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Eugene de Kock, Tookie Williams, Intrinsic evil in today's world...?

Added: Monday, April 11th 2011 at 11:47am by ctaggart

“Was de Kock deserving of the forgiveness shown him? Was he too evil— Prime Evil” –to be worthy of the forgiveness Mrs. Faku and Mrs. Mgoduka had offered him? Was evil intrinsic to de Kock, and forgiveness therefore wasted on him?” (p.15)

In her novel "A Human Being Died That Night", Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, brings up a very thought provoking idea that has been resonating with me for the past week or so.  Gobodo, a clinical psychologist, worked directly with Eugene de Kock, the commanding officer of state-sanctioned death squads under apartheid in South Africa. De Kock openly and frighteningly calmly told of the different ways he killed numerous people over years.  He was legitimately known as "Prime Evil". Nicknames can say a lot about a person, and that is one hell of a nickname.  Gobodo, over the course of the first several chapters, has to play an intricate role similar to Clarice in Silence of the Lambs.  Her task is, through a series of discussions and interviews, to figure out whether this man has remorse for the horrific things that he did in his time as commander of the death squads.  He calmly explains, with detail, several different scenarios of brutal killings.  Butin other scenarios he shows, what many believe to be, deep remorse for certain other incidents that occured.  Several wives of men who de Kock killed were very touched and felt that de Kock was indeed very sorry for his actions.

This seemingly obvious case gets deeper and much more complicated than anybody intended or thought it would be.  Was de Kock a truly evil person who relished the times he got to torture and murder people? Or was de Kock heavily influenced by society, sociological values of the people at that time, his high position in government, family, cultural traditions, etc? Nobody who was white in South Africa at the time said a thing at the time which these incidents took place.  Plenty of people did horrific things on a very regular basis in their daily lives-certainly not as atrocious as de Kock, but also not state sanctioned like de Kock's was.  Is beating the hell out of a random black man-potentially to the brink of death-on your way to your part-time job the same, worse, or not as bad as somebody who's politically imposed job it was to kill? Who knows what people fed ideas into de Kock's head? Imagine being Hitler's right hand man also.  He could probably-anddid-convince somebody of some profound things before they began to see how crazy he was.  


One must really weigh the evidence in this type of scenario.  People are usually very one sided with these types of things.  Your either for him or against him in contemporary media and society at large.  If you are not flipping the switch on the electric chair, you are a sympathizer and might as well be thrown onto the electric chair with him.  But I personally am caught right in the middle with who this man was, so far.  I have not finished the novel and am not thoroughly educated in the intricacies of de Kock's murderous rampage, but I have been told it was pretty nasty to say the least.

This reminds me of a very important court case/rally for the late Tookie Williams.  Williams was the initial founder of the infamous LA Crip gang that has profoundly spread through our society to all parts of the U.S.  The Crips were started, in essence, as a way for black men to come together in the hopes of stopping the rampant bigotry and racism with the LA police department.  The Black Panthers had just recently been stopped and shutdown, and African Americans had no sense of empowerment at all in the area at this time.  Numerous high profile beatings took place without any police officers getting in trouble.  Williams and several others initially just wanted a sense of solidarity and safety within their own community.  Obviously their plan took a wrong turn somewhere though.  Williams was convicted of four murders, some during robberies and at a hotel.  Williams refused to help police investigate into his gang, and was implicated onattacks on guards and women, and escape plots(wikipedia).  But Williams also renounced his affiliation with the gang, and apologized for his founding of the gang.  He wrote numerous books in prison preaching a different life path than the one he chose.  He worked with nonprofit organizations to help children find other ways of happiness than gang life.  He wrote and worked hard, for years, trying to keep kids out of the gang that had developed out of his hands and had taken on a persona and a message that he felt was not what he started the gang for.  Tookie Williams was executed in 2005 for his murders despite a massive public outcry and incredible efforts to simply keep him in jail for the rest of his life rather than being executed.  But as is usually the case, many mainstream media outlets made the polarization of this case such a major part of it that you were either a crip with Tookie, or you were injecting him yourself.

These things, usually in retrospect, are so much more complicated than meets the eye.  The importance of finding your own information that is unbiased and allows you to see the full side of the story is still as much as an issue now as it was with Tookie or de Kock.  People are killed based on public opinion based on biased subjective media reporting.  Learning about both of these people over the last week or so has dramatically changed how i interpret news stories, hopefully somebody will read this and feel the same.  

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