Has modern man relapsed to primitive savagery?
By Luke Onyekakeyah
WHEN the ancient Hebrew prophet, Jeremiah (647 BC) said that the heart of man is desperately wicked; who can know it, (Jeremiah 17:9), he rightly stated what many people don't know; the fact that man, left on his own, is a depraved creature that could perpetrate evil, bizarre and monstrous acts. This does not negate the fact that man is also good. Man was created good but wickedness crept into his mind somewhere along the line and corrupted what otherwise would have been the cynosure of all creation.
Jeremiah must have been agitated by the savagery and wickedness that pervaded his time. He witnessed torture, murders and brutality meted by the invading Babylonian army on Jerusalem. Being in constant friction with the authorities for speaking against evil, he was accused of treason. Arrested and convicted, he was tied with rope and thrown into a dry well to die. By divine intervention, through one man, he was later pulled out and sent into exile to Egypt.
Jeremiah was not alone in attesting to the inherent wickedness of man. The ancient Greek philosopher and thinker, Aristotle (384-322 BC) also wrote that man is wicked and should be treated as such. The two men lived many centuries apart but had similar experience in human wickedness.
History is replete with all manner of savagery including cannibalism, slaughters, burning at stake or roasting people alive in blazing furnace, crucifixion, and other human atrocities committed by men against fellow men. The Rwanda genocide of 1994, in which Hutu militias massacred between 500,000 and one million Tutsis in just 100 days was, perhaps, the most atrocious mass murder in contemporary times. The two World Wars, innumerable wars between nations, the Hiroshima atomic bombs that snuffed life out of thousands and rendered millions debilitated, the crusades, the jihads and the inquisitions have gory accounts of savagery and human wickedness.
Today, savage rape, murder, torture and genocide is taking place in Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, DR Congo and Nigeria, among others. There are few countries on earth that have not been involved in primitive savagery against a section of humanity. The decent to savagery is growing by the day. And this is worrisome.
I have been aroused to delve into this subject because of recent happenings in Nigeria, Sudan, India and Pakistan. The incidents, grave and shocking, as they are incomprehensible, show that modern man has unwittingly relapsed into primitive savagery from where he emerged many centuries ago. Modern savagery is monumental compared to what happened in the past.
For instance, on April 14, 2014, Boko Haram insurgents battling the Nigerian state stormed Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State and abducted about 300 students (all girls), from their dormitory to an unknown destination. The girls, who were in school for their final examinations, have not been seen ever since. About three weeks later, Boko Haram provoked the world when they released a video showing the girls seated on bare ground in a forest, all clad in Muslim hijab, reciting the Koranic chants. The incident has fired global outrage, forcing America, Britain, France, China and Israel to rally round Nigeria to look for the girls. The question is: what evil did the innocent schoolgirls commit to warrant the trauma and torture they have been subjected to all this while?
Second is the Sudanese case which seems like a story from a primitive barbarian community. Reports say a Sudanese pregnant woman, Meriam Ibrahim, was sentenced to death for alleged apostasy for marrying a Christian man, Daniel Wani, against Islamic injunction. The heavily pregnant woman, who gave birth last week to a baby girl, was kept in chains. Her husband told a British newspaper, The Telegraph, that his wife gave birth with her legs shackled! This is shocking and unbelievable. The Igbo say an adult does not stay at home and a goat delivers in tether. That means even lower animals that are usually tethered have respect and dignity and are released at the point of giving birth. Keeping Meriam Ibrahim in chains while going through the pangs of child birth is subhuman and barbaric. I don't think that even primitive cultures ever did that under any circumstance.
The Indian horror is another incident that shook humanity. The story has it that two innocent teenage girls (14 and 16 years old), were gang-raped and hanged in a village in Uttar Pradesh, Badaun District, northern India. The girls' offence was that they went to a nearby open plot to relieve themselves at sunset, a practice that is normal in the blighted community that has no private or public toilets. The girls were discovered in the morning, hanging on a tree! These incidents are said to be commonplace in the area, putting women in constant danger.
And in neighbouring Pakistan, a similar barbaric incident took place. A young pregnant woman, Farzana Parveen, was reportedly stoned to death in broad daylight in front of a Lahore court by her own relatives who were furious that she married against their wishes. Her husband told the BBC that police simply stood by during the attack. Though, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif described the incident as 'totally unacceptable' and ordered a full investigation, the truth is that this is a cultural practice that sends thousands of women to their early graves or into forced marriages. How is the Prime Minister going to contain this savagery?
It is obvious that modern man has descended into primitive savagery at a scale never experienced before. History has documented 10 little known most barbaric men who ever lived. The men were Lope de Aquirre (madman of El Dorado), Fernando Alveres de Toledo (3rd Duke of Alba), Antipope Clement VII, Basil the Bulgar Slayer and Talat Pasha. The others were Lothar von Trotha, Tomasde Torqumada, Godfrey of Buillon, Sawney Beane and Gilles de Raise. The history of these men is a history of genocide, serial killings, rape, torture, incestuous living, and morbid bizarre acts of monstrous dimension. These men rank with African tyrants such as Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire (DR Congo) and Jean-Bedel Bokasa of Central African Republic (CAR). Hitler's holocaust, which saw the suffocation of six million Jews in gas chambers during World War II under the Nazis, is epochal and remains a classical case of savagery against a section of humanity by a supposedly modern man.
It was because of such men that Jeremiah once questioned God as to why He seems to have planted wicked and dishonest men and allowed them to prosper while the righteous suffer. (Jeremiah 12: 1-2). What an irony? But is God really responsible for mankind's wickedness? The answer is capital NO. Man's freedom, greed and selfish desires are at the root of human wickedness.
William Golden in his famous book Lord of the Flies, laments that man is an ignoble savage. He said that man is irrational, brutal, weak, silly, and unable to be objective about anything where his own interests are involved. He concludes by saying, 'I'm interested in the brutal and violent nature of man because it's a true picture of him. And any attempt to create social institutions on a false view of the nature of man is probably doomed to failure'.
Jamie Frater noted that such men are corrupt in nature and will do everything within their power to kill anyone to get what they want and often for sheer enjoyment. He says they personify the word 'bloodthirsty' and at times share traits with the most savage beasts. He says that these men prove that humans aren't so different from animals. That man has natural inclination to do evil is not in doubt.
From that angle, what we call civilization is a farce. As a matter of fact, civilization has become dangerous and is the root of modern savagery that employs weapons of mass destruction. What we call modernity is a figment of our imagination. Our technological advancement has not removed the ancient gene that flowed though our forbearers. The difference is that we're better equipped to commit evil than the early man. We can move faster, see farer and clearer. Rather than these developments helping us to improve the lot of mankind, they have turned out to be instruments of domination, discrimination, torture and annihilation.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that the savage gene that flowed through our primitive ancestors is very much alive in all of us. Burnham and Phelan called it mean genes. Without a deliberate attempt to tame it, these genes could be destructive. They have the capacity to control any man no matter his status. This ancient living particle inside all of us engineers the savagery being perpetrated around the world. We need a new civilization that is founded on love and peace without weapons. We need a demilitarized world. Only then can we claim to be civilized modern man.