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Addressing the demons within

  • Published at 11:57 pm October 20th, 2019
A deeper issue at work?
A deeper issue at work? / COLLECTED

The killing of Abrar asks us to come out of a deliberately imposed illusion


The recent killing of Abrar has exposed several social aberrations: Coercion in the name of politics, repressive methods to break the willpowers of others, malignant bullying, and psychological disorders.

“In society, people try to adopt a personable image and hide many of the inner torments,” says MM Bushra, a psychosocial therapist at a counselling centre called Freedom Within. 

While it’s easy to swiftly point fingers at the young boys who beat up Abrar and demand the highest punishment for them, in our collective rage, the beasts within that trigger such savage behaviour are never addressed. 

What compels a person to beat up another without the thought that non-stop hitting can result in death?

The beating and mistreatment of junior students at BUET had been a known secret. If Abrar had not died, this would have gone on without any interruption. 

Many psychiatrists contend that violent behaviour is often sown into young minds from the family atmosphere where they grow up. 

Abrar’s killing is but one side of the diabolical social flaw; within the family sphere, there are countless situations which continue to batter the human mind. 

The devils we nurture

At Freedom Within, therapist Nasima Akter observes: “If you can open up about your problems, talking to others becomes easier.” 

While social development has resulted in economic comfort, the angst of the individual is often hidden under the glamour of affluence and materialistic pleasures, says Nasima, adding: “An unhappy family life can be a fertile ground for abusive behaviour to germinate.”

The same observation has been echoed by professional psychologists who feel that while the killers of Abrar must face the law, there should be efforts to understand what drove them to do what they did. 

The modern-day youth are tech-savvy, competitive, and vivacious, though under that veneer of buoyancy there are several layers of complexities that are allowed to fester, says Nasima. 

As an example, she mentioned the case of a young girl from a wealthy background who had lost interest in education and developed a deep sense of loathing for her father. 

“Initially, she was unwilling to accept that she has a problem but as she slowly began to open up, it became clear that the fault or her mental condition had its roots in the estranged relation between her father and mother.”

Many of the psychological issues faced by the young can be identified when the parents decide to admit that they may also have a problem. 

Unfortunately, most parents are either unwilling to acknowledge their faults or do not have the ability to see how their mistakes adversely impact their children, observes Nasima. 

Teenage anxieties

In Bangladesh, the common response to teenage problems is: “This is nothing! You will get over it in time.” Of course, many cannot deal with the issues on their own and trivializing them only isolates the young. 

For guardians, one of the main focuses in life is to secure a financial platform and in doing so, they belittle all other human complexities, especially those affecting their children. 

For a twenty-year-old, anxieties over grades, romance, break-ups, height, weight, or skin tone may be the most crucial things in life, which adults regularly fail to relate to. 

In the same manner, mistreatment at college or university by seniors is dismissed by relatives, with many saying: “This is part of academic life, it happened to us too.”

When adults simply quash the concerns of the young, the latter is left to cope with the problems on their own.

There are countless instances which show that young minds fail to deal with these travails and end up taking their own lives. 

Coming back to the killers of Abrar, they are BUET students too, which means that they are also talented and meritorious. Yet, they chose to engage in vicious behaviour, creating a reign of terror. 

One is reminded of the book, Lord of the Flies.

The overarching theme of this work is the conflict between an impulse of savagery in the human mind and the rules of civilization designed to restrain it. 

Without doubt, for the killers of Abrar, civil behviour was overtaken by inner demons. A Bangla Tribune report ran a story about one of the accused, known to be a very gentle boy in his village. 

The report further stated that when the people learnt of the youngster’s involvement in the beating and killing of Abrar, they were shocked. 

Here, we may be dealing with dual personalities or a personality which is a master of dissimulation. Human history is replete with examples of popular leaders turning into repressive despots once given power.

In other cases, oppressive situations seen within the family sphere lie dormant and re-emerge in an environment which encourages violence, aggression, and exploitation. 

This society has the tendency to portray a very ideal picture of family life, refusing to admit that within the family, there may be countless scenarios which may sow seeds of depravity and aberrant behaviour. To be honest, some of the harmful influence can come from parents too. 

The killing of Abrar asks us to come out of this deliberately imposed illusion and address the beasts within. 

As Nietzsche said: “Sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth because we don’t want our illusions shattered.” 

Towheed Feroze is a News Editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.