On Killing

It sometimes seems to me as though people think killing makes everything better.

That's probably a strange statement to make, and perhaps an overly cynical one. After all, most supposedly civilised people would swear that murder is wrong - but then, after all, they'd sit down to eat their bacon and, sadly shaking their heads, affirm that war is sometimes a necessary evil and sing of the bravery of our troops.

Putting those sentiments aside, when you give those supposedly civilised people an internet connection or a gun, their behaviour changes. Suddenly, they'll be threatening to kill people they've never even met, trying to murder people in fits of anger, or going off to serve their fatherland by killing those bloody foreigners.

At this point some readers may protest and say "Well, I don't do that!". They may feel stung, hurt, even...offended. And I acknowledge that offence. I acknowledge that people don't want to think of themselves as murderers, or to think that they are capable of murder. I acknowledge that people don't want to think of their friends and loved ones as murderers, either - and I acknowledge that someone or other is going to call me a stuck-up hypocrite or accuse me of knowing nothing about guns and the internet.

If that does happen - well, at least I have readers, which makes a change!

When I insult people, I insult humanity. It's not meant as a particular insult to any particular person or group - though I do end up ripping into privileged people far more because, having grown up around them, I'm acutely aware of all their little hypocrisies (and their big ones too). If you genuinely don't fit my caricature (I wouldn't be surprised), I don't have a problem with you. You're probably one of the few people I can actually stand. (And yes, I am a misanthrope. No, I'm not particularly sorry or ashamed. Why do you ask?)

As for how I've portrayed guns and the internet? I'm a blogger. I use the internet as my medium because it's the only one where people listen to me. It would be sheer folly for me to be against it - but I do notice that a lot of people become more disinhibited and more likely to say something stupid or impulsive. And as for guns, I've used them primarily as a symbol of war and the ability to kill someone. I don't actually think possession of a gun automatically turns you into a murderer.

Right, now that I've finished covering my arse, let me get back to what I was actually talking about - if it looks like an enemy, kill it!

Not being a biologist, I won't go into any evolutionary explanation of our resort to murder; I don't have the knowledge to do so and I'd rather not make a complete tit of myself - that said, being 95% of a tit is perfectly acceptable. Instead, I'll go for an explanation I can actually back up - in other words, I'll use the time-honoured trick of blaming the media.

Yeah, I know, it's old and trite and as utterly misused as blaming society, but in this case I think I might have half a point (and no, I'm not going to blame violent video games). You see, in fiction things are rarely resolved diplomatically or peacefully: the goodies win, the baddies die, and heaven forbid the story be on the scale of nations - or there'll be a war at some point, probably gloriously portrayed.

Of course, fiction is much more complicated than that, but that's what we grow up with as children: you fight an honourable battle and the only way to get rid of your opponents is to kill them. It's probably no surprise that people, then, threaten each other with death and then go ahead and carry those threats out: after all, it's supposedly the most effective way to get rid of the villains. It's not like they come back, unless you're in a storybook.

As clich├ęd as it sounds, we're not in a storybook and life is hardly as simple as all that. I won't preach to you about how there are no real heroes or villains in this world - that point's too obvious to need developing. Rather, I'll say this: death is not the end.

That probably sounds absolutely idiotic to some of you. If you don't believe in reincarnation or an afterlife - and I believe in neither - death really is the end. No-one's going to come back from the grave and take revenge on you.

That's true, but what's also true is that so far I've completely ignored something vital: when you kill someone, they may die, but they leave behind friends, enemies, family, acquaintances, lovers...And all of these people will be affected by the death. It's also quite likely that a lot of people will hate you and harbour revenge. In a world where murder is acceptable, they may even kill you or your loved ones, thus perpetuating the cycle.

This is what people ignore - that dead people leave behind the living. That when you kill, you haven't righteously settled some dispute or other: you've perpetuated suffering and hate, instead of ending it.

Comments

  1. As a biologist, you must be aware violence wasn't invented by humans. There's a book by Steven Pinker called The Better Angels of our Nature that has a lot to say about this subject.

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    1. Thanks for your comment - and I'll look into the book.

      Just two things I would say:

      1. I am aware violence wasn't invented by humans, and I'm aware that nature is a violent place. This is basically just me griping about the idea that killing makes everything better.

      2. I said "Not being a biologist" (copied and pasted from article). NOT being a biologist.

      Just putting that out there.

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