I will probably be most unpopular with many for this post. I was very shocked by recent events in Libya, with the lynching of former dictator, Colonel Gaddafi. Now lest anyone accuse me of condoning the man's regime or actions, I do not. He has brought much violence, horror and suffering to many, including the people of my own country - he supplied arms to terrorists in Ireland, and so cooperated in the evils which waged on our island for thirty years.
That said, I cannot condone the manner of his death which was nothing short of horrific. I cannot condone the coverage of his last moments which goes beyond sensationalist, I find it difficult to justify it even when considering in its broadest, most liberal sense the excuse that the people have a right to the whole truth. I don't buy it. I believe I am not the only one deeply disturbed. Images of the man's final moments were beamed right across the world on news channels and so people, not only in their homes, but in shops, restaurants and other commercial outlets were exposed to the most violent scenes I have ever witnessed on television. Friends of mine were with their daughter in a waiting room yesterday when the scenes were aired: they were desperately trying to get the little girl away from the television.
The scenes were disturbing for many reasons, and one of them is how mob rage seems to have suddenly become the litmus test for democracy. Revolution was never an attractive thing - that is why the Church has her misgivings about it - hence the Church's rejection of the more radical teachings of liberation theology which sees merit in Marxist revolution. But this mob rage is not confined to political revolutions which are breaking out all over the place, admitted in response to some dreadful tyrants, and yes, the Church does teach that it is legitimate to rise up against a tyrant.
But we see this mob rage manifest itself every day in various situations. We are all aware of road rage, but I think radio rage is even more common. Some prime time radio programmes feed this rage and give it an opportunity to break out over the airwaves. How often have you listened to a debate on radio, typically one regarding the Church, when all logic, sense, decorum, respect and even basic humanity have been thrown out the window and people are in full attack mode? I have heard it many times - one particular radio programme thrives on it - in fact it is the only thing, I think, which keeps the show on the air. Where has humanity gone? Some will say that people are angry over something, so they need to let off steam: fair enough - do it out in the back yard, or in a field or in the gym when you can beat the living daylights out of a punch bag.
What is the cause of this rage? I suppose different excuses will be offered - injustice, abuse, poverty, lack of liberty, social inequality, politicians. There is another though - original sin gone mad as modern men and women cut themselves off from God and from basic moral principles. I notice in Ireland that as we grow more secular, we get angrier. Some may say that we were oppressed before, and now we are just releasing the anger which has been buried within the national psyche for generations. Not sure about that, to be honest. That excuse relies on a particular reading of history which says that people were not really happy in the past, perhaps living an illusion of happiness. I think there were may people who were happy in the past - much happier than we are now. I think when faith is gone and hard times hit, we are easy prey for those two great enemies of humanity: despair and rage. I think that is where many people are at this time.
In the meantime, the images of the brutal death of Colonel Gaddafi stand as a testament to where we are. The questions we need to ask are: can we learn anything from this? Where do we go from here? Or will we just find more excuses to justify the way things are? Where has our humanity gone?