Desensitize my de-sensitivity

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Ariel Fana’afi Ioane

Don’t you just love double negatives? 

Anyway…I must warn you, this article may have content that may be upsetting or too violent for some audiences. Read at your own discretion.

Last month, a woman was rushed to Moto’otua Hospital; suffering from head and stomach injuries. Her wounds were a result of her husband stabbing her multiple times at the National Bank of Samoa building (pictured).

In broad daylight.

In Apia, Samoa. Our Samoa. 

Uhm. What?

This type of incident is extremely shocking to us local Samoans for two reasons. Firstly, this is a rare occurrence (because it has happened before). Next, it is an evil and senseless act of violence towards another human being. 

In fact, many events that happen today locally and globally continue to shock us. 

In the States, stabbing events like the one mentioned above occurs 1190 times a day (on average). Sexual assault and rape cases have increased by an alarming rate, with an average of 250,000 cases reported annually.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that in the United States alone, approximately 91.6% of all rape cases aren’t reported at all. Let’s not mention Europe (very much along the lines of the legend of her name Europa!).

Threats of nuclear wars continue to be heard between higher powers of the world. Airports require higher security because there has been an increase in bombs made to look like regular laptops; which could easily slip under casual eyes.

Religious and political unrest continue to build in the Middle East, killing thousands, and forcing millions to become refugees in neighboring countries, with most dying on the way to neutral countries.

Videos are plastered all over the internet of terrorists celebrating their victories by humiliating their hostages before killing them right then and there. In other places, children go to “summer” camp to learn how to load guns and are led to believe that killing is an honorable deed. 

I guess you could safely say (no pun intended) that we live in the most unsafe, evil times this world has ever seen. We somehow believe that, in the 21st century, we have reached the pinnacle of mankind’s evil toward one another. And yet it seems, it takes more and more to shock us.

It may be hard to believe but before our exposure to social media, there were profoundly wicked incidents in this earth’s past that we would care to remember. 

Seventy-three years ago, the last World War ended. Sixty million lives, gone in the span of six years. (THAT’S 10 MILLION PEOPLE A YEAR). Approximately 20 million more died of famine or war related wounds a few years after. During the war, Nazi scientists experimented on young Jewish and Romani children -particularly twins- in the most inhumane ways. One experiment was transplanting bits of bone from one person to another.

One individual would have a section of any bone removed and transplanted to another’s body surgically.

Without anesthesia.

Yes, these children, -CHILDREN- were fully awake during these operations. Meanwhile, their parents, cousins, siblings, and friends were squished into showering chambers naked and bare. And instead of water coming out of the faucets, chlorine gas was vented through to suffocate them. Their bodies were then burned in ovens, their remaining fat used to make soap for the surviving prisoners to use. Women and men alike rotted in prison cells, shaving their heads to reduce the number of lice that stuck to whatever was left of their bodies. By the time the Allies freed these people, they were but bags of bones and skin.

Travel back a further two thousand years and you’ll find yourself in the Colosseum of Rome. In this magnificent stadium, there were torches in each corner. These torches were usually Christian martyrs drenched in oil and set alight, courtesy of Emperor Nero. 

Once lit, the stadium became flooded with thousands of Roman citizens, all flocking in to see what entertainment lay within. Gladiators -mostly slaves and prisoners of war-  would fight for their freedom in the arena, either against each other or against wild beasts, like lions and elephants. Sometimes, women were forced to fight to the death against other women or dwarves, just for kicks! These violent acts were very much enjoyed by the Romans. Anyone who spoke against the violence of the Colosseum was taken away and made a gladiator himself, if he was lucky enough to avoid being a lion’s snack. If Emperor Constantine hadn’t converted to Christianity in 313 A.D., gladiators may have been more recent than we think.

Go back four hundred and fifty years from Christian Rome, and travel to Judea (parts of present day Israel, Lebanon and Syria). Judea was under the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Greek king. When he captured Jerusalem, he demanded that a pig be sacrificed in the temple to his Greek gods. The Jewish priests, in turn refused; since firstly, they wouldn’t worship any foreign gods. Secondly, pigs were considered unclean to the Jews. 

After this refusal, the Greek king forbade any Jewish practices among the Jews and ruled with an iron fist of tyranny. However, many Jewish mothers continued to circumcise their sons (it was custom to circumcise your son eight days after birth). When Epiphanes found out about the circumcision ceremonies, he ordered his soldiers – Greeks and Jews who had sided with Epiphanes – to find these mothers. These women were killed viciously, with their circumcised babies hanging on their lifeless necks; a warning to anyone who dared to practice any Jewish custom under the Greek king’s rule. It was only under the Maccabean Revolt in 167 B.C., was Epiphanes’ rule broken after a seven-year war between the Greeks and Jews.

Evil has always been around, since the first sin. History proves it! The times we live in are not the only times people have faced violence, immorality and death. In fact, no one in my generation in Samoa has experienced anything nearly as horrific as the events mentioned above. What has happened to us is a rise in desensitization. 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to be sensitive is to be highly aware of another person’s feelings - be it pain, happiness or sadness. On the contrary, to be desensitized is to make someone less shocked at scenes of cruelty or violence via overexposure to it (blame Facebook and YouTube?)

It takes so much more to shock us. To make us realize that something needs to be done. So much so, that we would rather report, complain, and give opinions on issues, instead of doing something about them. 

This needs to change.

In these three incidences mentioned above, good people, people who were tired of living with the evil they saw, overcame it, even when it seemed hopeless and impossible. We need to follow their example. It is time to get off our desensitized bums, and switch on our desensitized brains and make a difference in the world we now live in. 

Edmund Burke, an Irish parliamentarian once said, 

“The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing.”

I will not speak for you, for the decision is purely yours. But I for one, want to contribute to Evil’s defeat.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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