The Tri-Cities Now
is asking its readers why they think there are so many hit-and-run crimes these days. The choices that readers can select range from "I don't know, but it's scary," to "Drivers don't want to face the consequences." I chose the latter.
The poll appears to have been sparked by the recent hit-and-run death of Annie Leung
and the current trial into the hit-and-run deaths on Lougheed Highway two years ago of Lorraine Cruz and Charlene Reaveley, in which Cory Slater is facing 10 charges
I wrote an essay at the time of the Cruz and Reaveley deaths in which I explored some of the issues surrounding the tragedy. I can't remember where the essay was published, but I do recall I read it for an Internet webcast public-affairs program, Roadkill Radio
, with which I was then associated. And, so, here's the text of that essay. I'd be interested in reading what you think of it.
Does anyone other than a dwindling minority of procrustean
traditionalists recognize evil anymore—personal evil, that is? Oh, sure,
there’s plenty of the geopolitical variety to go around these days, especially
in North Africa. And there’s more than enough being identified on the national
stage by perpetually outraged critics within this country too, most notably by those
on the political left, who eagerly attach the E word to everything from
corporate profits and free trade to the oil sands and Prime Minister Stephen
Harper’s piano playing.
But we rarely hear about individual Canadians doing “bad”
things, exhibiting sinister behavior, acting wickedly, or carrying on immorally,
let alone sinning.
Instead, there’s always some sort of exculpating explanation
for bad behaviour. Shoplifters suffer from kleptomania; corrupt officials have
succumbed to stress or have manifested a previously undiagnosed psychiatric
disorder; prostitutes are victims of the patriarchy, poverty or both; juvenile
delinquents are the recipients of inadequate parenting; inner-city gangsters
are victims of racial discrimination; and thieves are impoverished or addicted,
and, if the latter, are surely not responsible for the burden of the illness
under which they are labouring. You get the picture.
Look at the website promoting the recent Pink Shirt
Day/anti-bullying campaign—a cause that should easily give rise to descriptions
of bullies acting wickedly, etc.—and you’ll see therapeutic twaddle aplenty along
with much vigorous exhortation to get to the root of the problem, etc., but nothing
about the plain and simple fact bullies are acting immorally.
Which brings me to Exhibit A, otherwise known as the spark that
gave life to this particular column. You might have heard of a horrible
hit-and-run accident in Coquitlam, B.C., two weeks ago which left two young
women dead. In covering the aftermath of the crash, which included the laying
of several charges against a suspect, including two counts of impaired driving
causing death, a local newspaper turned to a clinical psychologist from Simon
Fraser University for some “insight” into “what might lead someone to flee the
scene” of a serious accident without giving help.
Dr. Joti Samra is quoted thusly: “Assuming that it’s a true
accident, the reality is… even from the perspective of the person that caused
the accident, it can be quite traumatic and cause an acute stress reaction.”
Got that? Acute stress reaction.
The good doctor goes on to explain that the brain could be
flooded with information and emotion that would cause a person to act
unusually. “The fight or flight response is something we’re exposed to when we
are faced with extreme traumatic events,” Dr. Samra concludes. “Our body kind
of goes into a shock, it doesn’t know what to do.”
Notice the focus on the culprit’s body and not his mind? I
suppose it’s true that this human-as-hormonal-machine answer is what you’d
expect from a clinical psychologist, whose business, of course, is to produce
exactly this sort of pseudo-scientific analysis. But there’s no excuse for the
news media to limit their probing into human behaviour to “experts” such as Dr.
Samra. Why not someone with some grasp of the profundity of human existence,
someone like a novelist, a moral philosopher or a religious leader-- someone
who recognizes we’re more than just pre-programmed biological machines?
To my mind, it would be a welcome relief—and far more
enlightening—to hear some real insights
into moral character, the dark origins of personal cowardice, or the nature of
evil in circumstances such as these. And so, for example, when asked why a
driver might flee the scene of an accident in which he had struck two innocent
people, a priest might comment that such a person had become alienated from
God, had too easily succumbed to temptation, and had become a sinner in need of
This would be really useful information as far as I’m
concerned, and might also help many readers reflect more deeply on their
responsibility—indeed, their duty—to act in a moral fashion.
But, of course, in this secular, humanistic era of ours, we
see very little serious discussion about evil in the public square. Perversely,
one is more likely to find scintillatingly descriptive words, purring about the
concept of evil, in advertisements attempting to induce a consumer to indulge
in some sort of deliciously sinful wickedness for an affordable price. Moral
inversion to sell chocolate pudding.
A recent full-page newspaper advertisement for Volvo is a
perfect example of this lamentable trend. Emblazoned above an image of a shiny
red S60 model, the ad copy informs us, “There’s more to life than a Volvo. Like
raising a little hell
horses, spanking corners
all-new sport-tuned chassis. And feeling
a little dangerous
in a car tricked out with safety technology. That’s why
you drive the all-new naughty
S60.” (Emphasis added.)
-Century proverb holds, “Evil doers are
evil dreaders.” Today, however, evil doers are either the next patient for the
couch or a target market.