Howard Feldman

No one is born to be a pigeon killer

2017-08-21 15:22
Armed policemen arrive in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing one person and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. (AFP)

Armed policemen arrive in a cordoned off area after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing one person and injuring several others on the Rambla in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. (AFP)

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This morning I killed a pigeon. And I didn’t like it. Not only did I not enjoy the experience but it made me feel awful.

Like a pigeon murderer.

There is not much to say about the incident. I was driving my 4x4 through a leafy suburb of Johannesburg when the pigeon flew directly into my windshield. There was no time to slow down and I hit the creature with the full force of the car. I didn’t even apply breaks and forensics would have found no skid marks on the road.

I shudder to think what they might have concluded.

They could well have considered the event to have been deliberate. Even though it wasn’t.

I debated stopping to check if there was any hope for the lifeless avian that now lay on the side of the street. I considered the protocol and what a reasonable person in such a position should do in these circumstances. But I came up with nothing. I knew there was little chance of me administering CPR and I was confident that my mouth was to go nowhere near that beak. Not ever.

I guess I should have properly contemplated doing the Cain thing and wrapping it in something before burying it. But I was late for a meeting and could hardly imagine leaving the corpse in my car until I was done.

So I drove on.

And I thought of what it must feel like to hit a cat or a dog by mistake.

Or a person.

Or people.

Then I thought of the car ramming terror of Barcelona. And of London and of Berlin and of Paris and of Israel. And I tried to imagine what could make a person so evil, so indoctrinated and so angry that they would choose to aim their vehicle at a crowd of people and to drive into them.

I tried to imagine how any person could reach a point where it would not only be acceptable, but commendable to deliberately point their car or truck towards pedestrians  and then to floor the accelerator in order to hurt as many as possible. And to watch and witness their faces as they scrambled in terror for their lives.

In some ways it requires more callousness than a suicide bomber who never sees the destruction he causes – if we are ranking levels of evil. Which we probably shouldn’t. The suicide bomber never registers the fear and the panic and the pain and the death on the faces of the innocent. He never sees the pigeon lying lifeless on the side of the road. And he doesn’t try and have a work meeting after, whilst hiding a dark and uncomfortable secret.

Which is why I believe that it is crucial and critical to look into the minds of the perpetrators. Into the psyche of the truck drivers in order to understand how they go from being someone who believes in the sanctity of the life to being someone who rejoices in and who celebrates and admires death.

None of us are born to kill pigeons. I am convinced of that. And certainly none of us are born to enjoy it. 

- Howard Feldman is the author of Carry on Baggage and Tightrope and the afternoon drive show presenter on Chai FM.

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