/OPINION: Most abusers live in moral echo-chambers

OPINION: Most abusers live in moral echo-chambers

2019-12-13 13:29

Such is the weakness and hypocrisy of our leaders that they’d choose the path of least resistance, duplicity or “victimhood” rather than confront the demons afflicting this nation head on, writes Tebogo Khaas.

One
of the unmistakable truths often encountered in the media environment is that
it is extremely difficult to opine forthrightly about a matter involving people
in your social networks, particularly when the issue at hand doesn’t belong in
the Sunday school.

The
point, of course, is not to be blinded, patronising or engage in schadenfreude,
but to have the courage to confront societal demons and the unpopular truths
especially when what’s at stake are complex, existential matters of public
interest.

Let
me explain.

At
the outset, let me nail my colours to the mast. I believe in redemption. But as
someone who carries physical and emotional scars exacted by an evil, abusive
stepfather during my formative years, it is hard to not detest abusers of women
and children irrespective of their social, political or economic
standing. 

In
every patent of the office of human relationships, especially matrimony, the
idea of moral duty, fidelity and respect for the other is attached. 

And
we all have a moral duty to intercede whenever antisocial behaviour is
identified. Of course, this is easier said than done since we are always warned
to mind our own business, and let moral hazard or divine intervention be the
arbiter.

Such
has been my reticence to rise above the parapet that I deeply agonised about
the merits of launching myself into this emotive public discourse on gender-based
violence.

Patrizia
Gucci, an abused member of the Gucci fashion dynasty who was well-known for her
ostentatious lifestyle, gained global notoriety when she proclaimed: “I’d
rather cry riding in the back seat of a Rolls Royce than be happy on a bicycle.”
And the world knows what sadly became of her.

Clearly
some women countenance egregious abuse by their intimate partners out of
societal pressure or fear of losing financial and other material benefits
derived from such patently toxic relationships. 

Let
me hasten to state, though, that even educated, financially independent women
can experience abuse from their partners – and often in silence! Women are
habitually subjected to physical violence and abuse even in circumstances where
they may not be related to the perpetrator.

The
theory of the evolution of humankind is characterised by male entitlement, a
dark quest for superiority, abuse of the privilege of physical strength and
insidious aggression. As society strives for a more egalitarian construct, male
resentment to change and antisocial behaviour towards vulnerable members of
society become increasingly commonplace. 

Perpetrators
of violence against women and children often do not experience any legal
consequences, and impunity remains a serious societal issue. It is not uncommon
for a victim of domestic violence to file a complaint with the police only for
the perpetrator to lay spurious counter charges against them. 

In
such instances, a prosecutor’s decision to undertake a case is always made with
an eye on whether, given the complexities of assessing the competing
allegations and evidence (including protagonists’ attitudes), a conviction can
be obtained. Also, complainants are often pressured to withdraw cases and
encouraged to treat these as “private family matters”.

In
any event the criminal justice system is usually filled by people with
deep-seated social and political opinions who often share the sentiments and
prejudices of the moment.

Concern
for children

I
consciously refrain from passing judgement on women who elect to stay in toxic relationships,
but I do agonise about the long-term psychological impact such decisions have
on their offspring.

When
children are direct – or secondary – victims of domestic violence their plight
is often minimised. Their trauma and needs are subordinated to the selfish
adult urges to preserve otherwise toxic unions.

Domestic
violence cases, especially where children are affected, should be flagged as
notifiable societal malaise. Law enforcement agencies should be obligated to
refer such cases to social workers or clinical psychologists for assessment
before an open complaint could be lawfully withdrawn.

I
often hear the tired excuse that men who physically abuse women and children
usually come from “broken” families or grew up in environments in
which abuse was condoned. Although this vein of argument isn’t totally dry, the
corollary does also hold true. Everybody has a choice!

Put
differently, discretion and amorality are in eternal enmity. 

Perpetrators
of domestic violence and abuse must be encouraged to come clean soonest lest
the future inconveniently catches up with their procrastination or aversion to
do so.

Sometimes,
a confluence of the global tide of activism against gender-based violence and
deferred public reckoning for past indiscretions, can collide into a perfect
storm of public relations disaster for public figures in a manner that even
their worst enemies couldn’t have imagined or conjured up.

There
are cardinal lessons that can be drawn from others who once committed moral
sins while living in a glass bowl.

When
golfing legend Tiger Woods was caught putting on greens other than those
manicured for his matrimonial indulgence, he didn’t regard the incident as a
private matter. Instead he sought the nearest public microphone and television
cameras to apologise unreservedly to his wife, family, legion of fans
worldwide, and those with a pecuniary interest in his golfing career.

Woods
understood very well that his redemption depended on his willingness to
publicly account, be contrite, atone and seek forgiveness for his
indiscretions. A reluctant public figure, he took responsibility for his
actions without any obfuscation or arrogance. Of course the public glare and
humiliation that he and his family endured must have been unbearable. 

Society
too unforgiving?

In
the end analysis, Woods endeared himself to a multitude of stakeholders,
especially sponsors whose brand images had been sullied by his conduct. The
question is: has society, since the Woods saga and the advent of the global
#MeToo movement, become too unforgiving that there’s no point in seeking
redemption? I don’t think so.

The
catharsis and inherent value arising from introspection, contrition and
atonement itself should provide adequate incentive.

Powerful
politicians who sexually prey on financially vulnerable young women, or
gratuitously abuse strained state resources to settle extramarital affairs and
personal errands, are no less despicable than men who physically harm women.

It
is becoming increasingly difficult to dispel assertions that most of our
political leaders either live in a dual moral universe, battle degenerative
ethical leadership atrophy, or both. They represent a panoply of shame and
should not be held to different moral and ethical standards.

When,
during a crucial election campaign moment, former US President Barack Obama was
confronted with potentially perilous consequences of his past association with
an allegedly bigoted pastor, he didn’t disinvite himself from the opportunity
to publicly confront the vexing issue. What followed was his delivery of a
seminal speech on racism in America. 

By
all accounts, it seemed unwise for President Cyril Ramaphosa to disinvite
himself
– and the nation – recently from an opportunity, however controversial
the platform, to have tough conversations, including on gender-based
violence. 

OPINION | Power FM debacle: An opportunity missed by Ramaphosa or an unwillingness to be held accountable?

Also,
whilst we should appreciate the public outrage demonstrated by Ramaphosa over
the killing of a young Limpopo female student, promising to condemn convicted
criminals to hard labour camps is as hate-bating, redolent with populism,
reckless and unhelpful as it is unconstitutional. 

For,
hatred begets more hatred.

But
such is the weakness and hypocrisy of our leaders that they’d choose the path
of least resistance, duplicity, expediency or “victimhood” rather
than confront the demons afflicting this nation head on.

In
a limited but universal sense, our leaders can best be described as reluctant,
desultory crusaders for moral regeneration and nation building.

There’s
another, more urgent and sinister sense in which wrongdoers, when called to
account for their conduct, plead victimhood and unjustly vilify others as their
tormentors or enemies in an effort to deflect accountability.

Of
course most abusers live in “moral echo-chambers”, are often in
perpetual denial of the wrongfulness and gravity of their conduct, and surround
themselves with sycophants who validate their amorality.

Let
me conclude with an unnerving, but necessary, truth uttered with an unmitigated
sapience as though only the naïve or self-deluded would imagine anything
otherwise.

You
can never blame your adversaries for doing what your adversaries will
predictably do. You can only blame yourself for what you’ve given to your
adversaries. If you’ve given them absolutely nothing, guess what they’ll be
able to do: nothing!

– Khaas
is executive chairman of Corporate SA, a strategic advisory consultancy; and
chair of Public Interest SA, a public benefit organisation that seeks to
safeguard and advance constitutionalism.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.  

Original Source