A conscience call

Dr Errol Benjamin -
Dr Errol Benjamin -


YOUR SENSE of shame is the marker of your humanity, your personal dignity and self-respect, indeed your soul as a child of God, as some say, and without it you are less than human, nearer to the brute, more so of Hell as one newspaper would describe some of the matrons of our children’s homes.

Your shame is your conscience call nurtured out of a developing sense of remorse over wrongdoing, that natural compunction out of a sense of right and wrong to which you will have been exposed in the home, in the school, among your peers, in you relationships at large and is your moral compass to act as your check and balance in your myriad behaviours.

As a people many seem to have lost that sense of shame, for how else can we explain the chopping to death of a ten-year old, or the likely negligence or possible foul play in the death of two-year-old Kimani Francis, or a daughter charged with murdering a mother, or a murderer returning to kill the mother after the son was murdered. Or, on a different dimension, the desecration of places of worship, demonstrably so in one instance in an act which is the ultimate violation of a Hindu place of worship.

I am not including the now “standard” horrific spate of murders virtually drowning us in blood, but only those, above all, that should have wrenched the smallest iota of conscience from the perpetrators, but never did. Such a conscience call would have qualified them to be at least minimally “human,” but it was never there, or was simply inert, dead, totally neutralising their humanity, pointing instead to a kind of hellish bestiality.

Is this what our beloved rainbow country has become? Because we were never like this a few decades ago with the odd murder an oddity, an aberration. Maybe the bad seed is from the home where poverty values the returns from the “white powder” in which the young are obliged to traffic instead of the report card from school. Or from some schools where there is glamour in “street fighting” and the walls of the school library more like a prison from which to escape rather than a repository of knowledge and wisdom. Or because of some churches that choose not to minister to the “sick” but to glory in the “saved.” Or among peers to indulge in the outlandish and the rebellious to qualify for membership.

And this when you were a child!

But when you became a man you put away these childish things to see the gang as your salvation, to be enamoured by the bling that glitters but not the gold seal of an academic certificate, to see none as your neighbour, brother, sister or friend to love and respect as in the normal expectation of the human condition, but simply to exploit or eliminate to serve yourself.

Sadly, you would not have been obliged to go down this road of becoming almost inhuman if you had the right role models to follow. But ironically you do have models to follow, but those who feed into your own inhumanity like the arrogance and the misuse of power at the highest level and their tacit condoning of wrongdoers who serve them, the lying and cheating for self-gain which swirl around us, the cover-ups and deception which we see on a daily basis, the deafening silence of those who should speak out against wrongdoing, and most of all a judicial system that virtually gives you the green light to breaking all the rules of civilised behaviour with impunity.

How then is the would-be criminal expected to feel a sense of shame, to have a conscience call, to be momentarily checked by the thought of his own personal dignity and self-respect if he has been nurtured in a world where such values are almost non-existent?

When Lady Macbeth in that great play by Shakespeare conspired with her husband to kill the gracious King Duncan – a crime against nature – the call of conscience drove her to madness and suicide, and Macbeth himself would be driven to a devastating sense of remorse over his unnatural act, realising only too late that it was his “vaulting ambition” (our own greed and lust for blood) that propelled him to such a heinous crime.

If only time stood still and such values still governed our lives.


"A conscience call"

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