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Opinions of Monday, 28 March 2011

Columnist: Damoa, Adreba Kwaku Abrefa

When Fathers Turn Out to Commit Prolicide

Heads of State, Kings and Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers and Chancellors hold their office only as vicegerents. They hold office for and on behalf of the citizenry hence obliged by the supreme laws of the land to swear an oath to protect the citizens of their respective countries against all foreign aggressions and respect the constitution of their country. A lot more is said by way of commitment to protect all citizens. If even beasts show epimeletic tendencies, then it would be over-stating to impress upon Homo sapiens who are governed by law and morality to be one another’s keeper let alone own children and countrymen. Aristotle has put it succinctly that ‘at his best, man is the noblest of all animals; disjoined from law and justice he is the worst of all brutes’. Why do humans have the burning propensity to kill one another?

Humans are not evil by nature but our conduct could be evil. Biologists and psychoanalysts argue and confirm as a fact of nature that human species is biologically only partly rational. Scientists have proved that the prefrontal lobes of human brains are too small; proportionately humans have too big adrenal glands, a recipe which alone or in combination certainly leads to a nature of unhappiness melancholy and disorder. This is the about the reason why humans can commit gruesome atrocities against its own kind beyond all dimensions, precisely put together as Aristotle has put it as above.

To support how humans can commit gruesome premeditated killings of own species that no other animal species can ever fathom, in a case of honour killing in Pakistan, a man who suspected his wife of infidelity tied the woman’s hands behind her, hung her upside down, poked out her eyes and cropped off her nose then filled the eye sockets with chilli pepper. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people, especially women are murdered by their families each year in the name of family "honour." It's difficult to get precise numbers on the phenomenon of honour killing; the murders frequently go unreported, the perpetrators unpunished, and the concept of family honour justifies the act in the eyes of some societies especially in Asian communities.

Instead of being one-another’s keeper as Homo sapiens, pogroms and genocide are another form of mortal violence against humans whereby specific groups of people are targeted for destruction and annihilation. These have a long standing history such that in medieval times massive violent attacks against Jews date back at least to the Crusades such as the Pogrom of 1096 in France and Germany (the first "Christian" pogroms to be officially recorded), as well as the massacres of Jews in London and York. From the 1490s when Christopher Columbus set foot on the Americas to the 1890 massacre of Sioux at Wounded Knee by the United States military, the indigenous population of the Western Hemisphere may have declined, the direct cause mostly from disease, to 1.8 million from as many as 100 million. In Brazil alone the indigenous population has declined from a pre-Columbian high of an estimated 3 million to some 300,000 (1997). Estimates of how many people were living in the Americas when Columbus arrived have varied tremendously; 20th century scholarly estimates ranged from a low of 8.4 million to a high of 112.5 million persons. This population debate has often had ideological underpinnings because estimates of pre-Columbian population figures have become heavily politicized. Jihads can also be cited in cases of man’s cruelty towards another for some apparent irrational reasons. A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid. Jihad is an important religious duty for Muslims. A minority among the Sunni scholars sometimes refer to this duty as the sixth pillar of Islam, though it occupies no such official status. Ibn Taymiyya, dubbed 'the spiritual father of the Islamic revolution' preached that "Jihad should be waged against those who do not follow the teaching of Islam. Similarly in governance, similar killings by National security forces against innocent citizens take their turn as we are witnessing in la Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, and many countries across the Middle East. What provokes such attacks, resistance and killings?

Inferiors revolt in order that they may attain equal status and equals attack mercilessly that they may be more superior and suppressive. Such is the state of mind which creates revolutions and civil unrests. All over the globe, between 1915 and 1950, the world has witnessed genocide events in several countries such as Turkey, Armenia, Assyria, Greece, Soviet Union, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Nazi Germany, the partition of India in 1947, and the republic of China and Tibet. Between 1951 and 2000, over 20 countries have been involved in genocide including Australia which started in 1900 and stopped in 1969, Zanzibar, Burundi, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Iraqi Kurds, Brazil, and DR Congo etc. These barbaric killings have been going on for centuries whiles the world has cast a blind eye to them until the middle of the 21st century. In 1951 only two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) were parties to the CPPCG (convention for the prevention of punishment of the crime of genocide): France and the Republic of China. The CPPCG was ratified by the Soviet Union in 1954, the United Kingdom in 1970, the People's Republic of China in 1983 (having replaced the Taiwan-based Republic of China on the UNSC in 1971), and the United States in 1988. So it was only in the 1990s that the international law on the crime of genocide began to be enforced.

With this background information, it can be surmised that the human psyche is prone to doing mischief that is the source of homicidal acts such as filicide, fratricide, matricide and patricide have a long standing history with biblical references to Cain who murdered his sibling Abel, Abraham instructed to immolate Isaac, child sacrifices to Moloch and Baal, cannibalism in ancient Jewish tradition, Jeptha’s daughter etc. Plutarch narrates ancient Carthage’s notoriety for child and human sacrifice especially where victims were typically ritually killed in a manner supposed to please or appease gods, spirits or the deceased as propitiatory offering or retainer sacrifice. Across the length and breadth of the world, these practices were universal and not uncommon. In modern civilised society, prolicide, like all other forms homicide is prohibited by law exceptis excipiendis.

Moral ethics would severely impugn you and me if we would sit unconcerned without intervening where we see violence inflicted against my neighbour or any other person within reach where one can stop or help to stop the occurrence of evil. In summary, pouring down on unarmed protesters with tanks and artillery of any weight and magnitude is sadistic barbarism that cannot be accepted in this 21st century democracy. It therefore behoves the allied forces of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and the UN (United Nations) to intervene in atrocities committed against humanity. People may argue that the Western European cultures have done it before so they are playing double standards but I will also argue that, in the words of the Desiderata poem, the writer exhorts people to “take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth therefore barbarism belongs to the past whiles civility and tolerance belong to the present as we grow and become wiser. Western Europe has matured so much so that they abide with tolerance so that is why they are advancing and are ahead of time and everything. Therefore, Gadhafi, Gbabo et al must sit up and rethink because the Armed forces of every nation belong to the people and not the property of the vicegerent governors so it would be ultra vires to command them to commit prolicide just for tyrants and dictators to impose themselves on the people and remain in authority for ever against the will of majority the same people who put them where they are. African governments may do well to take these examples as food for thought.



Adreba Kwaku Abrefa Damoa, LLB; MPhil (London) London UK