“Two killed in Kenyan carjacking
Armed men shot dead two female passengers as they carjacked a
When we started to look for a new posting abroad, we were seriously considering
Against this background, I was touched by the story of the two women. It could have been me and my family. The fact that someone can end the lives of two women just to get hold of a car is of course incomprehensible to most of us. And very frightening.
This is not only a problem in some developing countries. When I arrived to
Before and during the time we lived in
I could be recalled that some decades ago,
Philosophically, all of this makes me wonder about the “true nature” of human beings. Are we murderous and selfish creatures, killing and injuring at will? Or are we kind and empathic, caring and generous at heart? And if we really are born generous and good-natured, how can we as humans carry out such atrocities as we apparently do, in so great numbers? How can in certain situations the most precious asset we have, human life, become of so little value?
As far as I can tell, people who commit crimes of the sort described above are driven by a sense of utter despair and hopelessness. Also, they probably believe they can do it with little or no consequence. I am quite convinced that man is born neither “good” nor “evil”, but becomes product of the society he is raised in. We are no doubt biologically predisposed in one direction or the other (just look at the obvious gender differences when it comes to the use of violence), but in the end I think we are all capable of being either Mother Theresa or Adolf Hitler, or anything in between. How we actually turn out will be the effect of the people we meet, the values we are taught and the society we learn to know.
I would also hold the view that all persons are responsible for their actions. A “bad childhood” can not excuse actions that bring suffering or death to another. Still, the question remains whether a person who has had no education or experience in moral values should be held fully responsible for actions that go against those values. Maybe this was the case in the
In order to seriously abate violence, you therefore need a society based on universally accepted moral principles that are effectively taught to and applied by everybody, as well as an efficient law enforcement system that puts those who violate these principles before justice. But this is far from enough. The same society also needs to nurture a sense of responsibility, integrity and empathy, and it must be founded on equal opportunities and inclusiveness. Otherwise, you will still find people desperate enough to commit violent crime, as an act of despair.
How then to define the correct moral principles? That is more difficult than one would think. I would, like the utilitarian philosopher Bentham, contest any set of pre-given or inherent moral principles, such as those deriving from the world religions or (however ingeniously) suggested by some other philosophers like Kant. Such principle would never work, since they are bound to be outdated, biased and skewed.
Rather, I would advocate a combined utilitarian and relativistic approach, using a consensus-building process to identify (and subsequently possibly revise) principles that universally minimizes fear for death and suffering.
In fact, such a set of principles already exists. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/index.htm) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. I consider this the best attempt we have so far to lay down universal basic principles to guide our society morally. However, the Declaration is not legally binding, and any analysis of the state of the world today would conclude that it is far from fully applied or enforced everywhere – not even by some of the wealthiest and democratic states themselves. Nor is it taught to everyone. One day, hopefully, it will become fully integrated into national law in all countries, and a real source of security for all human beings.
As finalize this text, I learn from the internet that over 120 people have been killed due to a suicide bomber driving a truck with explosives into a crowded marketplace in