Thursday, December 1, 2022
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The perpetrator and the victim

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Often when bad things happen in the world, the media is flooded with hatred for the perpetrator. Recently we saw another example of this: The bullfighter who was killed by the bull . I read comments like: “I hope he suffered a lot.”

When I read something like that, I think: No! Also the perpetrator is someone’s son, brother, friend. The perpetrator also had feelings, so I wish him suffering? Of course not. Do I think what he did was right? Definitely not!

In smaller and greater suffering we often forget that the “perpetrator” is also a human being. A person who has made choices. In our view probably the wrong choices, yes, but in his view that would not have been the case. Take the bullfighter: Many Spaniards grow up with bullfighting and with, in our view, very crooked ideas about bulls.

They probably don’t know any better than that what they’re doing is completely okay. Or take the perpetrated of an attack: On the basis of his upbringing, current situation, beliefs, etc., he makes a decision that he thinks is right. As a human being, just like you and me, with choices, just like you and me.

I notice that nowadays I can also feel compassion for the perpetrators more often. Of course my heart first goes out to the victims, but later comes the realization that the perpetrator was (or is) also a human being of flesh and blood. I recently saw on Facebook that a Polish boy from England had shared a photo of a wall defaced with “Fuck off you Polish scum!”.

He said he could feel compassion for the fear behind this racism and thus even love this person because of it. I thought it was admirable and a wise lesson. I find it easier to feel compassion when I look at the fear, sadness, or ignorance behind people’s decisions. I remain convinced that no one will blow themselves up unless there is a feeling of sadness, despair or fear behind it.And for that feeling, for the wounded part in that person, can I have compassion. This helps me to see differently.

Does this mean I condone atrocities, or the infliction of animal cruelty? No, but I can often see that there is a person behind it doing this, not a monster. And I am aware that both roles, that of perpetrated and victim, are also in me, because don’t I sometimes make wrong choices that hurt people? And am I not hurting myself?

I am convinced that a lot can be solved by continuing to connect with each other. By continuing to feel compassion for the victim and the perpetrated in others and in ourselves. By not letting fear and anger dominate, but love. By staying friendly, even to those you don’t know or understand and by continuing to make each other aware and live by how we can treat each other (and animals).

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