By Fred M’membe President of the Socialist Party
Seeking morality, justice or whatsoever without compassion is cruelty. I don’t personally know Mary Chirwa – the director general of the Drug Enforcement Commission – and I don’t know how she looks like. But if the videos circulating on social media are truly hers then she has been cruelly betrayed by someone she trusted and shared a very intimate relationship with.
This type of betrayal of a relationship of intimacy is worse than unreliability or deception, worse than many acts of harm. It is a special sort of violation, one that jolts against the background of what seemed to be a relationship of deep trust with particular strong expectations of loyalty and intimacy.
Betraying intimate trust requires that trust is given. A relationship of intimacy builds security and lowers normal protections. Many, sometimes for the first time in their adult life, feel they no longer are travelling the dusty roads alone. The intimate secrets of our heart, body can be shared, respected and honoured. When our partner attacks us at this deep level, we tend to see this as disloyalty and betrayal, for it is very difficult to withstand attacks that are directed against one’s self-image at a very deep level.
For whatever reason, transgression, it is extremely cruel to circulate such videos. There are more humane ways of dealing with differences or hurts.
Why are some humans so cruel to others? Where does this behaviour come from and what purpose does it serve?
“Humans are the glory and the scum of the universe,” concluded French philosopher Blaise Pascal in 1658. Little has changed. We love and we loathe. We help and we harm. We reach out a hand and we stick in the knife.
Someone who gets pleasure from hurting or humiliating others in this way is a sadist. And they enjoy it. But why should human beings be so cruel to each other? And how do we justify such acts of sheer inhumanity?
The conventional explanation is that people are able to do terrible things to other people only after having dehumanised them and start to see them as objects without the right to dignity, or even life itself.
Whoever circulated those videos is ready to see Mary dead because if she is not strong she can commit suicide. Throughout history, people have committed all kinds of cruel, degrading, and evil acts toward other people. Many believe that for cruel acts to be even possible, the victims must first be dehumanised by the perpetrators. But is this lack of empathy always at the heart of human cruelty? When one publishes or circulates such videos he is thereby denying Mary’s humanity.
This lack of empathy has always been at the heart of human cruelty. Cruelty emerges when something is wrong with a person’s empathy circuit. A cruel act is generally designed to provoke an emotional reaction from its recipient – meaning that its perpetrator.