We were sitting in the conference room at the Ukarimu Ministries’ Annual General Meeting and retreat, participating in an icebreaker. We were discussing favourite and/or famous quotes that have had impact on us and why. One member spoke up, saying that one quote that has had considerable impact on him was one attributed to Thomas Hobbes, who quoted an ancient Latin proverb, which said “Homo homini lupus est”. The translation is “Man is a wolf to man”.
I have to admit that I was a bit puzzled at first. Admittedly, I was thinking more along the lines of favourite quotes and most of us there were citing such sayings, most being along more positive lines. So, this proverb that man is a wolf to man was a bit of a downer and had me wondering what kind of person has this quote as a ‘favourite’ quotation. Of course, he explained his selection and wound up with how this proverb is a constant reminder to him that without Christ, we all can so easily degenerate to an animal-like predatory condition even to our own kind. It is only Christ that changes our hearts, enabling us to rise above such base animal instincts, restoring us to the condition in which we were originally created to be.
That made me think. You see, that very day, we had had such a clear demonstration of mankind sinking to this base predatory instinct right on our own Daystar campus. The students had been pushing to meet with administration to try to resolve some issues of considerable concern. There had been wrangling back and forth between the two sides all term, culminating in this crisis on Thursday and Friday. There were serious errors on both sides. Now, the students had called for a strike and the administration was insisting they disperse and go home. They did not. On Friday, riot police were called in and began dispersing the crowd with tear gas and pellets shot at them. There was general pandemonium and students ran in all directions, screaming, terrified. We were frightened too, hearing this chaos from a distance of a 15-minute walk away, in our home. But, bad as this was, this wasn’t what made me think of man being a wolf to man. It was what followed.
As far as I know, the point was to get the students to leave campus and go home…because the campus had been closed due to the crisis. The assumption is that this was to give people a chance to calm down and to try to strategize on the way to address the crisis. But, the police went beyond dispersing what could have turned into a dangerous crowd and making students leave campus. They actually chased them throughout the surrounding neighbourhoods and shops shooting the pellets (which most assumed were live bullets, thus increasing their terror) and lobbing tear gas after them. We ourselves could hear screams and shots all around us. It was obvious the students were being chased in all directions. What happened?
I think once the police got permission to clear the campus and started lobbing tear gas, seeing the fear in the students, something else took over. You hear it said that one should not show fear to a wild beast because it can smell fear and that it makes the beast attack. My personal opinion is that this often happens even with mankind, especially the one with power (e.g. a lot of money or the one with the gun). It is the sin that resides in mankind that makes him ‘wild’ He senses the fear, he sees the power he has over all these people, and suddenly a base, predatory instinct takes over and voila, you have people going to all kinds of extremes preying over their fellow human beings. I doubt seriously that there was any order to chase students through the community. I suspect the police simply overstepped their boundaries and became ‘wolves’, in the excitement of the hunt.
This was not the only incident either. Not too long ago, there was an incident of ‘mob justice’ (I prefer to call it mob injustice) in a neighbourhood nearby, where a man was accused of being a thief and was beaten and burned to death by some of the residents. This is a shameful thing in and of itself, but made worse in that most of the people in the community insist this man was innocent, that he was simply a drunkard sleeping off the night’s drunk. The belief is that the perpetrators of this act were in fact leaders in the community security committee! Vigilantism at its worst. Again, a case of the ones with power, sensing an opportunity to exercise it, seeing the fear of the crowds and preying on the victim…their fellow human being. Now, no one dares file a police statement, accusing the guilty, because they live among them, they shop in the same stores, they go to the same churches! They could be the next falsely accused ‘thief’, the next prey!
Where does it end? What hope is there for mankind? One can easily despair of our human race. Watching the news can be so depressing! But fortunately, there is hope. As our fellow board member pointed out so poignantly on Friday night, as we kept tabs on updates of the situation on campus, the only hope is in Jesus. He is the only one who can change us on the inside, forgiving our sin, taking away that predatory instinct and replacing it with His love, His wisdom, His values. The Kingdom of God operates in a totally different way than the kingdoms of this world. The world simply cannot understand it and it does not make any sense at all to most people in this world. That’s OK. The job of true believers (not just those who go to church or say they believe in God) is to spread the good news and to let God do His transforming work in human hearts, taking away that wolf-like quality. This is the hope I want to give to others in this ‘man is wolf to man’ world!