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The outrage machine

January 28, 2018


AMONG psychopaths, outrage and clowns the rest of us appear to have been condemned to live. And only the woolliest of optimists can believe it’s about to get better.

Because it’s not.

The outrage machine is on fire and in overdrive. And the problem is everyone’s a part of it. Even when they think they are not. Especially when they think they are not.

The rage, the outrage, really kicked in and was sustained with that photo. The girl in the photo looks like she could be from anyone’s home — your home.

Look away now if squeamish or disinclined to hear more terrible stuff in the midst of already numbing tragedy and despicableness and opportunism.

All the details in the Kasur abhorrence contributed to the national revulsion.

It was a little girl — society reacts viscerally to crimes against children, especially little girls. It was where she was found and the numbing image that rocketed around the country.

Is that — is that a tiny body, a little girl, tossed into the garbage and lying on a pile of rubble? The stomach churns every time.

It was what appeared to have been done to her. And it was the troubling memory of something vaguely similar having floated out, miasma-like, from Kasur in the recent past.

But it was also that image of her alive.

The picture that has become grimly iconic. The one of her in a brightly coloured sweater with a pink jacket on top. A picture of a confident young girl looking calmly into the camera.

The winter sun bounces of her brown hair. Her light complexion radiates health, her cheeks are full and her mouth maybe on the verge of a smile. Her eyes are clear and bright.

You can almost hear a million grandmothers say Mashallah as they first see that picture and mothers and fathers everywhere nod in approval.

Because she looks like she could be their daughter.

The rage, the outrage, really kicked in and was sustained with that photo. The girl in the photo looks like she could be from anyone’s home — your home.

Not a wretched Afghan child we’re used to seeing in bazaars and at traffic stops. Not one of the countless kids of countless maids who have marched in and out of your home over the years.

Not some child brought up in urban squalor or in rural misery. Not some child of another faith or coming from the lowest stratas with dirty or dangerous jobs.

In the pink-jacket photo — of a confident, healthy, cheerful girl with light hair and light eyes and light skin — she looks like a girl who could be sleeping in your child’s bed.

And if you can understand that, that that single, grimly iconic photo helped build and sustain the rage and why it did, you may realise the next miserable, horrifying steps of the outrage machine were inevitable.

We will never know if she was going to be the last victim or not. Perhaps without the public rage, the police would have finally done their job. We can only know that the suspect has now been caught.

But the rage — total rage — once activated was only going to go in ever more dangerous, more unhinged directions. APS brought hangings back. So this time it had to be a hanging plus.

Hang him in the street outside her home. Hang him in a public square. The biggest one you can find. Hang him in a stadium. The biggest one you can find. Build a new stadium if there isn’t one big enough.

Squeamishness prevents from really guessing where the rage could go next.

Islamic State has demonstrated some of the more unhinged methods in recent years. Or maybe some of the standard methods borrowed from friendly, like-minded states. Maybe an Afghan Taliban-type hybrid violence.

But the only thing the rage won’t do is go away.

The outrage machine is here to stay because everyone is a part of it. In some way or the other. At some point or the other. Whether we want to admit it or not. Even, depressingly, in the little girl’s case.

So the grotesque direction the outrage machine took after a suspect was arrested and his identity revealed shocked, but it should not have surprised.

Take insidious propaganda behind the scenes, add a clown on TV, throw in a political government to attack, and the outrage machine is reloaded and turned around and ready to go in an instant.

Those gasping for sense may have wanted the court to handle the issue more responsibly, but that’s just clutching at straws. The outrage machine has already savaged the court, causing it to lurch in one direction and then the next.

Who, really, has both the power to stand up to the outrage machine and possibly a prayer of getting it to amp down? One does comes to mind, but the silence from that quarters has been deafening.

Then again, if you really think about it, if you were in his boots, better to let the outrage machine consume others than to suddenly find it firing back at you.

So on and on it will go.

Everyone, absolutely everyone, climbed aboard the outrage machine because she was revealed to be a girl who could have been anyone’s daughter. Once the machine was firing on all cylinders, some have been shocked at the bloodlust it has revealed.

And now a few are shaking their heads at the inevitable politicisation of it all.

But outrage machine is here to stay. Because at some point or the other, we’ve all been a part of it.

The writer is a member of staff.
Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2018