While the outrage at the remarks of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu that the man that has come to be known as the ‘Modimolle monster’, Johan Kotze, has the potential to be a ‘saint’ is defensible given the nature of crimes Kotze is alleged (since he is yet to be found guilty by a court of law) to have committed, Tutu’s remarks for me raised two question that have always bothered me.
The one question is, in what way do we as a society continue to breed people with the capacity to commit ‘inhuman, ghastly and monstrous deeds’ such as we are seeing nowadays?
To just wash our hands off and reclassify such people as ‘sub-humans’ and ‘monsters’ is like standing in front of a mirror and denying that the image reflected on the other side holds any semblance to the character beholding such an image.
It is Kahlil Gibran who wrote that “...even as the holy and righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you, so the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.”
I am convinced that the Modimolle horror story and many such stories that have made headlines in the past are but a symptom of a problem that is fast reaching boiling point in our society.
Unless we as a society are willing to face the man in the mirror we might wake up one day only to realise that he is more alive than we would like to admit and then it might be too late.
The other equally important question is, when do we as a society write someone off and wash our hands off the hope that still hidden somewhere in the farthest corner of their soul lies the capacity to be a better person?
I somehow agree with Tutu that by labeling Kotze a monster we are somehow ‘letting him off lightly … because monsters have no moral-sense of right and wrong’. It is one thing to say that he behaved like a monster. When we conclude that he is a monster we have relegated him into an unredeemable category. Then the logical thing to ask is should the Justice system still apply to someone that has lost the capacity to be human?
The story of the notorious co-founder of the Crips gang in Los Angeles Stan "Tookie" Williams in the mid 2000s comes to mind as it raised serious questions about capital punishment versus the possibility of redemption.
Despite the fact that Williams when in prison sought to turn his life around and ended up with multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations for his work in encouraging peace and non-violence way among young people he was denied clemency and ended up being executed.
There are many people alive and dead who live or lived commendable lives yet they never come as close as being nominated for a single Noble Peace Prize. Yet here was a man on death row who at some point was considered a ‘vicious monster’ who somehow managed to find in the farthest corner of his soul the capacity to be a better person again.
Given that our country which has a high rate of violent crimes is short of Tookie kind of examples, the question still remains, when do we as a society write someone off and wash our hands off the hope that still hidden somewhere in the farthest corner of their soul lies the capacity to be a better person?