KILLING COMES VERY EASY TO THE HUMAN RACE.
In fact it comes too easy. It has become ingrained in our minds down through history that killing is not only acceptable but also necessary. Taking life is something we are willing to tolerate if we believe it is beneficial to our own lives. How did we get to this point? Why are we so blasé about ending life? Why are we numb to the news that someone with a gun has gone on a rampage and killed a dozen people? Why do we ignore the smuggled information that a country has executed hundreds of dissidents? Why do we passively accept the deaths of 30,000 human beings each day from extreme poverty?
Killing is an accepted part of our society. In fact, some people actually kill for a living. For example, we pay exterminators and veterinarians to end various forms of life. Whether it’s to eliminate unwanted rodents or to put your beloved cat out of its suffering we are more than willing to have someone else do our killing for us. People employed in the food chain have the grim job of taking life. They slaughter cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys so that we can engage in the unhealthy habit of eating animal flesh. These animals don’t have to end up as our food. We can live a long healthy life with a vegetarian diet, but we decide to consume living creatures all the same because we enjoy the taste. They die so we can be momentarily happy.
Of course some of us enjoy killing animals ourselves. We go hunting and spend a significant amount of time and money in the effort to kill defenseless animals. Why do we do this?…It must be because we enjoy the thrill of killing. Yes, the animal can be consumed, but it’s not necessary to preserve our life that we take their life. It is a willing decision on our part to kill for our own selfish satisfaction. Obviously, there was a time when killing for food was an absolute necessity for the survival of the human race, but that is no longer the case. Now we kill for the pure joy and excitement of it.
It is quite remarkable how we determine exactly which creatures we should feel guilty about killing. The same person who goes out and shoots a deer without remorse will feel terrible if he hits a dog with his truck on the way home. What’s the difference? They were both living creatures. They both had an awareness of life. They could both create more life. Is it because we planned to kill one but the other was an accident? Should we only feel guilt when we kill something without planning its death ahead of time? Perhaps if we know we are going to kill in advance it make it easier to commit the act.
We know that one million human beings are going to die in the next 34 days from extreme poverty. That is an absolute fact. Does that make it easier for us to allow it to happen? Yes it does…because if one million people died in an earthquake in that same time span the entire world would be rushing to help. However, in the case of a million poverty deaths virtually nothing will be done, and those deaths will happen again in the next 34 days and again in the next.
How death occurs also seems to play an important role in how we react to it. Sudden violent death grabs our attention and provokes an immediate response out of our sorrow for those who have lost their lives – while slow relentless grinding death, even on a huge scale, doesn’t seem to bother us at all. We happily continue on with our lives without giving a thought to the tens of thousands who die each day from hunger, illness and disease. The irony is that we feel sincere remorse for the deaths of those who die in ways that cannot be prevented such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis. On the other hand, we feel nothing for the victims of extreme poverty, a killer that could be prevented – if we would only make the effort.
Killing has become an integral part of the human experience because of our propensity to kill those who disagree with us. We call it war. It is our absolute favorite way to solve almost any problem. Some one encroaches on our territory – kill them. Some one takes some of our resources – kill them. Some one does not believe the way we do – kill them. It is an automatic response. Individuals, groups and entire nations react this way. Countries and regions will go to war over almost anything. Thousands will die over who has the better God. Unimaginable suffering will occur when one race feels it is superior to another. Death and destruction will rain down on the innocent as various powers fight over stretches of barren wasteland.
Nations take their finest young people and train them in the most effective ways to kill. Countries spend themselves into financial ruin trying to produce the largest military possible. Of course when war breaks out it is almost always the innocent who are slaughtered. Defenseless civilians bear the brunt of the killing. They are left dead, wounded and homeless, and if they are fortunate enough to survive our lust for killing they quickly plunge into poverty.
As a society we willingly condone killing. If someone takes the life of another person we put them in prison for years until we get around to killing them. One death ultimately leads to two deaths. We have decided this is fair and just. We have decided it is the world we want our children to grow up in. We want our kids to know that it is alright to take the life of another human being.
But what about issues that are far less clear in our society regarding our desire to end life? When someone is terminally ill we debate whether or not we should end their suffering. If a person has been medically declared as brain dead we struggle with the idea of stopping life support. When a woman is pregnant and does not want to have the baby our society is torn apart about whether she has the right to an abortion. These kinds of deaths we agonize over. These kinds of deaths seem to involve innocent victims. These kinds of deaths make us stop and search for the true meaning of allowing another human being to die.
So why do we not demonstrate the same level of compassion or concern for the millions who die each year from extreme poverty? They are innocent victims too. They have not done anything wrong. They have not harmed anyone. They are not at war with anyone. They are not a threat to anyone. They just want their children to be safe. They want the opportunity to live in good health with dignity. They want to have enough food and clean water to survive on. Are these unreasonable desires?
Unfortunately, killing becomes easier the more we do it, and by far the easiest way of all to kill is through neglect. You don’t have to pull a trigger or drop a bomb. You don’t have to face your victim or see their suffering. You can simply turn away and kill them with your indifference and selfishness. Neglect kills just as effectively as any man-made weapon, and its efficiency is increased by our refusal to acknowledge our part in its use. Most of us believe that we could never take an innocent person’s life. We just don’t think we are capable of such a thing. But we kill everyday. We kill through our lack of compassion, our unwillingness to share our good fortune and through our preoccupation with our own lives. Neglect, apathy and self centeredness are our weapons of choice. Our victims are mostly children, many under the age of five. We allow them to die because we don’t want to make the effort to help them survive.
Each day we have a choice to make. Do we try to save the lives of the 30,000 who will die or do we once again turn our backs and look the other way? Although we do not want to admit it, we are more than willing to let people die so that we are not inconvenienced. We don’t want to make sacrifices no matter how small they may be. We don’t want to accept any responsibility. We don’t want to feel guilt, and we don’t want to admit to ourselves that, as a species, we are quite comfortable with letting other human beings die. Killing is what we do.
THE PEOPLE OF EXTREME POVERTY JUST WANT TO LIVE. ARE THEY ASKING FOR TOO MUCH?