Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Why do such things happen?

HoustonChronicle.com - Hindu killed while meditating in park honored

Akhil Chopra was killed when he was apparently meditating in a Houston park. His boss at work said that Akhil Chopra was quite deep in meditation; so deep as to not even hear a robber. The robber shot him at point blank range.

I really find it difficult to understand how someone could shoot an innocent person and that too when he was meditating peacefully. What sort of a crazed person could this be?

But the deed has been done. I don't know if the perpetrator of the crime has any remorse or not. But I feel a deep sense of sorrow at this incident, though I don't know Akhil Chopra.

What has humankind come to? On one hand we have senseless violence like this whereas you have such spontaneous outpouring of concern from the other end. But even one act like this tarnishes the entire society as society is partly, if not wholly, responsible for the creation of such criminals.

All I can do is to pray for the peace of the departed soul. But questions remain. Why did this happen? What sort of a person could have done this? How can we prevent such things?

History has known tyrants and sadists of an even worse nature. One example I read about in an Amar Chitra Katha book is that of the Huna tyrant Mihirakula. When his army was navigating a mountain pass, an elephant accidentally slipped and plunged to its death. This man, instead of expressing concern, was intoxicated. He then began pushing more elephants so that he could have his 'high'. What kind of a man could that be? There have been many tyrants throughout history in Attila, Genghiz Khan, Idi Amin, Hitler, Stalin and even in Mahmud Ghazni, Ghauri and so on.

An article I read on redherring.com talks about recent research that people are not happy just because of their material possessions but are so because of their relative affluence over other people they know. If this is true, isn't this a sad commentary on human condition? If their happiness can be made "higher" by making someone less happier, people end up doing that. Is that not the seed of sadism?

Humans endowed with their so-called intellects need more avenues to feel happy and engaged. Their intellects give them new ways too. Drugs are one way. Torturing fellow beings is another. But animals indulge in violence only when they need food or are defending themselves. Aren't animals better than such humans? So isn't calling a particularly cruel man an animal wrong?

The perpetrator could probably be just a stupid teenager, getting his highs on video games or from violent movies. In video games one can kill and die without any real side-effects. In America, it is pretty easy to get a gun (at least much easier than in India). So a gun-toting teenager is walking in a Houston park. He sees this poor guy meditating; he decides in an impulse to show his power (to himself or to his accompanying friend) over Akhil Chopra by killing him with his gun. He presses the trigger a couple of times and the act is done. A video game or a movie could have caused the mind of the perpetrator to be so numb to reality that Akhil Chopra's death might not even have registered in his mind. He probably got a small "high" from this. All this for a small "high"? Akhil's family devastated because of one man's high?

Violent movies and video games are partly to blame. They are only partly to blame because they wouldn't have been made if there was no demand. But crime has existed even before movies and video games. Did not these tyrants exist before these technical advancements? As I think and write through this, I am more and more reminded of the analysis that I read in Freakonomics. The factors that make a person are first and foremost genetic. Upbringing is secondary. But then there are the unknowns. In Freakonomics especially, we see a teen gang member becoming a professor, whereas someone from a "better" family turned out to be the Unabomber! It becomes an increasingly difficult problem to solve intellectually. It looks like we can seek refuge only in Karma and adRShTa for an explanation.

Akhil's episode reminds me of Lord Krishna's departure. When Krishna was meditating in a forest, a hunter shoots an arrow at Krishna's foot taking it to be the mouth of a deer. Krishna died a slow death from the wound, but not before consoling the hunter. While the whole episode is immensely saddening, Akhil's departure from the world shows how great a soul he must be (not must have been because the soul is immortal).

May Almighty grant peace to the departed soul!

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