If there were no consequences, would you kill?
The knee-jerk answer, that springs to all of our minds usually is – “Hell yes! Heck bring me a knife, a plastic sheet, a shovel and your car and let’s go do this right now! I know several candidates. “
But when it really comes down to it, it is rarely ever that simple. In fact most people refuse to do it.
They say they cannot kill because the victim is a life. And every life is filled with meaning. So they do not have the right to snuff out such meaning.
They may say that, speaking for themselves. But it is easily arguably that there is no cruelty like the one shown by human against human.
We may have accidentally extincted the Dodo or slaughtered out of existence the Carrier pigeon as a pest, but we never built gas chambers for tigers or invented mustard gas to kill the Gorilla.
As humans we are adept at killing anything and incredibly adept at surviving whatever nature throws at us. The offshoot of all this ability is a blood lust that makes us equally brilliant at slaughtering one another.
Of course this ability is not an ‘individual’ thing. You can blame Hitler all you want, but the truth is that tens of thousands, if not millions, of people worked very hard to turn his dreams into reality.
An ancient ability, this will to slaughter whole races comes when we as a group feel threatened (whether the threat is real or imagined is of course, a wonder of our mind).
Groups offer immunity from prosecution, protection in numbers and the anonymity of a crowd.
So when we truly feel that we are free from the threat of repercussions – would we kill someone? Damn right we will, and we will do it well.
But will you, as a person, come face to face with another human being, look them in the eye and take the life out from them?
When the Lord Tempest asked me this question my mind instantly flashed to another Lady of the court, the Dowager.
About two years ago the Dowager’s father was dying. He has been sick for years now. He was bedridden, paralyzed and more like a corpse than alive. Most of his family, the dowager included, prayed for death to come soon. They wanted him to be free of his suffering and perhaps, though never spoken out loud, released from their seemingly unending task as well.
He did die eventually. After the funeral rites, me and the Dowager happened to find ourselves alone in the front porch, watching the stars and waiting for the old man’s ashes to cool.
“I had once almost tried to kill him you know…” she had whispered to me, in a breathless confession.
“Once I saw that he had accidentally flipped his pillow over face and was moving his head in a attempt to shake it off. I grabbed the pillow with both my hands to pull it off and for but a moment it occurred to me why don’t I just push it down, smother him and free him from this living hell. It was only for a moment…but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t just kill him like that. Not my own father. Not even to release him. So the moment passed…” she had said in a single long sentence, as if just to get the entire matter out before I could interrupt.
I had no idea what I was expected to say.
“Maybe you should have done it…” I had said. “But it doesn’t matter now. You didn’t do it then and he is dead now. So it’s all over anyway” I had said, the best answer I could muster at the time.
We have never spoken about it again and perhaps never will. I don’t think the Dowager ever seriously considered killing her own father. It was more like a passing thought, one of the many solutions that the human mind naturally reaches at times of great stress.
So when I was asked the question, I put myself into the Dowager’s shoes. There was no chance that anyone would suspect her and deep in the hinterland of her ancient land, there would be no police inquiry and no suspicion whatsoever.
But she didn’t do it. Because even at that instant she believed in the sanctity of life. She believed that despite it all, his vegetative state still had value. A value that she had no right to destroy.
Eventually, when we have to do it as individuals, it always boils down to the value of a human life – something we as individuals, hold highest simply because it is our greatest possession as a single person.
As the Lord Zalthor put it – “My life is way too important. It is the most important thing I have. And I would feel that everyone else feels the same way too. “
All life has value. A value which we cannot evaluate, replace or give compensation for. And since this value is essentially beyond us, we feel we don’t have the right to deprive anyone of it. Or so they tell me.
Another great reasoning was given by the Lord Loony who dismissed the entire issue with a simple – If there was no consequences, then others have as much freedom to kill us as we have to kill them. Therefore we would easily reach an agreement to leave each other alone. Thereby a new law would arise immediately, before the issue was pressed too far
Maybe, but someone would have to take the first shot, even before that law was applied.
So would I kill if there were no repercussion to me personally?
I believe our lives are closed off entities. We can imagine another person’s life all that we want, but as a species we lack true empathy. I cannot truly ‘feel’ another man’s pain or happiness. The person next to me is as cut off from my mind as if they were on a another planet.
We are self contained, self analyzing and self understanding machines. We interpret the world based on our own unique understandings of how it operates.
Another person’s life can give me food for thought certainly, but I can never feel their meaning.
The only life I can ever appreciate is my own. And this makes every other life just another star in the infinite dark void – A majesty when viewed up close, but made meaningless by the insurmountable gap between us.
Obviously this does not apply uniformly to all stars. The sun is a star which not only can I not ignore, but one around whom my life literally revolves. There will always be those lights who are important to us, who matter above all else.
But the rest?
Well…would you weep if a star winked out in the immense night sky?
Neither would I.