Wake Up Call?

We are exposed to news items about crimes, natural disasters, wars almost daily and the frequent exposure to such events mean that we don’t as much as bat an eyelid when we see headlines about many world events anymore. We feel sad but just think of most events on a very superficial level unless we are personally affected by the events.

Man murdered by spiteful ex-wife. “Sigh, maybe they had an acrimonious divorce..”

Earthquake strikes 100 miles off Indonesian coast, 50 dead. “What to do, their location is like that. Happens often there..”

Shooting in Washington mall, 3 dead including shooter. “Another shooting? Lucky not so many died”

Woman raped by drunk man while walking home from work. “Aiyo, so poor thing. hope and pray she’s fine now..”

We experience sad emotions in passing and carry on with our lives and we view these events only as ‘news’. There is a deep story behind every single one of the victims of these crimes but rarely are we ever told of these stories. We see numbers, statistics, death tolls.

However, once in a while, a story breaks which forces us to remove the rose tinted glasses with which we normally view the world. Something about the story is so jarring that we sit up and try to fully absorb the magnitude of what has just occurred.

Consider the case of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, where more than 230,000 people lost their lives. Earthquakes are part and parcel of life along the Pacific Ring of Fire, but the high death toll and damage during this particular event really shocked people. The event resulted in the establishment of an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System to help warn of future tsunamis in the vicinity so that people could be evacuated.

For a more recent event, think about the shooting in a Connecticut elementary school where 26 people were killed, including 20 young children. Shootings occur on a daily basis in the US and mass shootings occur on an unfortunately frequent basis too. However, this event in particular was heartbreaking to many because the majority of casualties were children, They were young children who could not possibly have defended themselves against an assault rife wielding adult, little children who might not even have fathomed the seriousness of the situation they were in. The aftermath of prior shootings followed a predictable pattern where there would be mourning for a certain time frame, memorials, some calls for gun control which eventually died off. This time, even gun control opponents have accepted that some control like an assault weapons ban might be beneficial to society as a whole. A bill will be introduced on the first day of the new Congress, but it remains to be seen if there is political momen tum then to push some measures through.

Recently, something occurred in Delhi, India which shocked the world. A young lady, Damini, and her friend were going home after watching a movie. They boarded a private bus thinking it was public transit and were assaulted by the 6 men on board. She was gang-raped by the 6 men and the duo were beaten up with iron bars and thrown off the bus after being stripped. Apparently, she also had her uterus ripped out by one of the men. She died in hospital after some time.  India is ranked as the fourth worst place to be a woman in the world and local police are quoted as saying that there is a woman raped every 18 hours there. So crimes against women in India are disgustingly common, but this crime has elicited such extreme reactions due to its savagery. There are protests, commissions and Indians across the social strata have weighed in with their reactions calling for more protection for women and harsher laws to punish future criminals.

I realise that when we read about some crimes, the depravity with which it is executed causes us to feel more affected than we normally would in such a situation. Crimes against women occur everyday all over the world, but when faced with such a brutal crime people cannot just sit back and treat it like an everyday occurrence. When we read about natural disasters, we are more stirred when we see a larger death toll. When we say that it’s a good thing that not many people died in a certain earthquake, we tend to forget that each death means the world to someone somewhere. This does not mean that we are bad people, it is just that the frequency of bad things happening really does tend to desensitize us to everything but the worst of events.

When events such as the above-mentioned occurs, a solemn responsibility falls upon us, especially upon those in power. The responsibility to ensure that such things are prevented from happening again as far as possible. The responsibility to ensure that those who pass away do not do so in vain. The responsibility to take however much effort to ensure that victims are remembered more than the perpetrators of crimes and their lives are commemorated as much as the criminals are punished.

Memorials, protests, calls to action via social media are all good but concrete steps should be taken to prevent future tragedies when the problem is Man. If something can be done to stop bad things from happening, it simply should be done. These events do not and should not happen often, but when they do, they should serve as a wake up call.