical decision making in people?

I personally believe that it may have a lot, at the very least, to do with the way people are raised, in today's society. Life is but a delicate balance of learning the survival skills along with the sensibilities of society. As simple as that might sound, it is anything but that. The acts of terror & crime as well as random acts of kindness, the explicable hostile reactions of locals to foreign military presence to the friendliness among nations & peoples of different ethnicity, every thing boils down to the way people are raised in a home & thus a society. If someone is not imbibed with respect for life, love for fellow beings, animals & nature, during their formative years then how can one expect them to make the humane decision when put into a situation? If all that society does is to raise men and women to be indifferent to others woes, then that is exactly what they will strive to do in their lifetimes and some might even justify their actions. We say that there is always a choice to do right or wrong, but what if the right is not even an option for some? Wouldn't that be a reason that drives people to grave outcome, such as this?

This somehow puts (and rightly so) an additional onus, on how we raise our children. Yes, they will grow up someday, even without too much effort, but the factor that will determine their actions and reactions (as well as the society's as a whole) is the values you instill in them as kids and how you raise them as good citizens. Citizens that are stable emotionally, able physically & driven intellectually.