When gunman Stephen Paddock struck on October 1, 2017 killing at least 59 people attending a music concert in Las Vegas it was, perhaps, thought to be another terrorist atrocity from the usual suspects. But, it turned out, Paddock was a ‘sole actor’, who meticulously planned and callously executed the worst shooting spree by a ‘lone wolf’ in America’s history. Paddock was an unusual criminal, who had many privileges mitigating the enormity of his crime.
He was a cold-blooded murderer and terrorist whose privileges shielded (and still shield) from the names his infamy has earned him. He was neither a man of colour nor was he one of the ‘wrong’ faith. He was neither poor nor was he unprivileged enough to have been exposed to the often vilifi ed, left-wing (rebellious) ideologies. He was simply a privileged ‘lone wolf’ who quietly crafted his murderous script, discreetly scripted the vile acts and, although ‘out of character’, vigilantly evaded detection and viciously felled not a few innocent concert goers.
He was a vicious murderer and terrorist, who could frankly not be called by these names because of his mitigating privileges. And because of these privileges we hear about his business wisdom and successes in real estate, his lawabiding demeanour and a refl exive turnaround, possibly fuelled by a sudden fancy for gambling and, likely, how huge losses might have infl uenced his unsportsmanlike behaviour. We hear about his tender past in a shared home with a 90-year-old mum to whom he recently mailed a walking aid; about his troubled past linked to anxiousness for which Nevada internist Steven P. Winkler prescribed diazepam (Valium), whose side effects include rage, aggressiveness and irritability.
We are given a glimpse of his diffi cult upbringing caused by an absentee father, a certifi ed ‘psychopath’ with an inclination for suicide, who went to prison for a series of bank robberies, and how a helpless mum raised Paddock and his three siblings on a secretary’s salary. His humorous, good-natured past and a knack for legitimately making money are highlighted in interviews with carefully selected family members and friends, who all say Paddock was a decent man and that something very unusual must have happened to provoke the despicable act.
“I wish I could tell you he was a miserable bastard, that I hate him, that if I could have killed him myself I would have…But I can’t say that. It’s not who he was. We need to fi nd out what happened to him. Something happened to my brother,” says a younger brother, Eric Paddock. And the rationalisation continues as the police, talking about Paddock’s past record, say “the guy…did not cause any problems at any time,” while US President Donald Trump described him as a “very, very sick individual”, promising the discussion on gun laws would continue.
Meanwhile, as the dead are buried and the injured convalesce, curiously, not so much is said about the 22,000 victims of his atrocity, most of whom would be permanently scarred by their experience, despite not doing anything to cause his troubles in the fi rst place.
To these victims, dead or living, he would remain an egregious monster, a dreadful murderer and remorseless terrorist, who no amount or intensity of rationalisation can present as otherwise. Of male privileges Th e controversy the appointment of Aisha Ahmad as a Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has generated did not completely come to me as a surprise, although I did not expect the dimension it took.
To start with, I had expected grumbles about her age and ethnicity, particularly about her northern background because every appointment by this regime is often criticised along ethnic and or religious divides. But because neither her professional experience nor academic credential was in doubt, I did not expect to hear anyone complain about those, although one would be very naïve to totally rule that out. So, when I started seeing a picture of her circulated in the social media with unprintable captions I was taken aback.
And the purveyors of this campaign claim it was in discharge of their duty to call to guidance. Fair enough. Allah (SWT) says “But teach (thy message) for teaching benefi ts the believers” (Q51:55). Based, on this verse of the Holy Qur’an drawing a believer (or even non-believer) away from wrongdoings is a harmless duty. But Allah also says to the Prophet (SAW) “Th erefore do thou give admonition, for thou art the one to admonish.
Th ou art not one to manage (men’s) aff airs” (Q88:21- 22). In appreciating our roles as admonishers we probably often forget our limitations. While we can admonish in the hope that it will serve as guidance we must not fail to understand that guidance is solely Allah’s and He alone guides whom He so pleases. And this is what some of those I encountered on social media refused to understand or accept. Th ey also failed to understand that their threat to use force or blackmail to compel others to do the right things is not tenable because they have no authority or legitimacy to do so.
But what I fi nd very hypocritical is the selective approach to dealing with problems like this. Examples abound, in the past, where the focus was solely on women while similarly sordid acts by men were excused. Of all the vices in the country or region, to be candid, Aisha’s wardrobe is the least of all worries. We should be talking more about rape (even of babies as young as six months old), about those sodomising innocent little boys in dormitories in boarding schools, about government offi cials who loot public treasury, and about market men and women who triple prices of commodities at will or fraudulently retail low quality products. We should talk more about the millions of young men and women ruined by drugs, many of whom were pushed into it by idleness and hopelessness. Above all, let’s admonish ourselves for our roles in directly or indirectly causing or fuelling one or more of these problems.