The New Yorker of November 9, 2009 has a fascinating review of a book by “Randolph Roth, whose book “American Homicide” (Harvard; $45) offers a vast investigation of murder, in the aggregate, and over time. Roth’s argument is profoundly unsettling. There is and always has been, he claims, an American way of murder. It is the price of our politics.
Roth attempts to graft LaFree’s argument onto all of American history. He has determined that four factors correlate with the homicide rate: faith that government is stable and capable of enforcing just laws; trust in the integrity of legitimately elected officials; solidarity among social groups based on race, religion, or political affiliation; and confidence that the social hierarchy allows for respect to be earned without recourse to violence. When and where people hold these sentiments, the homicide rate is low; when and where they don’t, it’s high.”
I studied this information a little carefully as the latest issue of India’s Outlook magazine has an amazing take on the subject of urban crime in India and as I maintain, there just seems to be too much serendipity in these matters. The outlook magazine’s survey pointed out a disturbing trend of young urban Indians being the killers with the number increasing every year.
The percentage of young, urban killers in the 18-30 age group is climbing year by year
- 2003: 38.03
- 2004: 39.76
- 2005: 40.19
- 2006: 41.46
- 2007: 43.14
I went to the web and found that the following is the comparative statistics of the number of homicides per 100,000 population per annum of the countries from which most of my readers come;
India – 2.82; the USA – 5.80; the UK – 2.03, Northern Ireland – 2.48 and Scotland – 2.13. Being the incurable Indian that I am I also found that the rate for Pakistan was 6.86 and China was 2.36.
Ahem, Pakistan can now claim to be superior in something to India and Al Ham dul Illah, the USA too!
Humour apart, some of the fators that Roth identifies as being responsible for high incidences of homicide seem to fit the Indian situation too. In a macabre way then, be it American or Indian, motivating or demotivating factors for the citizens of both the countries seem to be the same. So, the saw, people are the same everywhere. The reasons attributed in India in the survey show the following to be most important: Warped sense of right and wrong; Break down of the family bonds and norms; Violent fantasies; Will to kill; The belief that one can get away with the crime; Prolonged/Sudden provocation; Possibility of easy money; Sexual frustration; Television/films; Perceived injustice/humiliation; Inability to realize aspirations.
One can write volumes on each of the motivating factors as each has its unique place in urban India today. When all or more than two or three of the factors come together, it is a recipe for disaster.
Sometimes, I despair for the youth of my country. When articles like these appear it breaks my heart that urbanization is taking its toll on the future of this country. The solution of urbanizing the rural parts is going on at such a slow rate that I despair about that too.
I cannot visualize being able to murder, no matter what provocation or motivation. Can you?