Wednesday, August 20, 2008


If you are in South Africa, you will have read about the "Satanic" murder committed by a schoolboy on Monday.

My sympathies go out to the children and the parents involved, also to the other pupils in the school. But I have a number of problems with this highly publicised "Satanic" killing.

Firstly, how did a teenager bring a sword into school unchallenged?

Secondly, a sword murder does not come out of nowhere. Did no-one ever notice that this boy was emotionally/psychologically distressed? He apparently had an obsession with ninjas and made masks that represented, among others, child abuse. Didn't alarm bells ring for anyone??

Thirdly, "devil worship" is, in my experience, a reaction against an oppressive religious upbringing and not to be confused with LaVeyan Satanism, which, although incompatible with my ethics in a number of regards, has absolutely nothing to do with worshipping Satan, or any other deity for that matter. The Church of Satan certainly does not advocate murder.

Fourth, does "bad Satanic music" cause violence or does a teenager listen to it because he/she is unhappy already? A lot of empirical research still needs to be done on this topic but so far it would seem that "a broad array of risk factors unrelated to popular culture (e.g., depression, access to guns, substance abuse, etc.) ... seem to be precursors of such drastic acts" (Roberts, Christenson, and Gentile, 2003) and that parents are not absolved of their responsibility to be aware of their children's emotional states: "If you like your child’s friends and his/her grades are fine, then there’s probablyvery little to worry about from the lyric content of the songs he/she likes...Thus, if your child is listening to angry-sounding music for three hours each day, that may signal a reason for concern. It may be likely that your child is angry about something and is dwelling on those feelings." (Roberts et al, 2003).

Update: While composing this I found this article - the words of Morne Harmse's parents. I feel sorry for these people but especially for the boy. Being bullied as a child, being quiet and introverted by nature, low self-esteem, stress, ill-chosen coping mechanisms - I am not surprised at the end result. I am just sad and disappointed that two young lives have been destroyed by a disaster that could have been prevented.

I will rant and rave later at what I perceive to be the inadequacies of our current school system, and increasing levels of disengagement between parents and their children. I will also express the fears I have concerning the renewed wave of Satanic Panic we seem to be experiencing. For now I will just keep in my thoughts all those affected by this tragedy.

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