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There are a couple of things in this world I find quite fascinating. But the single thing that tends to hold my horrified fascination above little else is the human capacity for utter brutality.

Once in my dimly remembered youth (i.e. more than a week ago) I was a member of the South African Defense Force on the border of Namibia and Angola, whom we as a country were at war with at that point.

Of my memories of that period, one remains with me with a special vividness. We guys were playing rugby in the river with some of the PB (“Plaaslike Bevolking” – Local population) lads — something we did fairly frequently. We were having quite a good game, soldiers versus the local civilians. Let me tell you, once they get to grips with the concept of the game they play a hell of a game of rugby!

Things were going quite well, we were winning, as was our wont — we’d been playing rugby for years and they had only recently learned the game, after all — when all of a sudden all of the PB lads ran for the bushes.

We were still looking around non-plussed when we noticed that the police had arrived — in force, as usual. Since we had no idea where the lads had disappeared off to and since we had no philosophical or other quandaries with handing them bloody noses for spoiling a good game, they didn’t linger.

To understand the situation you have to know that the police normally sent some of the worst of their people to guard the border region and, we have been told, Police brutality was rife.

It is a sad thing, for a soldier especially, when you realise that you — whose job it is to potentially get violent with these people — are trusted far more than the police — who are supposed to actually protect the people.

Okay, so what has brought all of this back, you may ask. Well, the BBC has a story of firefighters being ambushed while merely trying to do their work, keeping people property safe and protecting other property and people from fire.

What makes the story particularly sick is that people were taking photos of the attack on the firemen with their cell-phones. An act of “Recreational Violence”…

As you may see from my ‘blog, I’ve suggested a potential solution to that problem, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But removing my tongue from my cheek I need to state most emphatically that this is not the action one would expect from a “First World” country.

It is starting to appear to me more and more that the major differences between first and third world countries is this:

  1. The “First World” is way more arrogant and,
  2. The third world is more civil…

Whether you happen to agree with me or not is, of course, your prerogative.

But let me add that, in my opinion at least, the only difference between these thugs in Belfast and the police on the Angolan border is this: the police wore uniforms.