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Chemical castration is the enemy of justice

As a proud survivor of child abuse at the hands of my Barbadian aunt’s husband when I was just 8 years old, I read backbencher Zane DeSilva’s comments with dyspeptic irritability. Yet again he exercises the politician’s prerogative to appeal to the tribal and atavistic instincts that reside in the human hindbrain and amygdala.

The power of these hindbrain processes, as American psychologist William James and Martinique-born psychiatrist Franz Fanon teach us, is that our convictions originate in depth emotion and feeling. This is followed by strident, energetic impulses that lead to actions before the prefrontal, executive functions of our brain — thoughts, decisions, choices, reason and logic — have even awoken from a deep sleep.

This kind of process is essential to life on a planet that has been out to get human beings for all of our 200,000 years on this Earth. From viruses and bacteria to lions and leopards and hyenas, to meteor strikes and the reality that 98 per cent of the water on this planet isn’t potable are but a few examples that this Earth was not created with humankind in mind. This tells me that this planet, by pure caprice, “gives and she takes away; she gives life and she destroys life as a potent, avenging angel of death and destruction. Blessed be her name”.

The ability to act before thinking saves lives, as any one of us with children, elderly parents, pets and gardens can attest. Before a child is born, the emotions/feelings and impulses are in motion in their parents’ brains many moons earlier. The act of sexual creation takes place way before we have a thought or made a logical assessment of our environment. Second, our ability to smell smoke and act saves lives from fires way before our prefrontal cortex and her planning, thinking and rational functions have even been engaged. And it saves lives.

On the other side of this equation are racism, sexism, gay bashing and white privilege. These are all deeply entrenched because they are enacted before thinking and in advance of moral, humanistic, responsible and ethical thinking have begun. That’s why all anti-racism and diversity work fails. They trade in information for the prefrontal cortex, leaving the other 80 per cent of the brain, where the “ism” actually resides, intact and reinforced.

It’s the same thing when we choose sports teams. I did not “choose” to be a life supporter of St George’s Cricket Club in Cup Match and Dandy Town in football. I support Barcelona in La Liga and Manchester United in the Premier League because all the men in my family were supporters of these clubs. I ingested this by osmosis.

What that most precious backbencher, DeSilva, and those trenchant bandwagon hoppers fail to realise is this: the law is a pathetic and useless tool in the fight for anything called justice. It cannot rehabilitate; it can only warehouse offenders as “punishment”. The crimes committed cannot and will not ever be atoned for. Redemption, forgiveness and love of enemy are delusions.

Even if a murderer gets a life sentence, the person killed is still dead and is never coming back. The courts are impotent when it comes to crime and punishment. Those wigs, gowns and pompous polysyllabic legalese are evidence that the emperor through the Queen has no clothes.

It is to ascend Mount Olympus to discover that Zeus never existed.

A paedophile, whether they are male or female, and the survivor families are part of our citizenry and nothing we can do can make that false. I want to be clear that even with its evil and mendacious intent, some of us — and I am a living, breathing example — survived and now thrive after childhood, sexual molestation. The kneejerk “solution of chemical castration” may salve your blood lust, Mr DeSilva, but that is what we call in my mental health, pastoral profession an amygdala takeover.

You are a prisoner of your impulses to punish, and your thoughts and reasoning when they do wake up are just there to provide you with a story of self-justifications, reasons and arguments for your inhuman and vain intensions. That’s just not cricket. That is not how we Bermudians roll, my friend. You are better than that. Bermuda is indeed another world, where “lambs and foxes” lay down together and make offspring. We do not chop the hands off persons that steal; we do not rape rapists or kill killers or abuse abusers in my Bermuda. Castrating paedophiles chemically sends the message that not all the citizens of my country have human rights. That includes all the survivors and their families, as well as all the convicted child molesters. Both require specific help and support because survivors and their oppressors are different, and that difference must be maintained.

What is your endgame, Mr DeSilva? Is this where you take a stand and flex your best mental reflexes? Are you even capable of deeper and more cogent reasoning than paedophilia disgusts you therefore chemical castration is your “solution”?

No one in Bermuda will challenge the reality that our children must be protected from predators. I was once an eight-year-old member of that group. That requires no thought. What requires thought and leadership is to make the decision to ensure through separate means that children are protected and supported for life, and offenders are also supported and cared for in prison for life or during supervised release. Why? Because we are an enlightened democracy. Bermuda is not Saudi Arabia. Or the African Congo or Donald Trump’s America. Criminality does not detract from any offender’s humanity. Humane treatment for all is the bedrock of Bermudian jurisprudence, regardless of offence or offender. Our British overlords could not and cannot master that. And, of, course neither does sexual molestation diminish the humanity of any survivor.

However, how we treat those who are the worst offenders against our legal norms says everything about who we are as Bermudians and residents of my Atlantic haven. Remember the French philosopher Voltaire told us that “perfect [justice] is the enemy of the Good”.

Mr DeSilva, I entreat you to use your political power, and to let your atavistic desires for revenge die a natural death. Then and only then, when your passions have cooled, will you be able to offer help to two communities; both the offenders and the survivors need justice.

As a survivor at the hands of a paedophilic uncle, I am appealing to the greater angels of your nature. Please do not let down the community of survivors. It’s your move now.

The Reverend John-Anthony Burchall M. Div, of the Lyndale United Church of Christ, is a former Royal Gazette reporter and magazine writer. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Today he lives with his wife in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and his pastoral work has a specific remit for mental health and suicide prevention. He is a certified group facilitator through Mental Health Minnesota, specialising in recovery and wellness work