Monday 5 December 2016

How the death of a child breaks open the human heart

Dr Paul D'Alton

Published 05/09/2015 | 02:30

Aylan Kurdi
Aylan Kurdi
Aylan Kurdi's lifeless body is taken from the shore on a Turkish beach

The tide has turned. The death of a child breaks open the human heart like nothing else. The death of a child changes the rules. The death of a child breaks down our psychological defences in a way that is utterly unique. The image of three-year-old Aylan washed up on a beach in the holiday resort of Bodrum, Turkey, has cut through months of passivity, politicisation and procrastination.

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The death of a child changes everything because it goes to the core of what it is to be human. It activates our most basic psychological drive to protect what is most vulnerable; our children. This drive to protect children is a primitive, hard-wired brain function that has ensured our survival as a species down through the centuries. The drive to protect is paradoxically our most primitive brain function and also what makes us most human. It cuts across ideology, right and left politics, religion and international politics.

In the pictures of Aylan Kurdi washed up on the beach, we see our children. His little shoes and his red T-shirt are unbearably similar to the clothes many of us dressed our children in this morning.

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