“You know who should be allowed to bear and carry arms?” Gertruida asked – and then answered her own question, “It’s the people who don’t want to use them.”
“But that’s the point, Gertruida, the problem is the people who are too keen to use them.” Vetfaan toys with his drink. “And they are the minority who gives the majority a bad name.”
“But that’s democracy in reverse?” Sandy Hook is still a mystery to Precilla; an event which saddens her greatly. “And that’s why John Lennon and Kennedy died?”
“No, that was much more sinister than what it seemed to be.” Gertruida raises an eyebrow. “Or do you think madmen did those killings just because they had nothing better to shoot at?”
“Are you implying those were organised assassinations?” If there’s anything that’ll spark a lively debate, it’s a conspiracy theory. Kleinpiet sits back in anticipation, loving every minute.
“Well,” once she gets her audience going, Gertruida is unstoppable. “Governments are notorious for shooting, poisoning, blowing up, causing crashes and much more. Some say there are methods of inducing heart attacks and cancer. It’s an age-old tradition of mankind to solve problems by getting rid of them violently. Sometimes the world applauds, like with Osama or Hussain or Ghaddafi. Mostly, it is done under cover. The latest case under scrutiny is Arafat, of course.
“Now – we live in a world of monkey-see, monkey-do. If Kate gets pregnant, a thousand women all over the world start being nauseous in the mornings. Everybody wants to wear the jersey or shirt of some famous soccer player or rugby star. If fashion dictates short dresses, even Grandma Fatso lets her swollen knees wobble around below the hem. We are, by nature, herd animals. We follow the trend. We hate being different to the rest.”
“Gertruida, you’re losing me. What has the style of dress to do with shooting people?”
“Everything, Servaas. If we are programmed to be followers, we stop asking questions. We do what the leaders do. A year ago, Lance Armstrong could auction his yellow shirt for a million bucks. Now nobody wants it. Why? Because somebody asked questions – and that is rare.
“So: if governments kill people in secret and gets involved in open, armed conflict all over the world, this is what the monkeys see, and that’s what they’ll do. Why? Because we don’t ask questions. Shooting people and short skirts represent exactly the same thing.”
“Now, wait a minute, Gertruida.” Boggel holds up a hand to interject. “It’s easy to blame governments for everything, but I don’t for a minute think it’s their entire fault. What puzzles me is the psyche of somebody going on a rampage. Surely no government sets such an example?”
“That’s debatable. Some governments have done that in the past. Remember the famous Third Force in South Africa in the early nineties? People were shot, thrown from trains, burnt … and it was organised at a higher level. Nowadays we have strikes and fights and destruction of property at mines and on farms – do you think it developed spontaneously? Or did somebody instigate it? You can make up your own mind, but these things are too organised. They follow a pattern.
“But I’ll grant you a point – it’s not just governments. If Little Johnny Doe grew up in a happy home, he won’t shoot people. He’ll most probably not want to own a gun. But that isn’t the norm, is it? Little Johnny gets parked in front of the TV when he’s old enough to sit. You should see the violence on Cartoon Network: the cat gets whacked by the broom. Little heads get cut off, things get exploded. Then, when they’re older, they watch Chuck Norris destroy the bad guys. James Bond can walk into any situation with his licence to kill, and walk out again with the voluptuous blond as his reward.
“To help their kids prepare for the electronic age, doting parents provide computer games. More blood and mayhem. But the games are misleading: they have a reset button, in case you want to start over
“So that’s the background for the average youth in the world today. He has his government as an example. He has been educated in a certain way. And then he walks down the street to find his friends are even worse than he is. So he gets a tattoo and joins a gang. Or he gets into Chuck Norris mode, determined to stop at nothing in order to get what he wants.”
“So parents and governments are equally to blame?” Servaas shakes his head. This is just too much. What happened to the example of good parents? Where is the church today? “I think the church has to take some blame. Religion has lost its shine because congregations have become businesses. Today’s church is more about making the finances tally and not about preaching love and caring. The popular sermon is the sermon on Forgiveness. You can do just about anything, and God will forgive your sins. People love that. They attend such churches in droves on Sundays, and on Mondays they’re back at work, fixing the numbers so they can pay less tax.”
“I agree.” Boggel serves another round. Lively discussions are good for business. “The biggest problem, taking all this into consideration, is the cycle of violence children grow up with. True: games and governments are as much to blame as churches and parents … but once the pattern is set, generation after generation just goes on doing what they’ve grown up to accept as being the norm.
“They can change the laws on guns. Maybe it’ll help. In fact, I hope it does; but they’ll need more than that to stop Adam Lanzo from going beserk. You’ll still have a Lee Harvey Oswald and a Jack Ruby sneaking around in the background, looking for a target.
“What the world needs now, is firm and decisive leadership. It won’t help to look at the government or the church to do it. It’ll start at home. That’s where the example of good leadership will have to be established.”
“That may be true, Boggel. But now the law says you can’t whack your child a good one if he was naughty. If small misdemeanours get rewarded with a kind and rational speech about love and forgiveness, how can we expect the child to respect law and order? No, I say: bring back the rod. Fix the tree while it’s young. To bend a twenty-year old oak is stupid; you’ll only break your back.”
Outside Boggel’s Place, a family of pheasants cruise down Voortrekker Weg, pecking here and there in the dirt in their search for anything to eat. At Boggel’s back door, they strike it rich: when Boggel swept his bar this morning, he threw out the nuts and crumbs for them. One of the chicks storm the pile to start pecking enthusiastically – until Papa Pheasant stops him with a stern peck at the back of his neck. Vetfaan smiles as he sees how the birds have their priorities straight. They don’t need governments and churches to tell them how to live – a rather fortunate fact. Those chicks are taught how the social order is organised – right from the start of their lives.
“It’s the pecking order” he says, “we’ve got it all wrong.”