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This blog is named after one of my poems. Even thought its not the best of the lot, I just fell in love with those words- The Psyche Unknown...

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

To kill or not to kill

We humans definitely think more of ourselves than we ought to. I would like to believe that it is ingrained in us in order to protect our species from extinction, but given that we are an “intelligent” species that is self-aware and there is no immediate threat posed by other species to our dwindling existence, I am forced to think that self protection is not the primary goal here.

I am talking about the eonian debate taking place across the world about death penalty... for humans. I am not referring to any particular case here although the most recent one in India forced me to pen down what has been a big question forever in my head. There are many who opposed the verdict for reasons all too well publicized in the media. One of which was that opposition of death penalty on principle. Some of the justifications given are- every person has a right to live no matter what, we do not have the right to take someone's life because he/she committed a crime, death penalty is totalitarian, barbaric, uncivilized, does not deter crime, an expensive process where innocent can be victimized etc.. All are plausible reasons, I agree. Is awarding death as punishment to humans justified? Well, it depends on the individual case and there are qualified people to argue and decide over it. But those who cry about death penalty being a major hindrance to the “fundamental right to live”, quit the double standards. Innocent lives are being seized on a daily basis by us humans and not many even think of it.

Whether we like it or not, we are a part of the species which collectively hands out unwritten death sentences as we please to innocent or otherwise. It is strange to me that there are several voices against taking the life of another human while all along humans are doing exactly the same to flora, fauna and water bodies brimming with life all around us. The only difference is that these species and resources are defenseless - in a human legal sense. They do not have a written constitution proclaiming their right to live and they never fight back in a way that wakes us up to our uncivilized, barbaric actions. They do not have defense attorneys weaving mercy petitions or supportive media sensationalizing the whole sordid affair. Personally, I am not going to show a holier-than-thou attitude and say I will never hurt another life. If I felt endangered in any small way, I would use all means available to get out alive and unhurt. Self-preservation is key. But that's not what's going around here.

We are there, in a remote corner of a tiny galaxy!*
This attitude basically lies on the premise that human life is somehow more valuable than that of other species. Human comfort is top priority, which, in an evolutionary sense is understandable. But being more capable of understanding the cons of this model better than a garden rat, one would expect a little more caution and forethought from the side of humans. This tiny little planet of ours is the size of a sand grain in a mighty big universe. For some unknown reason, 'life' as we call it has evolved on this planet. Every species that could comb out its competition has thrived on this diminutive blue speck. If they have survived by themselves for so many millennia, even prior to humans, they can't be any less inferior now, can they? Just because one does not know the purpose of a bumblebee's existence, doesn't imply that it has none. Where does this arrogance of being powerful come from? All it takes is one minor cosmic malfunction that sends a decent sized meteorite hurling down upon us and we are essentially sitting ducks. How is it that we as one of the species cohabiting this planet with the others, and in reality will not be able to live without their help, decide the fate of everything around us without facing dire moral dilemma?

We cut down trees by the dozen just to be able to print narcoleptic teenage vampire drama or build that aesthetic wooden floor that we can boast of to our colleagues. We rear animals in our backyard, only to sell their meat for an extra TV in the guest bedroom. And even in our own species, we discriminate and allow a few weaker beings to die in poverty and hunger while being completely capable of creating equal opportunities for everyone. Just because somebody doesn't hit the gavel and send one to the gallows, it doesn't make it any more justifiable. And yet when it comes to weeding out an established threat amongst our own species, the whole roof comes down with the condescending moral and rights flag fluttering on top. This double standard is what I don't get.

I cannot deny or exclude myself from the horrific actions of my species. I am a part of it and in some way a contributor too. Forget fighting for the rights of laboratory animals or the dolphins that we choked by spilling oil into their habitat, I haven't been able to convince my family to opt out of using wooden doors for their new house. I am a mute spectator to all of it without much power to change the ways of 7 billion beings in my species, each who possess a free will. But I do believe that what we do to other species is equivalent to death penalty and I am, as they would like to phrase it, on principle against it. If I cannot change it, I will, at the very least, not be a hypocrite crying for a guy who raped or mass-murdered innocent people and then go home to a slow cooked lamb that was meanwhile slaughtered for dinner without a second thought. I am not going to demand clemency for a brain-washed, revengeful terrorist who killed innocent, hard-working and productive members of our species while I empty my trash can full of plastics in the nearby river. The whole concept is irrational on so many levels that it is plain ridiculous. Every time these compassionate activists take issue with death penalty is only when it is about to be implemented on a criminal, otherwise little attempt is made to change the laws pertaining to it. Humans are hypocritical by nature. I wonder if the same people would show up in protest if they lost their loving pets in a shoot-out.

Why are some in our species so sympathetic to terrorists and eager to grant life to sociopaths but hit the like button on our neighbour’s hunting escapades? Why are we willing to spend a fortune on keeping a serial killer alive but behind locked gates, where he has nothing to lose nor has the inclination to really atone for his sins? The ones asking for abolishing death penalty as a punishment are those who will never face the scum of our species in person in an endangering situation. If taking a life is heinous, it has to be heinous in all senses. Where do a few of us who agitate get off by being selectively ethical?

“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper”
                                                                         -T.S.Elliot


If there is something that will prove Elliot's verse true, it is by turning a blind eye to our crimes against other species and the ignorance driven feeling of superiority we harbour in us.

aeroyogi
2/8/15

!* Thanks Google images