Modern Cruelty (2)

Something interesting which I read:

Original Story (This was the original story on the attack and subsequent murder of a homeless man)…

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/02/19/homeless.attacks/index.html

The 15-year-old and his friends were taunting the homeless man — throwing sticks and leaves — after having a couple of beers with him.

No big deal, Moore says, but he’s sorry for what came next.

It was a mistake, he said, a sudden primal surge that made him and his friends Luis Oyola, 16, and 17-year-old Andrew Ihrcke begin punching and kicking Baum.

“Luis says ‘I’m gonna go hit him,’ We’re all laughing, thought he was joking around,'” but he wasn’t, Moore concedes. “We just all started hitting him.”

They hurled anything they could find — rocks, bricks, even Baum’s barbecue grill — and pounded the 49-year-old with a pipe and with the baseball bat he kept at his campsite for protection.

Ihrcke smeared his own feces on Baum’s face before cutting him with a knife “to see if he was alive,” Moore said.

This story brought a lot of responses from the online community. One of the more vocal one was from Penny Arcade site, who basically commented that the problem is not so much with computer games, but from the parents itself! He goes on to outline the main problem of morality (the way he sees it)…

Penny Arcade’s Commentary

Source: http://www.penny-arcade.com/2007/02/19

You might have seen this story on CNN [see link above for full explanations] about the teens that murdered a homeless guy and then equated it to the sort of thrill one might get from a “violent video game”. There will be plenty of articles focusing on these kids and their crime. I’d like to take a second and talk about the parents of these teenagers instead…

Unexpectedly, the next day, a reply came in from the ‘step mother’ of the boy in question refuting that parents were at fault. This honest and frank explanation is a sure eye opener to most of us… and it really reveals what we fundamentally know in ourselves (we are hardwired for cruelty… and the failsafes are not always there).

The Reply (from the boy’s step mother)

Source: http://www.penny-arcade.com/2007/02/21

Gabe,

Your news post about the kids and the homeless man yesterday made me sick to my stomach, before I even read the CNN article. I knew what it was going to be about before even reading the article. It was not the article itself, or even your post that made me sick, it was the fact that I know this boy. Or, rather that I could be considered one of the “parents” of this boy.

The boy’s father and I have been together for almost seven years, and I had what I guess could be called a “stepmother” relationship with the kid. To say that living with this kid was hell would be a complete understatement.

I don’t think I have ever actively hated anyone in my entire life, but this kid just makes my blood boil.

As I write this, my teeth are clenched, my hands are shaking, and my whole body is seething with the hatred I feel for this kid and what he has done. Seeing the article brings back all the horrible memories from when he lived with us.

He was constantly in trouble in school, with the cops, with us, with his mother, and with anyone else who was an authority figure. Not a week went by that the school or the cops wouldn’t call us for something. His attitude was basically “f*** you, I don’t have to listen to you” said with a shrug.

We tried absolutely everything we could think of to get him to behave like a normal human being… we tried groundings, negative reinforcement / punishment, positive reinforcement, counseling, and anything and everything the counselors suggested. We tried to get him interested and involved in extracurricular activities, like hockey, drama, music, art, anything, but he got himself kicked out of every group he was in with his “make me” attitude. When we would ground him, we took away everything. No TV, no computer, no phone, no leaving the house, no snacks or junk food…. Everything. When he was grounded, he was only allowed to sit in his room and read or draw. He was actually a pretty good artist, and we tried to encourage him to spend his time working with his talent. He would just sit there and take it… the groundings had absolutely no affect on him at all. Most of the time, he didn’t even remember why he was being grounded. At the end of it, we would ask him if it was worth it to have everything taken away in exchange for what he did… he usually just shrugged. He could be grounded for weeks, or a month at a time, and then the very next day would do something to get back in trouble again. Most kids get grounded or punished a couple of times, and then they want to avoid having to go through it again… not this kid, nothing seemed to phase him.

And we’re not talking the usual teenager stuff, like coming home late, or refusing to do the dishes. We’re talking stealing cars, setting fires, drinking, getting picked up for drugs, beating up handicapped kids at school (yes, really) stealing things out of our house… all with this “I’ll do whatever the f*** I want” attitude.

We had absolutely no idea what else we could do. We already had him in counseling, and we did everything the counselors suggested. We tried rewarding his good behavior (what little there was) to try to get him to see that when he behaves like a normal human being, things are good and people enjoy being around him. Nothing phased him at all.

Then, things took an even worse turn when he decided that whenever he didn’t get his way, or we did something he didn’t like, he told his counselors and teachers that we were abusing him. (Never happened.) And for some inexplicable reason, everybody believed him. I understand that child abuse is a very serious situation, and that they have to take every possible case seriously, but this was clearly a case of him manipulating people to get what he wanted. We had people from the school, cops, and social services over at our house or calling us on a weekly basis stating some new abuse that he had made up. At 14, the boy was already 6’3″ and over 200 pounds. Of course, there was never a mark on him, because no such abuse ever took place.

One particular night (cops involved, as always) he decided that he didn’t have to listen to anything we said, and that he wasn’t coming home. He went to live with his mother, where things got worse by the day. He stole everything out of her home and sold it. He invited gang-bangers and drug dealers to her home, and she feared for her safety constantly. She called the cops numerous times because she feared for her safety, but again, the boy said that she abused him, and the cops always took his side. (For reference, the mother is about 5’3″ and barely clocks in at 115.) He planted a loaded gun in her room, called the cops and told them that it belonged to the mother’s boyfriend. The boyfriend actually ended up serving time because of this f***ing bastard kid. She had two other young children in the house, and the gun and the abuse charges were an intentional plot to get the other two kids taken away from her. She tried restraining orders against the kid, but since he was a minor, they wouldn’t allow it. Every time he got picked up, she pleaded with the cops to take him to jail, maybe that would finally get though to him, but they just kept bringing him home to her. I don’t understand why everyone who was involved with this kid just blindly took this juvenile delinquent’s word over all else!

The night that he and his friends murdered that poor homeless man, the mother said that he was acting particularly cocky. Then he threatened to kill her. We had absolutely no idea of what he had done until they found the man’s body. He was immediately waived into adult court (at 15) and sentenced to 15 years. We were all absolutely sick with grief for this man.

We were also sick with guilt… “What could we have done differently?” was a constant question in all of our heads. After the kid was sentenced, all the cops, counselors, social workers, and people at the school that had been dealing with him contacted us and his mother and apologized for not taking us seriously. They are all trained to take all accusations of child abuse seriously, and as a part of that they blindly took the kid’s side for everything, and dismissed us as “the lying abusers”. Many of them told us that they wished they would have taken our pleas for help seriously. Everyone thought we were exaggerating about how f***ed up this kid was.

I completely agree with your statement of “These kids were twelve kinds of nuts and that’s a fact.” But the reason I am writing this to you is that, after reading your news post yesterday, I felt that I needed to defend the boy’s parents. His mother and father and I did absolutely everything we could think of to try to keep this kid in line. Even the kinds of things that normal teenagers get in trouble for would have been a blessing compared to what we’ve been through with him.

What I gave you today is a very small sampling of the kinds of things we were dealing with every single f***ing day with this kid. When people hear about what he’s done, I can always sense the “I’m sure there was something you could have done” comment coming up. What would you have done? How do you deal with a kid like this? Like I said, we did everything the counselors suggested, and nothing seemed to matter.

If you want to add another element to the “nature vs. nurture” idea, this boy has a brother. Both boys were raised in the same house, with the same values. The brother has developed into a kind, considerate, responsible, and independent young man. He is currently working his butt off right now to save up money to go to school for architecture. The only thing I regret is that we spent so much time and energy dealing with the bad kid that this boy missed out on having a normal family life with a normal sibling relationship.  

I am sorry this got so long. I have been reading PA since the very beginning, and I feel that both of you are very much like me. I think we are the same age (29) and I have been a lifelong gamer like the two of you. I can’t stand hearing about the so-called correlation between games and real-life violence. Video games DID NOT make this kid who he was, and it’s unfortunate that the correlation is there.

The thing that really gets me with this whole thing is that the kid knows full well that by equating what he’s done to a video game, that he will generate controversy and media coverage. It makes me sick that the media is jumping all over this, because that is exactly the result that he wants.

The only good thing (if there is such a thing) that has come out of this whole ordeal is that the kid is behind bars. That is exactly where he needs to be.

Again, I’m sorry about the length of this. Thanks for allowing me to “tell my side” of the story.

Very shocking to hear for some of us, and very revealing of the state of the human heart if the failsafes are not properly at hand. Darwin’s theory of Survival of the Fittest as a kind of motivational rationale for human actions and cruelty would be easily debunked by the fact that the brother is a totally different person. Normative theories just would fail.

Can you even imagine trying to practically use a relative approach to moral in the upbringing of this child? Obviously, the biological parents tried that and failed miserably. You cannot allow such indiscipline to go unattended. And discipline can only be meted out if there is agreeance on its absoluteness.

Sigh. I’m quite sick of the story.

That’s it. End of “Modern Cruelties” I hope, until the next sick one twists and knots my guts.

God have mercy on us all.

Edit: I agree with Russell Peters… “White people, give your child a smack up their bottom! They need it!!!”

Rebellion ~ Spiritual

The book of Isaiah Chapter 1, verses 2 to 7, of the Bible: 

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.  (3)  The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”  (4)  Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.  (5)  Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  (6)  From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.  (7)  Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.

The worst thing that can asail a person is not so much evil done to you, but betrayal. Betrayal mostly is thought out as a Judas Iscariot type of scenario, although most of the time it does not have to be that way. I believe the hardest type of betrayal is rebellion. Rebellion basically is “a refusal to accept authority”, more appropriately linked to a previously accepted authority. Right authority. The quote from Isaiah sets the tone of the authority; it was a paternal type authority.

The logic is fairly simple; a child’s rejection of the parent’s authority. A child (Israel) who has been raised up with proper instructions and prosperity is now defiantly against the hand that fed. In reality, this might not give us much impact since we are living in an age where teenagers are called to exercise their own independence and freedom from their parents; but the imagery here is more suitable to be used for a child below his or her teens. A child at that age would not be wise enough to understand the reality of life and consequences of actions, and thus parental guidance and care is demanded, nay, necesitated. Therefore, it is utterly unacceptable for a child to consciously deny any such authority when the authority is made for the good of the child. That is the spiritual rebellion which is being potrayed by the prophet.

The message in those verses is made more true with this main point: What man create is man’s own. In the end, there is nothing significant that man can create for his (or her) self. It basically crumbles to dust. And that is a result of his (or her) rebelliousness and we should not accept it any other way.

A Creator creates for a purpose. Too often, the cariculture of God is a of a man with a sandbox or at a game of chess… but this imagery is too far from the truth as it combines a bias of linking God to the limitation of man (human) kind. If God is god, then the concept of it must transcend limitation. And again, it makes more sense to treat God as a Creator, as the trappings of a creator is more neutral. Basically, a creator creates something for a purpose. There is a design, and linked to it must be a purpose and of course, ownership. A flawed design, an unachieved purpose (resulting rom a flaw in function or execution) would mean that the created is subject to the will of the Creator to be either ‘left as it is’ or ‘destroyed & make anew’.

This concept of Creator and created is exemplified in real life. If this concept is taken as a subset (a shadow) of a bigger scope of things, then it may ‘shed’ (not reveal completely, hence the word subset) more light to the character of The Creator, which is God and His relation to the created (us creatures).

Push the logic a bit more, and the rationale (logical assessment) is clear for the case of an angry Creator. One may argue then the imagery of a human being obstinately angry over his creation as a grumpy person… which is true, because it is a human… the man (no matter how disappointed with the creation) is still by himself flawed and thus should be able to accept ‘failures’… but to translate that to God would be unrealistic, as God is not flawed (again the concept of God is transcendent of any human limitation and constraint). In fact, because of God’s natural perfection, any flaw (sin) is considered anathema (accursed) to God (e.g. a black ink dot is accursed to a white sheet of paper).

Thus, the pronouncement to Israel of the rebellion, and its appropriate consequence. There is something devastating on it… which is why a person lives basically two ways in reaction to this:

1) The person lives like there is no tomorrow (when you die, you cease any existence). Therefore, the person strives to make the best use of it and to gain more for the ‘now’, as you’ll never know when you’ll expire. In fact, that is a fatalistic approach to life. There is no hope, and does not deal with the possibility of the soul not being destroyed.

2) The person lives to go on living (does not want to die). Therefore, the person just strives to ensure life is preserved (through dieting, healthy living, balanced meals, exercising regularly & fanatically, etc.) This approach to life basically seeks to prolong whatever time we have on earth, while basically denying the fact that death is not something we can control at all. Probabilistic theory is as best chaotic.

There is basically judgment after death, if you are willing to give the Creator-created model a try logically. There must be. And if that is so, Isaiah 1 makes sense. At least it does to me.

Fantasy Books – Dragonlance

My exposure to Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s classic was quite late. It was in 1997, that I picked up the first Chronicle book and devoured it in 2 days. I remember running towards the only shop that housed the remaining trilogy (in Subang Parade, could it be MPH?) and finished each at a shorter time. It was my second ‘epic’ series which I have read, the first being Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I liked the premise, and the pacing; it was not much on characterisation, and more on the plot lines moving.

I have collected a dozen of books from the franchise since then. And it is still shocking to compare that to the actual list of books produced (and how they fit in the timeline) for the fantasy universe! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Dragonlance_novels

Can you imagine the amount of money a hardcore ardent fan would have to fork out to capture the whole length and breadth of the series? Wow… I can buy lots of stuff with that kind of money. But then again, that is why the proliferation of titles; to cater to niche markets. But still, I have the ‘core books’.

My only complaint now is this: the Dragonlance universe has expanded into a massive ball of complexities where each element relates to each other, to the extent that progression into the newer stories are burdened by the heavy baggage of history collected. Which explains why Weis and Hickman are so wordy as time goes on. Each novels are clocking at about 500+ pages, which in my opinion can be reduced to a manageable 400+ size with proper editing.

Dragons of Vanished Moon Cover 

Do not judge a book by its cover is ‘actually’ a false statement. In fact, the emphasis on good art covers have never been greater than now! And in this respect, Dragonlance has not failed to deliver on the promise of cool looking art. There’s a book out from TSR that compiles all the covers and related art in one place.

There is still potential left in this universe… and it is always an inspiration for me to build one similar to it. One universe which makes me cringe everytime I think of it is the Star Wars Novelisation Universe (aka Expanded Universe)… http://www.theforce.net/books/ this site gives a very very in depth view of ALL the books that has been produced by Lucas’ company (I fanatically read the site for 4 years). I gave up on the universe when one of the chief writers, Timothy Zhan, wrote a closing duology to the old series. The newer series – entitled The New Jedi Order (under another publisher) piqued my interest for only a few months… it’s war like angle for a dozen over books, really stretched my patience and subsequently my interest in the whole franchise altogether. It was sufficient for me to update my knowledge from fan written plot summaries.

What makes Epic Scale stories attractive? I have no real idea behind this. But analysing Lord of the Rings and Dragonlance, I can say that it is always about conflict and honest characterisation. Conflict that challenges the emotional state of the readers (firstly, the emotional investment must be established) and Honest Characterisation that deals with the reality of human beings (regardless whether they are off-world characters or aliens). Packed around all these things are a myriad of ‘colourful’ universe-specific elements that are original, and a heck of big marketing effort! 🙂

Modern Heart Spewing Modern Cruelty

from http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article1368918.ece, a tale that boils up my anger…

Three girls who were imprisoned by their mother in a house of indescribable filth for seven years may never recover from the ordeal, experts said last night.

The girls were shut away from the outside world, existing in almost complete darkness, playing only with mice and communicating in their own language.

When they were discovered, their home in a smart, upper middle-class suburb had no running water and was filled with waste and excrement a metre high. The floor was corroded by mice urine.

The cruelty that is shown in this incident is really prove that modern ‘advancements’ does not really advance the heart in anyway. Humans are sinful. Period.

Authorities are now under fire for failing to have intervened sooner, despite repeated complaints by neighbours in the well-to-do Poestlingberg.

It’s easy, too easy, to cast the blame on a backward setting, but no, this was done in a well-to-do community. Right under the nose of those people that we thought had the sensibility of knowing what is right and what is wrong…. of thinking that richness is an elevation of societal pitfalls. For all the richness and progress in thought and physical prowess, all these are insignificant to the age old sinfulness of man’s heart.

So the lesson to learn? Do not be too comfortable with your surroundings and too ill-prepared for the harshness and cruelty of man. Just when you think things cannot sink deeper into the pits, it does.

You want to make people fume in anger? Easy, tell them of these atrocities. Tell them it was done in a rich suburb of modern people. Let that fact sink down into the listener. And wait.

It’ll come up.

God help us, this corrupted nation.

Sacrifice – Martyrs of the Modern World

Stories of sacrifices often strikes a chord to most people. Why? Interesting to consider it actually. I am more inclined to think that it has something to do with the fact that we are so selfish by nature and even more so by the blindness that has clouded our westernised culture.

The Martyr walked up to the murderer and lunged into a bear hug, on the spot where we were now standing. The blast ripped the Martyr to pieces which fell along with pieces of the enemy. Ball-bearings shot through the alley and wounded two children, but the people in the mosque were saved. The man lay in pieces on the ground, his own children having seen how his last embrace saved the people of the village. Quoted from here.

Yes, we need to learn how to think of others more and self less. And it is not easy, as long as your attachment is strong in this chunk of rock we call earth. True sacrifices are ones that are not compelled, not expecting any feedback, no… ones who just give up self, knowing that their reward surely is coming from a different dimension and outlook.

Wars are unfortunately the breeding ground of some of the most selfish, inhumane acts of man against other human beings; it is also the same source for the most sacrificial acts that we can see in this modern world.

This strong attraction to a scarce element is why many stories work so well to the general audience. Here is an element in which many wished they were able to conduct, but in their hearts know how they are failures in the same regard.

Story: A man who for the love of the girl of his dreams, would endure the life of an ordinary, mundane garbage collector, all for the sake of catching a glimpse of the girl of his dreams, every alternate day.

Story 2: An angel forsaking his angelic heritage, gives up immortality for the soul of a girl of his desires, who squandered her life in worldly pursuit. The fallen angel is then beaten into a pulp on protecting the resurrected girl from muggers. As the last drop of blood touches the ground, he realised the girl escaped. He smiles and sleeps.

Certainly this is a fascinating theme to draw on. Done rightly, with the right tensions of human frailty and greek tradegy, it can tug the heart of the reader anytime.