Thursday, June 7, 2012

Life is Cheap

When and how did we allow life become cheap? Hardly a day passes by that there isn't news about people being killed in droves: "75 dead in bomb blast in Iraq"; "77 left dead in the wake of a terrorist attack in Norway"; "800,000 massacred in Rwandan Genocide"; "5 killed in Nigerian church blast"; "20 children killed in a Connecticut elementary school." What is most numbing about these headlines is that human beings have been reduced to mere numbers, like share prices.

We've become almost inured to wars and apathetic to the destruction of life. It took a hundred days before the world decided enough Rwandans had died. A hundred days that felt like a long nightmare for Rwandans who were left wondering if the world was asleep. A hundred days that left 800,000 boys, girls, women and men dead and many more displaced.

Another similar event with somewhat chilling ramifications is the Bosnian war that raged on from 1992 to 1995, and saw the deaths of Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims. Again, the world didn't act fast enough to end the slaughter.

The Vietnam War, World Wars, Iraq and Afghan wars have also claimed their share of human lives.

When will the bloodletting be enough? When are we going to start looking at the next human being on the street as a brother, sister, friend, husband, wife, son or daughter? When are they going to stop being the enemy to be exterminated?

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian man who took it upon himself to rid Norway of "undesirables", was reported to have expressed joy during his shooting rampage on Utoeya Island. Could this be the same 'joy' US Marines in Afghanistan expressed while urinating on Taliban corpses and videotaping themselves in the act? Could this also be the same 'joy' Osama bin Ladin felt as the Twin towers came crashing down, taking along 2,606 people to an early grave? Or is this the 'joy' people expressed when he was subsequently killed?

How has this emotion become erroneously connected with such gruesome and horrid events? What has happened to man's psyche that he feels 'joy' at the untimely loss of a life? Perhaps a clue can be found in the fourth stanza of Oswald Mtshali's poem, Nightfall in Soweto: "Man has ceased to be man/ Man has become beast/ Man has become prey." This is how we've come to view one another as nothing more than prey and predator; this perception is the premise for the development of WMDs, ammunition and the like.

The recent reign of terror in Syria is not only tragic but sickening. Tragic because thousands have perished, and sickening because the world again is sitting back and watching a government annihilate its people. How many deaths will it take until the world realizes a stop has to be put to this carnage?

We as a society really need to sit down and do some long, hard thinking about the state of our minds. Like Bob Dylan, we must ask ourselves the following questions: How many times must the cannon ball fly before they're forever banned? How many years will it take till we know that too many people have died? And how many times can we turn our heads, pretending that we just don't see?

Hopefully, before long, we'll be able to discern the answers from the blowing wind.