Every child is born with a unique set of genes, inheriting a variety of characteristics from its ancestors. Immediately it enters the world, it is subject to a variety of influences, some good, some bad, and these all go to form an individual with a range of abilities, needs and aspirations.
For those in countries where education is mandatory, to the influences of relatives and care givers are added those of teachers and peer groups, to gradually develop a complex personality.
More than two decades ago, I got involved in a very ill-chosen relationship during which I became someone I did not like. A few other people in my life have had a similar effect.
So, over time, I became aware that we are all probably much more complex than we appreciate. If you were to get a collection of friends and chance acquaintances to describe how they see you, you would probably emerge with an amazing combination of pictures. Some, who have encountered you in darker days, might come up with a picture you would rather not accept as you.
The instigator of the appalling massacre of Muslims in Christchurch is probably seen by his friends as a hero for acting out what they would all like to do. Why?
Elements of education which, unfortunately, are not experienced by everyone, include critical thinking and empathy raising. In relation to the latter, literature on the development of the brain indicates that the part of the brain which allows the individual to empathise appears not to have developed fully or at all in psychopaths.
If you cannot see life through someone else’s eyes or walk in their shoes, then you might well be unable to accept them as valid people. You could even be oblivious to their needs.
Many people do not appreciate that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the history of the Jews as a common background to the development of their faiths, sharing the same single god but differing mainly in the importance they pay to the various prophets. My understanding is that Islam sees Jesus Christ as an important prophet, but Muhammed as the most important, while the Jews reject the claim that Jesus Christ was god-made man.
Our individual knowledge and opinions are what form our essence, and the more open our minds are to new knowledge and experience, the more informed we are and the more accepting of the difference of others.
We each have our own set of individual talents and abilities and it is sad that some of these are rated more highly than others.
All the above is essentially common knowledge yet we still fall short of developing the skills in our early educators and medical personnel to identify the children whose circumstances have delivered them a far from ideal set of experiences in early life.
We all are entitled to our own opinions as long as that does not cause us to act in ways that harm others. It can be impossible to persuade someone that their views are essentially antisocial – and that is where the law comes in.
The Australian facing trial in New Zealand appears to have personality defects which result in his inability to understand why his actions are wrong. But the rest of society deserves to be protected from him and the cohort that supports him and his actions.
And government has a responsibility to identify others whose behaviour puts law-abiding citizens at risk, rather than demonising those being attacked on the grounds of race of religion.
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