Tuesday, January 27, 2009

SA's criminals are violent because...

NVDL: I have a theory. Think about looters. Once enough people are looting, the temptation for a reasonable person who might not even consider it otherwise increases a lot. So there is a tipping point level where awareness/temptation/desire kick in, and the risk seems to be justified since so many others are doing it. It's cave man's logic.

I believe the Media share culpability in spreading the Looting Mindset. By peppering headlines with sensational crimes, would-be criminals somehow feel less hesitant to act. And let's face it, South Africa's newspapers love giving the front page to blood and guts. Personally I felt the Man on Fire during the Xenophobia period was not good in the headlines - because it encouraged/licensed the continuation, the spread of this 'phase'.

I know editors won't agree with me, their salary checks depend on them seeing it the other way - bad news sells, makes money etc. My advice to the editors who care about the country - when it comes to crime, report the facts, but don't sensationalise them and particularly with crime, try to err on the side of drawing less attention to it, rather than the current surfeit...which simply induces fear and paralysis from one set, and activates the other set.

Quite why South Africa should be so violent compared to countries that are poorer and in many ways, worse off, is something that nobody has been able to explain. After an elderly Naboomspruit/Mookgophong couple were brutally attacked with pruning shears late in 2007, forensic criminologist Irma Labuschagne stated, “We are an incredibly evil nation. I believe that people in our country have never been angrier with one another.”

The problem with this theory was that the alleged attackers were young Zimbabweans, not South Africans. Apartheid and a history of racial discrimination did not wash as explanations for their sadism. And why does South Africa bear the brunt of the violence? Why is Zimbabwe relatively free from violent crime? Similarly, why is South Africa so much more violent than Mozambique?
Is there some kind of critical mass of criminals driving social norms which decree that sadism and brutality are acceptable?
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