Witch Burning in the 21st Century
The first video ever to make me cry
I encountered a video on Facebook today, and the comments seemed amazed at the horror of it. I normally do not care much about FB videos, but something made me watch it. First I felt uncomfortable: A group of people were beating up what looked like a family, the crowd watching close by. But I have seen many horrible things on TV, so I was not much affected by what I thought was “normal” corporeal punishment.
The video changes suddenly, and I am not even going to try to describe my horror as I realised they were burning these people alive, kicking them back into the flames as they were trying to escape. And seeing them sitting in the flames, alive and conscious, slowly burning to their deaths, I cried for the first time ever over a video. A witch burning, in the 21st century.
Maybe it says something about the protected and affluent world I live in, seeing that I have never seen anything as horrible as this before. And maybe it is healthy, in our media-numbed time, to be shaken by the ugly face of an only all too real reality in which torture, burning people alive, killings are parts of life.
I won’t link to the video as it is too gruesome, especially for children (this warning is the real thing: Don’t watch it near children, even old ones!), but I can send the link if requested (it is not a secret, it is all over Facebook, I just cannot bear hosting it directly).
Thoughts and reflection
Now that I have had a few hours to digest it, tears have given way to reflection, for I do not think that it helps trying to blame specific countries or peoples; nor do I think that it helps to reproduce the crazy and inhumane rituals and modes of punishments from this video and similar videos: If you read the comments to the video(s), many people advocate treating the people in the video as they have treated their now dead victims. I strongly disagree: As is the case with torture and the death penalty, they only make things worse by hardening the mind and corroding morals. It is exactly when the good in man fails that we must assert our humanity, compassion and mercy (no religious undertones).
But I am not writing this to discuss punishments, so I will leave that topic for another day; suffice to say here that I obviously think the people involved should be punished, but by going to a prison in which their basic rights are upheld and protected, too: As civilized people we must extent rights even to people who do not believe in them, people who might not extend these rights to others.
What to do?
The only solution I can see is long term, and I cannot, unfortunately, see any way to stop this overnight (though I really hope someone is trying…)
I believe the solution lies in information and education, which must reach deep into society to the lowest social strata and cover all geographical areas; and making it so unattractive to commit such extreme criminal acts that nobody wants to commit them (when such things do not happen very often in Denmark, it is not because we are fundamentally superior to these or any other peoples, neither morally nor biologically speaking, but because we have so much to lose: Taking the law into one’s own hands (whether that be extreme cases as the video I am discussing or more common ideas such as wanting to forcefully castrate sex offenders, which to me are fundamentally alike if carried out) will land you in prison, you will lose your job, your income, your freedom. And having grown up with this knowledge, we have internalised it, and it has become part of our “morals”, which we think natural for us when in reality it is a result of external factors that we can actually export: Education, social and economic security, equality before the law, equality for all religions and cultures as long as they adhere to certain fundamental legislation, among others. And in this respect we should not be afraid to praise and put forward some of the solutions that we have come up with in the Western world, for instance the UN and its laws and charters on human rights. I acknowledge that the UN, and even human rights as they are formulated in the UN charters, is a Western construct – but it is a construct that we should be proud of and that we should try to export globally.
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