The news this week has been awash with the most sordid of crimes allegedly committed by a hitherto well-educated young man from a good home who benefitted from all that money can buy- a public school education etc. and suddenly he is in the news for murder while under the influence of drugs. By all accounts, he had supposedly grown stressed and exhausted in an ultra-demanding job and despite the trappings that came with a high-flying career, he slid lower and lower into oblivion.
A former boyfriend of mine used to smoke an awful lot of pot. Friends and family rallied around and warned him that he was becoming psychotic- too detached and unaware of how the seemingly 'cool' drug was affecting or perhaps more precisely, addling his brain. By persistent encouragement he agreed to give up the weed and hey presto, he was able to return to the world of work and relationships. We met soon after he went clean. Although in theory he seemed fine, there were times when his reluctance to conform could have been a worry. By some strange irony, replacing drugs with alcohol resulted in him being able to remain on an even keel, as it were. Another former boyfriend had been a heroin user as a teenager and during his military service in France, was thrown into solitary confinement where he spent the better part of six months. At the end of it, he was effectively a former addict (no softly, softly approach there or dithering about human rights) but the lasting damage to his brain and body were apparent. He experienced major lapses where he would exhibit alarming behaviour and suddenly would appear devoid of a moral compass and without remorse or regret. His own father once remarked to me that he was terrified of the cold, unfeeling, ruthless individual his son had become. Needless to say that once I discovered my boyfriend's narcotic past, I hotfooted it out of that relationship before he (or I) could say "vaya con dios". (I'm not very good at wanting to save people from themselves.)
For all those liberals lobbying for the legalisation of hard drugs, perhaps they have never seen how drugs destroy lives. It struck me the other day that rich and successful actors (the biggest exponents of the legalise-drugs brigade) who smoke pot for example, can actually indulge themselves. The soft cushion and safety net that loads of cash brings means that they experience less of the every day worries, which can crush frailer egos. However drugs can easily destroy others who are less confident or successful especially when there is so much more that is seemingly wrong with their lives. Drugs are rampant in the all-or-nothing environment of high stakes professions where the risk is to lose everything or to win big. Stories of traders going in to work and before they can reach for their latte and a croissant are shown the door, abound in the City of London. Ruthlessness and expendability are the way things are in that world. Everyone recites the exact same explanation for staying- they plan to make as much money as they can and then leave because physically, no one can keep up the pace demanded for more than a few years. Ever.
The worse tragedy in the Hong Kong story is the young women who debased themselves for money. The promise of a better life at all costs. Somewhere a good-natured girl who wanted to change her destiny became a whore. No woman can possibly enjoy having a strange man crawling over her and handing her a wad of bills at the end of it (regardless of what has been written by a former escort girl who shall remain nameless but whose best-selling book was made into a TV series). Nothing in fact could be more heartbreaking than having to revert to prostitution- lost dreams, compromised reality, the horror of what should have been and never will be. How does one even think like a prostitute? Sex is a ridiculously personal thing unless one is completely blotto which unfortunately is how many children are conceived (and regretted) these days.
The alleged murderer was off his head and lost in a psychotic vice where right and wrong are indistinguishable and instead there is an urgent need to do bad, terrible things. Drugs seem to unleash the monster that lurks within a once primal spirit but which has been concealed and civilised over centuries. These frequent episodes of men, always young men, committing atrocious acts when drugged up to the eyeballs is a dreadful indictment of our society. Am I my brother's keeper? Yes. Is there an ounce of compassion in us to forgive such acts? That is the hardest question of all. The act of forgiveness requires magnanimity of spirit that is almost holy- a devotion to goodness and an acknowledgement that generosity of self is more important than anything else. I would argue that it is not possible to forgive the criminal who shows no remorse. That to me is like throwing a bag full of much-needed cash onto a bonfire- wasteful and stupid.
The alleged murderer's education alone cost the earth, and a privileged life has come to nought or rather, the wrong kind of notoriety. We in the west are specialists at abusing our luck and good fortune. We spend a lot of our precious time obsessed with the wrong things. In our hyper materialistic world, we refer to 'me', 'myself' and 'I' instead of 'my fellow human beings'. Our needs are paramount, our desires more important than anyone else's. Our ego is voracious and always wants to be the centre of attention. Why repeat how important it is to love yourself? It means little to have self-love when a man dying of thirst would rather a glass of water. Perhaps all those wishing to decriminalize hard drugs should consider that and the events in Hong Kong.
Photo copyright SvD.