Offbeat 14 August 2015
Here’s the story. Some guy advertised that he would poison dogs. He made the statement on Facebook, on his own page as well as on one of the small adverts pages. He also said he would give the carcasses to a specific tribe. He may have posted on more sites, but those were the only two that I saw.
The first thing I need to do is be grateful for Facebook, and his offer to do this on a site where half of Namibia seems to congregate. Sometimes that sort of abysmal idiocy works. Imagine if he had slipped through the cracks.
It’s good to know what idiots like him dream up, in order to be prepared. Facebook really does seem to bring out the low wattage bulbs. And any government attempt to regulate Facebook will deprive them of a wonderful attempt to see all the things that might otherwise be said in secret.
I was tempted to report the post to Facebook. They take a very dim view of that sort of threat, and will ban people that make them without thinking for more than a minute or two. Call it virtual exile. I decided not to, rather to watch the message spread. It paid off.
As it stands now, two charges of utterance have apparently been laid against him, something about uttering his intent to poison dogs, and also uttering his intent to pass the carcasses on. The word utterance is a terrifying one, sort of like slander.
The guy is obviously a newbie on social media, like tens of other Namibians, or at least, maybe, a couple of hundred others who are prepared to throw caution to the wind in the naïve belief that if you make threats on a computer, it is not as bad as saying it out loud.
He is probably a potential troll, judging by what I saw of his page. Trolls use their unresolved anger and need for cruelty to dominate conversations. Or perhaps he is so badly marginalised that making statements like that is the only way he can get a bit of attention.
There is obvious cruelty in him. Pets and children are innocents, and should definitely not be poisoned, let alone fed to people, if they offend. If anything it is the ‘parents’ who should be blamed, though not poisoned.
The other thing that struck me was my own immediate sense of anger. In the Seventies and, I think, the Eighties, there was a dog poisoner in Windhoek. It was quite a thing at the time. Yards were watched. Dogs were watched. And still there were the inevitable incidents. Rumour has it that the person was found out, and rapidly left the country. I still have a sense of residual anger from that, and that anger leapfrogged a bunch of decades. Judging by the immediate, fairly widespread response, I am not the only one who has that residual anger.
After I simmered down, and suppressed the thoughts of mobs with pitchforks and burning brands, I examined my own instinctive reaction, to be cruel right back.
To be cruel, an individual has to abandon concern for others. This entails a psychological process of devaluing others. It could be psychopathy, or perhaps sociopathy. Whatever clinical definition applies, cruelty will best thrive where there is an example of cruelty. It could be cruelty towards the individual who becomes cruel, or it could be the example of cruelty to people around the person who becomes cruel.
I can’t comprehend an economic value to cruelty unless it is a defense mechanism. Excluding others by frightening them away excludes the economic benefits that they might bring. And I think that person will struggle a bit now, certainly if trying to find benefit among dog lovers.
Cruelty is a virus. It spreads from person to person.
In hindsight, I can’t cast all the blame on the person. Dumb utterances show a lack of social skills. And the willingness to be cruel shows exposure to cruelty. That seems to point to the social phenomenon that violence and cruelty permeates Namibian society, and that is has, for decades and centuries.
Namibia needs to look at itself again. Lashing out is not an answer, just a quick and easy route into the next mess.