The heartless murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was one of those moments that reminded us yet again about the human capacity for the most heart-wrenching evil. There are several variants of the incident at the Saudi Arabia Embassy, in Istanbul, Turkey, around the world but I have not been able to get over Khashoggi’s case because of some facts that have emerged about how he was killed.
According to reports of an audio recording on the incident, the forensic expert that cut into pieces the warm body of Khashoggi, listened to music while his hands and eyes went to work. What kind of music took his consciousness away; while his sub-conscious handled the rest of the matter? What kind of music filled his hearing, dominating his mind while his subconscious guided his hands to cut through the body?
Music has always been a powerful instrument. It appears some music have the capacity to ‘deaden’ some kind of feelings, and arouse others. In terms of how the conscious and sub-conscious parts relate, behavioural scientists have long established that the two control behaviour with the sub-conscious controlling much of what is done, and the conscious controlling the peripheral aspects of behaviour. For example, we start learning to drive with our conscious but after some weeks of practice, the method and style we acquired during the period of practice is transmitted from the conscious to the sub-conscious. This explains why most learner drivers hardly do any other thing reasonably well when they are behind the wheels. But after weeks of practice, they are able to use the hands-free device of their mobile phones to hold a reasonable conversation, while they are driving. The conscious part is having the conversation through the hands-free while the sub-conscious is guiding the car on what to do.
Many human routine acts follow this same pattern. Clearly, for the medical doctor who cut up Khashoggi’s body, the action of cutting cadavers or dead bodies had moved from being an activity dominated by the conscious part of his person (when he was first introduced to the exercise in medical school) to one that was now chiefly controlled by his sub-conscious part; seeing that he has been cutting dead bodies for decades.
Since the music he listened to while doing his thing was something that was written, produced or programmed by artists, it throws up the possibility that music artists can similarly produce music, which rather than imprison feelings of guilt, shock and indifference, transporting the mind to ‘no-feel land;’ write, produce and programme music that will do just the opposite.
Might the solution to the many cases of violent crime in Nigeria today lie in music? Especially the variant that specifically targets the creation of some kind of reverse behaviour in the conduct of those who hear it? Can our music artists and professionals produce music capable of awakening feelings of concern, care, brotherhood and humanity? Seeing the amount of violence-related activity that is reported in the news every day, can Nigerian music artists and professionals consider the need to deliberately and specifically produce music that will evoke the right emotions that will check actions arising from trapped or ‘buried’ feelings of heart, consideration and humanity?