Island Life by David Slack

4

What kind of monster?

"What kind of monster would do this?" is the tacit expression behind various news stories. A man stands over a gasping woman and unplugs the power. What kind of monster would do this? Maddie is four years old and missing. What kind of monster? Words cannot express the horror, etc. How can one bear to look? In a moment we go live to the scene!

There is a utility in this. We are not, as has been made plain this week, much of a churchgoing nation. But going to church can be helpful in affirming and giving word to our values. So we turn to the six o'clock news to have it done for us: "What kind of monster would do this?" Meaning: we disavow the murders, the thefts, the rapes, the beatings, the petty tyrannies and the arbitrary disconnection of electricity. The news bulletin leaves it to the talkback to ask the trickier questions. If someone's life was in peril, would you not act more swiftly or more purposefully to save her?

What has been thin in this story so far is a medical perspective. We have the officer of health delicately explaining that if you're in serious need, you would be kept in hospital on a ventilator. Breathing support of the kind supplied by the oxygen pump is merely that: support. Until we know why Mrs Muliaga lost her life, there's a good bit of supposition in this. But for the purposes of the morality play, that's irrelevant. Just in case it might be true that some heartless bastard stood laughing in disbelief at her protestations, we make loud noise about our outrage: What kind of monster? We're not like that, we hope.

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