Killing Fields

Arriving at Kookaburra this morning I saw a large crowd gathered in a field near our school. Never a good sign. In the middle of the crowd and lying in a pool of his own blood was a young man. At first I thought he was dead and hoped not many of our children had had to walk past him. One of our teachers was in the crowd and explained what had happened.

He was a thief. He had stolen a chicken. He had done it before. The crowd around him had beaten him unconscious. They were now deliberating on whether to kill him or not. Calling the police, we were told, was no good as they were already there, hiding in the crowd, hoping his accomplices (they were part of a “gang”) would turn up and try to save him.

This scenario is not new to me having been played out before, many times, and uncomfortably close to the school. Earlier this year one of our students lost a brother in the same circumstances. It worries me that such incidents occur so close to the school. It worries me the impact it has on the children. It worries me that we share a community with people who have an immunity to such acts of violence. Under usual circumstances these people are friendly, polite and the kind you can turn to for help and support. But in poverty stricken community a thief crosses a line from which there is often no return.

At times I struggle to accept how other crimes here, such corruption and violence against women, are tolerated, whilst the price of a chicken could be death by mob. I understand how the extremely poor cannot afford to lose what little they have striven all their lives to achieve, and I think I understand that when those who have felt powerless for so long, suddenly have the chance to exercise ultimate power, they confuse the responsibility of that power and succumb to basic, selfish instinct. But I do not understand how one human being can inflict extreme violence upon another and still walk and talk amongst the community, as though it was all a normal part of another normal day.

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