Sarah killed the 70-year old owner of a small departmental store while he resisted robbery.
You hate her, don’t you?
Now read the full story: Sarah was abandoned by her alcoholic husband a year ago while she was 8-months pregnant. She worked harder as a waitress as she not only had to carry herself but also her baby, post delivery. Working overtime, she was slowly getting a hold of her life. But three months back, the restaurant caught fire and had to be shut down. Sarah lost her job. She started hunting for a new job. Meanwhile, her rent was overdue but she had already spent her savings on her child’s vaccines. She borrowed some money from her friend to pay the rent. After three months of losing her job, Sarah was penniless, without a job, with a debt and with the homeowner pestering her to pay the rent. Finally, she had exhausted her mental and physical strength when she decided to rob that departmental store.
When she entered the store, she thought that the old man would be an easy target and a kitchen knife would suffice. Little did she know that he had a gun in his drawer. When the old man realised he was being robbed, he took out the gun to point at her. Sarah instantly knew he was reaching for the gun, and in the heat of the moment, slammed the vase kept on the table on the old man’s head.
Do you still hate Sarah?
Okay, you may be thinking this story was specially crafted to prove my point. Let’s take another example - an extreme one.
Jimmy raped a girl.
You must hate Jimmy.
Now let’s try to understand the root cause of the incident. Imagine there’s an island with 100 males and 1 female. Now the best possible scenario to take the race forward would be to produce as many babies one by one. If the female desires to mate with more males at a time, that would be disastrous for the baby and for the race.
Now imagine an island with 100 females and 1 male. The best possible way that the race is carried further is when 1 male mates with as many females as he can.
This explains why males are more sexually active and aggressive than females. This also explains why there are more rapes against females than against males.
It has also been observed that rapes are common in some species of animals with males being the perpetrators in almost every case. So in a way, rape is a natural phenomenon.
But this doesn’t justify Jimmy to rape that girl, does it? After all, there are such a large number of “civilised” men. So what caused him to do that apart from natural reasons?
A big reason for his act goes to his upbringing. Jimmy grew up in a society where it was considered normal to consider women inferior to men. He saw his father thrashing his mom, his brother passing lewd comments to girls on the streets, and his mom bitching and judging other women. The environment he was brought up in, saw women as objects made to satisfy the needs of men.
This reflected in his act. Still, there are many men who grow up in similar environments and don’t go around raping and abusing women. What exactly made Jimmy rape that girl?
Jimmy’s nature met nurture, and when those mixed up with his inability to control himself, he ended up committing a crime. But he couldn’t have done anything about it. He couldn’t control himself even when he was a kid. It was a kind of disease which was inherently present in him. He was helpless- like a maniac, like a person with cancer tumour who didn’t invite the tumour to his body. He didn’t realise when the tumour got developed and started engulfing him.
Does this mean that Jimmy shouldn’t be held accountable for his actions and should be given a discounted punishment? Of course, not. You still hate Jimmy, but somehow, when you know the root causes of a crime, you start to hate the causes and the circumstances besides the accused himself. You don’t see the individual as an isolated, independent entity, where you can lump all your blame and angst upon. The causes seem to go deeper than the person and even transcends him. And your hatred gets dissolved in a sea of linked causes.
Any crime seems less intensive to you after you know the root causes behind it.