I’m not sure how much can be learnt from tragedy and horror.
The murder of Jastine Valdez in Bray, Co Wicklow on a bright Saturday evening on May 19 doesn’t leave us searching for lessons to be learnt.
It just leaves us with a sense of despair.
Despair that she was dragged off a street and bundled in to a car in the bright light of an early evening.
That she was then taken away and strangled.
How does this happen? How can a young woman’s life be taken like that?
Like watching those Crimewatch programmes that would almost convince you crime is imminent rather than rare is anything to be learnt though?
Are these just awful things carried out by randomly awful people?
Well, in the same week that Jastine Valdez, a 24-year-old only child, was so gruesomely murdered, police in Co. Antrim arrested two men for the 1988 murder of an eighteen-year-old woman who’d only been in the country two weeks.
Is there something to be learnt?
I’m not in bad nick but I’m getting on a bit now and I’ve got a dodgy knee.
But I’m never scared of walking down the street.
I’m never scared of walking down a quiet country lane.
I’m never scared of being somewhere remote on my own.
Of course I live in the beautiful Irish countryside now but I grew up in the inner city of a tough big city.
I wasn’t frightened then though either.
I wasn’t scared of walking home in the dark. I wasn’t frightened about getting home.
Now, that’s certainly not because I’m some kind of tough guy or someone who relishes a bit of aggro. Far from it.
It’s just because I’m a man. That’s all. If I was a woman I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been like that.
I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t have rolled home drunk after walking the dark inner city streets. Night after night.
I even believe I might think twice about those solo walks along these quiet country lanes.
Is there something horrible we should admit to?
In 2016 Alan Hawe killed himself in Co Cavan. He also murdered his wife and his three children. Again the country was stunned.
Was there anything to be learnt from that or was it just another, rare, nightmarish horror?
After all, most fathers, as in nearly all fathers, don’t do such things.
They don’t kidnap women off the street either. But some do. Some men do these things.
Men do these things and they invariably do them to women.
There is no comparison in scale, none at all, and I’m not suggesting for one minute that there is.
But that Ulster rape trial disturbed quite a few people. The reactions of men afterwards too.
And this is Ireland remember. It is generally accepted that we have fewer of the modern social strains than other places.
Certainly out here in the countryside life is slower, easier, less pressured than it would be in London, Birmingham or Manchester.
Likewise, Bray isn’t the Bronx. But here too, here in the slow lane, men are doing these things. Irishmen are. So the question is not about them being Irish, or being in quiet places or busy places. Having relaxed lives or pressured ones.
The question is, why do some men do this? Why do they kill and slaughter? Why do they rape and abuse?
Why do they use social media to denigrate? Why do they violently and tragically kill themselves, so young, so often?
The question is, is there a problem with men?
The media have talked for a while about a crisis in masculinity.
About toxic masculinity. I’m not sure most of us really knew what that was supposed to mean. Men struggling to be men isn’t something I can honestly say I’ve witnessed.
But just who are these men who do these things?
Are they simply an aberration?
Was Jastine Valdez just tragically unlucky to be walking that street at that time?
Was her heart-breaking murder, her young life cut so brutally short, just a random evil?
Or is there something else? Is there something deeper, something wrong with some of us, whether we are in Bray, Birmingham or Boston?
As a man, something of an old fashioned beer drinking, football loving man, I have to ask, because that murder was simply so appalling.
Is there something wrong with men?