Yet Another Form of Wickedness


Olivia Pratt-Korbell, 9 years old, posed no threat to anybody outside the normal, trivial, transactions of decent and loving family life. And that is no threat at all.

9 years old. Let us remember that bit.

What does a 9 year old child wonder about? The only thing a 9 year old should be thinking about is what it is like to turn 10. Or when her “crush” does.

Olivia – hold her name in your heart please – did not get to appreciate the urgency of “climate change”.  Was she given time to? I hope we don’t suffocate the emotional complexity of a child with our own emotionally suffocating preoccupations. I hope she ran free and awoke every morning free of the imposition of climate orthodoxy; that she just wanted to play. The careless play of children, we all remember, is the most beautiful play of all. It is both obedient and rebellious. The best shorthand to life.

Or maybe she did? Maybe the “person”- loosely defined, who stole her life – saw himself as an agent of some wider cause?

What was inflicted on her was this:  as consequence of a random incident in the street, strangers broke into her home. And shot her in the chest.

Yes, you read that right.

An incident, by the way, that had nothing to do with her. Until she was shot in the chest. At 9 years old.

9 years old. Let’s remember that bit.

There is no reason, or as any form of wider excuse, that can explain this one away. I used to go through the arguments in my head, the second amendment ones: that the best protection against government is to arm yourself against it. This is an almost unique tragedy. But not quite.

I was about to write something about a similar evil which also “happened” in Liverpool. One which exposed the potential wickedness of the human soul. But I do not have to, because you will gather the meagre crumbs of my thoughts.

I reach into my back pocket of theological arguments about the nature of evil. The book of Job, the timeless cost benefit analysis etc. But I am coming up empty. It is all abstract and we are supposed to believe in a personal God. He will come back to me but now His rightful place is with Olivia.

9 years old. Remember that bit.

Sean Walsh is a former university teacher in the philosophy of mind. That was a while ago – but he keeps up with the subject. 2015-2017 he was slightly homeless. He now writes and is the very proud father of a wonderful child. He is grateful for everything he has.