Kevin Myers: Words of a bereaved father give me hope
Published 16/08/2011 | 18:00
Great men -- truly great men -- become great because they make us think. Of all human activities, thinking is the one that most defines us as humans, yet it's one that we do surprisingly seldom. Indeed, we often behave and talk as if we are incapable of thought, and all we can do is to repeat previous speeches, rethink old thoughts and re-enact earlier deeds. That is why we need great men.
Tariq Jahan is clearly such a man. His words after the murder of his son last week in Birmingham were awesomely, chillingly, momentously, powerful. On the page, they mean almost nothing: "Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise go home." But enunciated in his own very personal manner, drawing on deep personal wells of dignity, with a voice that was deep and calm and wise, they spoke to the soul -- the other bit that defines us poor, wretched, infirm creatures as "humans".
In one way, it's simple. Events such as the appalling scenes across much of England last week either confirm you in your pre-existing ideological beliefs, or they cause you to reflect. I said -- and I still believe -- that Britain has raised a generation of fatherless boys who have no role models; and I believed, and I still believe -- that the Afro-Caribbean community in Britain is particularly prone to this social trend. The statistic for the latter -- I said 60pc, which has subsequently appeared in the British media -- is probably a fair index of the problem. Neither of these assertions is necessarily a fact: they are what is known as "thoughts".