Thursday, November 06, 2008

13 Years Old...

In one of the more horrific stories recently in the news (and frankly, that is never an easy competition),
A young woman recently stoned to death in Somalia first pleaded for her life, a witness has told the BBC.
"Don't kill me, don't kill me," she said, according to the man who wanted to remain anonymous. A few minutes later, more than 50 men threw stones.
Human rights group Amnesty International says the victim was a 13-year-old girl who had been raped.
There is much more at the link, but frankly, this time my worst imagination and the story as reported were virtually identical.

One of the burdens of knowing a bit about the experimental study of human social behavior is that I can no longer adequately distance myself from stories like this. Why didn't people intervene? Darley and Latane explored that question decades ago after the murder of Kitty Genovese. Diffusion of responsibility, the effects of deindividuation, and other well-researched phenomena tell us that we cannot rely on human nature to do the right thing. The men stoning this poor girl to death? Milgram's research shows us that perfectly normal people can be led by authority to inflict pain, injury, or (potentially) death on an innocent other, with far less coercion than these religious zealots had experienced. (See this review of Milgram's experiment for an example of both the denial that this is our potential--in the opening post--and many corrections in the commentsl)

Yes, people can be killed in soccer riots--sometimes deliberately. Kent State did not need religion as a motivation to get four students killed. But damn... again and again, religion just seems so good at it.

Those who do not recognize the humanity in monsters are perhaps at risk for not recognizing the potential for monstrosity in themselves. This is us--the batshit-insane human race.

It should, one hopes, be very easy
To look on this and to condemn,
But look at Kitty Genovese--
In some ways, we are much like them.

When crowds make people nearly faceless
It is a certain kind of Hell,
Promoting hate, however baseless--
Religions do this awfully well.

To recognize that this potential
Is human, is my fervent wish;
It can be fought--it's not essential
(You need not be a cuttlefish)

These people show the worst of us
But us they are, we need to learn;
We share one planet-home, and thus
It's to ourselves we have to turn:

Belief can spread, just like a cancer
Harmful ones have got to go;
While some believe that God's the answer
For these beliefs... the answer's NO.

Hat-tip, of course, to PZ.


watercat said...

This brought tears to my eyes. I stand in awe of one who can put such a thing into words, and so eloquently.

Blake Stacey said...

O my brothers!
For so, alas, must I call you:
Children of stardust,
Children of DNA,
Quarrelling sons of mitochondrial Eve.

There are in this Galaxy
As many stars as there were cells
In the brain of the girl you killed.
Beyond this Galaxy are many more
As many more as were there
Cells in the heart
Which you caused to stop beating.

And on all the worlds
Orbiting all those suns,
You'll never find a replacement for her.

Cuttlefish said...

Damn, Blake, that was beautiful.

.... got tears in my eyes, now, too.

I hope you posted it on your own blog, too.

mandydax said...

And these monsters don't believe we're animals. :(

Anfractuous said...

In Pain, She Dies

An innocent girl, just thirteen,
First bloom - obliterated.
She fought three men, foul rapists who
Despoiled and desecrated…

Her virtue and her purity,
Her childhood now undone.
Yet next, they chose to slander her;
Charged her, “Adulterous one.”

And then they took her, trembling,
And screaming, wild with fear
Before a thousand other men,
To stone her there and jeer…

At her distress, her agony,
Stones cast with brutal fury.
Those fifty men around her ranged,
A hate-filled, heartless jury.

There was no shield for her poor face.
She, buried in the ground
Up to her neck, so helpless there.
I wonder what the sound…

She heard around her from that crowd
Of slavering, murderous brutes?
Did they taunt and torture her
With jeers or taunts and hoots?

Tell me now, explain to me
Exactly why you did it,
Why this girl deserved that fate,
Why none of you forbid it?

Is it Allah that applauds
Such bestiality?
Or is it men, who make the rules
Of faux morality?

My heart, it bleeds for that poor child.
And women living there.
Thus, bound by your perverted creed.
Will no god hear their prayer…

For justice or integrity
From that barbaric screed?
In such a world as yours, it seems
Vile hate is bound to breed.

So those of us who have a voice
Must raise it to the sky.
We must protest and agitate,
Help women to defy…

Religion which would castigate
One sex, and keep them bound
By laws which claim to justify
Sadism so profound.

And how can we pretend to be
So noble, moral, fine?
Claim law and honor on our side,
Thus, justice to enshrine?

While we stand by and watch such hate.
Oh, where our outraged cries?
Why is there no one come to save
One child? In pain, she dies.

Uncared for by her fellow man,
Alone to her last breath.
I cry for her and grieve for us.
For we allowed her death.

tigtog said...

Great post and poetry. Just one minor bit of carping - there were those who objected and tried to save her, according to Amnesty International. The militia opened fire on them, and that's when a young boy was killed.

Hard to know who's right, but I do feel a minor lift from knowing that at least some effort may have been made to prevent this.