Road To Hell

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.


Many things piss me off in life, but probably none more so than bullies, especially those who won’t take responsibility for their actions and, when confronted with their behaviour, hide behind the pathetic plea of ‘it was just a joke.’

Comedy is of course subjective, but when someone or their misfortune is the butt of it, to them at least, it’s far from funny.

Recently, in the news has been the story of two Australian radio presenters whose prank telephone call to a hospital may have led to the suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha. Until the full facts of the case are known, it will not be certain why Jacintha chose to end her life.

Many have said that even though the prank call and its subsequent broadcast may have been ill-conceived and in poor taste, no one could have foreseen that it would cause one of its victims to kill herself.

Really? No one could have considered that publicly humiliating someone and possibly causing them to fear for their job might result in their suicide? What no one at all?

Maybe I have a warped way of thinking, but I do try to consider the consequences of my actions before I act in any kind of extreme way.

Maybe this has something to do with writing fiction: the tendency to extrapolate all possible outcomes of a particular situation; maybe it has something to do with having been bullied myself and understanding how wretched, how close to the edge, it makes you feel.

It is important to understand that it is not always the case that someone who commits suicide has many things go wrong in their life, or that they are ‘fragile’. Sometimes one inciting incident can be to blame. Of course there could be a downward spiral of subsequent events that ultimately leads to the suicide, but even if there are, the person would still be alive were it not for that one thing that tipped them over the edge.

When someone kills him or herself, they believe that is their only option, that it is the ‘right’ thing to do. It is not a selfish act, as some think. Selfish people rarely kill themselves, as they generally manage to make sure their lives work out exactly how they want them to.

Someone who takes their own life usually feels, how ever misguidedly, that the world, and the lives of their loved ones will be better without them.

For some, the end comes via a swift method, for others it is a slow decline perhaps from alcohol or drug addiction. Still suicide, but drawn out over years or decades, because although their life is unbearable, somewhere in the back of their mind they realise that their death will hurt others, so they end their lives indirectly, not realising that their destructive lifestyle has been hurting those they love all along.

But what of jokers, pranksters, whose actions lead to someone’s death. Are they culpable? Or should their claims that they didn’t mean for it to happen absolve them of all blame?

Sometimes not intending for something to happen doesn’t make you blameless. No one gets behind the wheel of a car intending to kill someone, but if you drive drunk, or recklessly and then unintentionally kill or injure someone, then of course it’s your fault.

There is a world of difference between an accident and an unintended consequence. An accident is something you could not have foreseen or prevented. An unintended consequence of a reckless act is both foreseeable and preventable, and when there’s a tragic outcome it’s because the perpetrator couldn’t be bothered to think things through, and just assumed that everything would be ok because they considered their immediate need to be greater than anyone else’s potential injury.

Everyone acts recklessly from time to time. In future try a little ‘what if’ before doing so. Put yourself in the position of the person on the receiving end of your actions. Think like the Dr Pepper advert and ask yourself ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ Take the idea to its absolute extreme and imagine what might be the worst possible outcome of your actions.

Some have said that if you have to think so hard before ‘playing a joke’ on someone, then you won’t be able to do anything. That’s only half right. You just won’t be able to do anything cruel or mean-spirited.