What did you see as a child that affected you for the rest of your life?

Answer by Rory Young:

When I was eleven years old I saw something that changed me forever. I have never spoken about it since just after it happened and then only to my family. I think it is about time I did.

I was in Blantyre in Malawi where we lived. My mother and step-father were in a restaurant. I had finished eating and had been allowed to go for a walk while they relaxed and chatted over their meal.

As I was walking across a small park a man appeared. He was tall and thin and his clothes were torn. He was carrying something in his hand and he was sprinting towards me.

Behind him was a group of men. They were shouting and trying to catch him. Further back was a larger group, mostly men but also women and children.

As they came close they caught up to him and knocked him down. I realized his clothes had been torn by the crowd and I knew exactly what was going on.

I had seen thieves chased and caught at a distance before. Someone would  shout “kabulala” (crook) and everyone would run after and try to catch the accused person. I had also already seen things a child should not see. What was about to happen though was far worse than anything I had seen or any child or adult should see.

The mob began to beat him viciously. They were not trying to drag him off to the police. They were kicking him beating him with sticks. Then some began jumping onto him with all their weight and strength. I could hear the sounds of the impacts.

The man was crying and screaming and begging for mercy. I could clearly see the terror in his face. There was pink blood frothing out of his mouth. I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t move or look away. I was frozen in place. Many of the people were laughing. No one was trying to stop it.

A couple of men picked up a large rock and carried it through the crowd. They dropped it on his head. He went quiet but his eyes and mouth were wide open but there was no scream. Then they picked it up again and brought it down on his head with full force.

Immediately afterwards the crowd dispersed and I was still in the same spot looking at the scene. I can still picture it in crystal clear detail, including the item on the floor that the man had been carrying. It was a crushed packet of biscuits.

My step-father found me sitting on the ground shaking and hyperventilating.I don’t recall that or how long I was there. I do know that he carried me away before the police came.

He was a former professional soldier in the Rhodesian Army and his “cure” was to tell me I had to be a man and now I knew what life was all about. I suppose that was harsh but true. Either way I never looked at the world the same way again.

I still see the laughing faces and I can still see his face. For a long time I would see the faces of that crowd reflected in the those of people I met. I would be become immediately cold towards them regardless of who they were or what the consequences. This later developed into a greater problem but that is another story.

Something that has haunted me ever since is that I had in my pocket, as an eleven year old, enough money to have bought five packets of those biscuits.

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2 thoughts on “What did you see as a child that affected you for the rest of your life?

  1. You are right, that is something no child should witness.
    I hope you know that there was nothing you could have done at the time. Unfortunately sometimes people develop a group mentality and end up doing things that they would have never done if they were by themselves.
    Even the best of us can become monsters.

    • Yes, people do not realize the potential both positive and negative that we all have. We are what we do often and therefore the answer to ensuring that we “rise to the occasion” when necessary is to constantly make the right choices in mundane and bland daily situations..
      Thanks for all your positive feedback!

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