There is no over-reaction to the massacre that took place in Nova Scotia a few weeks ago and the massacre of innocent babies in the maternity ward in Kabul Afghanistan yesterday. On opposite sides of the world, in ostensibly disparate cultures, including divergent personal ambitions of those male perpetrators of the killings, nevertheless, once again the men of the world have to face the spectre that we own and have to take responsibility for inflicting violence on innocents, young and old alike.
In the Nova Scotia investigation, reports indicate that the perpetrator was alcohol dependent, and when he drank he became violent. Back as far as 2013, his drunken violence was inflicted on his then live-in partner who sought refuge at a neighbour’s. Both husband and wife of that neighbour’s house were aware of the situation, including the stash of weapons in the then drunken man’s possession. Nevertheless, given that the partner, nor either husband or wife were prepared to file an official complaint, the RCMP apparently had their hands tied, in terms of prosecution. That neighbour, now telling her story to CBC, and living in Alberta, notes they moved away out of fear of the man. She also expresses profound regret that she did not warn those who purchased their home in Nova Scotia about the danger of the neighbour; both of those purchasers died in the recent massacre.
In Kabul, although the Taliban have not taken formal responsibility for the massacre, the president of Afghanistan has implied that he believes they were implicated, and has assigned law enforcement to proceed on that basis. Reuters reports that “24 people were killed, including 16 women and two newborns. At least six babies lost their mothers in an attack that has shaken even the war-torn nation numbed by years of militant violence…The raid, on the same day that at least 32 people died in a suicide bomb attack on a funeral in the eastern province of Nangarhar, threaten to derail progress towards U.S.-brokered peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.” (Maternity ward massacre shakes Afghanistan and its peace process, by Orooj Hakimi, Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Hamid Shalizi, Reuters, May 13, 2020)
News stories, emerging from Canada and later from Afghanistan, are not included in the same coverage. The stories, while both violent, are deemed to be of such a different nature, one being political, the other personal/domestic, that they do not qualify as episodes rooted in the same motivations.
Let’s overlook what the news media considers individual motivations, as is their wont and habit, to segregate a war story from a domestic violence story. Nevertheless, from the perspective of how men behave, and what might possibly link masculine-inflicted violence, whether based on an alcohol-fueled misogyny, or a religiously based misogyny, there are dozens of lives now being buried, while dozens more will mourn for the rest of their lives.
Adding to the carnage, The Globe and Mail reports, on May 12, “At least nine women and girls across Canada have been killed in what are believed to be domestic homicides in just over a month during the COVID-19 pandemic—a statistic that experts working to end violence against women say should be sparking public outrage.
We always treat these as individual incidents, which they are—but they’re not one-offs,” said Angela Maria MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) in British Columbia…At least three of the men who killed these women also then killed themselves. Others were charged with their murders.” (Molly Hayes, The Globe and Mail, May 12, 2020)
The Hayes piece in the Globe goes on:
“On average, one women in Canada is killed by an intimate partner every six days, said Marie-Pier Baril, press secretary for Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development. ‘since the pandemic struck, front-line service organizations have noted a surge in requests for help from women and children experiencing and fleeing violence,’ Ms. Baril said. ‘There is an estimated (20 percent) to 30-per-cent increase in domestic violence, calls to shelters and demand on the (gender-based violence) sector, mirroring recent trends in China, France, Cyprus, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Clearly, violence against women and girls is not confined to either Nova Scotia or Afghanistan. Neither can the issue be confronted in separate, segregated, national or provincial parameters. And while the issue flies under the radar of law enforcement, given than only the most serious (death) cases are given the kind of attention they deserve, and that only too late, after the fact, the issue also flies under the radar of international relations. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has issued a report on all aspects of violence directed against women, children and the elderly and the disabled which takes place within their homes. The report is entitled, Strategies for confronting domestic violence: A resource manual.
The fact that the Kabul massacre was perpetrated on the maternity ward of a hospital operated by Doctors without Borders (Medecins sans frontiers) would exclude it from the purview of the UNODC. It is both the dependence on physical evidence, and the ink on an affidavit, that precludes some law enforcement agencies from intervening. And what law enforcement officer would even want to expose him or herself to the dangers and risks that might well confront them when they open a door on a domestic violence call? Similarly, the narrow parameters of the UNODC, (in their homes) excludes not only the Kabul incident but all similar incidents that become categorized as ‘collateral damage’ in a war zone.
According to Wikipedia, over 17 million of Yemen’s population are at risk; over 3.3 million children and pregnant or lactating women suffer from acute malnutrition. Reporting in the Washington Post, Neha Wadekar writes (December 13, 2018), under the headline, “A man-made war paid for by women and children”:
‘Yemen’s four-year civil war has produced the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. The conflict between a Saudi-led collation supporting the Yemeni government and Iran-aligned rebels has killed at least 10,000 people and pushed 14 million to the brink of famine….Often overlooked in Yemen’s wartime narrative are women and children. Yet they are the ones most likely to be displaced, deprived and abused. More women and being widowed by the war each day, left without the education or skills to support their families. Rape and domestic violence are increasing. Girls are being pulled out of school to be married off for dowry money. Children are falling sick from diseases that were long-ago eradicated elsewhere in the world, and pregnant women and newborn babies are succumbing to starvation.”
In North America, we frequently listen to heated debates about gul control, especially immediately following some massacre, like Sandy Hook elementary, or Columbine, without learning about political and legislative action. (Canada just banned assault weapons, following the Nova Scotia massacre!) And the implications of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in funding the campaigns of American politicians (allegedly also with Russian money) in lobbying against any measure to control or limit access to military-style weapons are legion. The purchase of hand guns, increasingly of a home-made kit variety, unsullied by registration numbers, and tracing by authorities, has spiked over the period of the pandemic in the United States.
If women and children are not a cause worthy of each and every nation to protect, to nurture, to educate and to keep healthy, and there are no effective and credible protective agencies, including laws to guarantee their human rights, including international criminal investigation and prosecution, then these incidents will continue unabated. Meanwhile, thousands of supportive women will attempt to put their fingers in the dyke of male domestic and military/ideological/religious/ethnic conflicts, that will escape full investigation and full prosecution.
All the while, men, for our political and moral silence, render ourselves impotent in one of the issues that threatens the future of humanity. Of course, there are individual male voices, and worthy efforts to draw attention to the violence against women “file” while other men continue to inflict various wounds and killings on vulnerable women.
However, men continue to face the spectre of increasing job loss, shame and guilt of the uncertainty and the anxiety of a bleak future, without having the needed options to seek support. When women face trauma, in general they seek other feminine support, find it, celebrate it and then celebrate the new life, on the other side. While men mourn the statistic that 75% of all suicides in Canada are committed by men, we are individually and collectively doing little to reach out and to call out those men whose lives clearly indicate instability.
Fear was the alleged reason that neither male nor female neighbour would file a complaint back in 2013 against the man who has become known as the Portapique killer. And their fear was of the reprisals they might face from the man himself. Those fears are legitimate and they have to be considered both by the prospective “witness” and the law enforcement investigating. Once again, however, the culture is embroiled (pardon the pun) like the boiling frog, in water that starts to heat, without any reaction from the frog, until the water boils and the frog dies, too late.
Is that parable, the boiling frog who dies in his own boiling water, alive until the moment he isn’t, the plight of thousands of women and children? Is our culture so enmeshed in a dogma of protecting the privacy, (“It is none of my business!”) and also in tolerating in complicity the culture’s demarcation of domestic from military violence against women that we to connect the dots?
Not only do we segregate as intellectually, politically, and even ethically, the military carnage mostly men inflict on women and children from the domestic violence mostly men inflict on our intimate partners we also segregate our biographical history from our perceptions, assessments and judgements on so-called public issues. The personal and the public must never intersect, in an apparent bow to the equally untenable and unsustainable separation of church and state. Our public discourse must, (and it is an almost religious ‘must’) relegate domestic issues, including health, education, domestic violence and refugees to those back pages, (and the back pages of our minds and our public institutions) while we persist and insist that our Dow numbers and our employment and GDP numbers take front-stage. And this predilection, not a mere preference, locks both the issues and the people in the back of our consciousness, unless and until their numbers become so horrific that we can no longer deny or avoid their implications.
And this penchant for economic, military, industrial, testosterone-based ACTION while constraining personal, biographic, domestic and health/education/gender issues to mere whispers and relegating them to Ted Talks displays a dangerous and potentially even existential threat not only to the men and women under fire, but to the planet as a whole.
We men (in all cultures) cognitively, emotionally, ethically and spiritually “know better” and yet, we keep on stumbling through premature economic “openings” and invasive budget cuts to those social service supports that render millions even more threatened. And we defund the WHO, the UN, and pour billions into the military.
Is our male ego “siamezed” to our political consciousness? Are we so stupid and self-centred that our more vulnerable men, women and children provide us with much more than a burden on our balance sheet? They offer us the opportunity to save ourselves from ourselves, if only we will open to their value! Or are we so insecure, frightened and proud that we are unable to see the trap into which we are ensnaring humanity?