If there is anything that is deeply revolting, deeply troubling and deeply brutal is that of a group of men mercilessly beating another man (who happens to be black) with an audience to cheer the mob to go on with their lynching.

I don’t even want to know nor discuss what could have started this because if there was any fault, if at all, beating someone up and throwing him into the sea, with the intention of either drowning him or perhaps to remind him of his fate had he not reached our shores, is deeply problematic. An icon, if you want, of all that is wrong with our society.

There is one clear distinction between what makes a society a civilised one or not. It is the rule of law, the renunciation of violence (and cruelty), and people choosing to behave in that way.

Sadly, in these past years, a number of persons in authority chose not to behave in that way and so the message that was given knowingly or unknowingly is that the rule of law is something negotiable and therefore may not always apply.

The effects of that are devastating and we are seeing its results unfold in front of our own eyes. Men (mostly) who think of themselves as becoming a law onto themselves; that is the beginning of brutality and the reign of darkness. More precisely the moment people think that violence is justifiable and that there can be forms of violence that are to be condoned because the crowd is cheering you on.

Lynching is the sign that we have really reached the bottom of the pit of human depravity- Andrew Azzopardi

Violence is violence and if we want to aspire to a society that can call itself civilised we need to learn how to transcend violence and brutality. Beating a Somali man up and pushing him to the brink of death is reminiscent of the death games Romans played when the Empire was going strong. It did fall.

From today’s standpoint we often romanticise past societies and perhaps look at them with nostalgia forgetting how brutal they were. None of them survived. There is a reason for that.  

It is the illusions that past and neo Imperialism, be they ideological and/or economic that feed this kind of machismo, be it Roman, British, European or Neoliberal. Remember the European Union’s discourse about first, second or third country nationals? The narratives we hear from politicians about borders and security?

This kind of discourse does not take place in a vacuum but instils sentiments (horrible ones) that shape and mobilise the behaviour of people, leading to mob dynamics. Lynching is the sign that we have really reached the bottom of the pit of human depravity. There is nowhere else to go. It is the start of the end.

What took place in Mġarr on July 19 is the crudest form of reality check we can receive.  It is up to us to look at the mirror and face the decadent reality we are all in or else there is no hope except for superficial illusion that things are fine and dandy.    

Andrew Azzopardi is dean for the Faculty for Social Wellbeing

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