Saturday, September 13, 2008

Boys will be boys

The great American criminologist Marvin Wolfgang found in his 1958 book Patterns in Criminal Homicide that an amazing 37% of homicides resulted from "altercations of relatively trivial origin; insult, curse, jostling, etc.". That is, a large proportion of murders are committed for utterly trivial reasons: some guys get into an argument, tempers flare, things escalate and someone ends up dead. (This work, incidentally, has held up in replicated since). I have just come across probably the purest example of this kind of homicide. It utterly boggles my mind. Not far from where I live, three men were shot dead and two others wounded following an argument over penis size. (No, really). According to the M&G, this is what happened:
The argument apparently began when a patron of Indian descent made a comment about the size of a white patron's genitals while both were at the tavern's urinals.

An officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "The white man went to the toilet and an Indian guy followed him. While in the urinal, the Indian man told the white man that his penis was bigger than his [that of the white man].

"The white man left the urinal and told his friends about what had happened and this is when the argument started."

Vulgarities were exchanged and then a group of five Indian men left the restaurant. All five returned with firearms.

Mngomezulu said: "The men opened fire and three victims aged between 30 and 55 years died on the spot. Another two were rushed to St Augustine's Hospital in a critical condition."
It's likely that racial slurs were exchanged and thus the murders were about more than genital size. But that three men could be murdered, two severely injured and five others set to face long jail sentences because of an argument that originated in something as pathetically trivial as who's penis is larger is mind boggling.

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