The Value of Life

In this weeks podcast Ed and I looked at death and the value that we put on life. This followed a week where death has been high in our minds both globally and personally. The ISIS attacks in France were highly reported however they were not alone as there were also attacks in other countries and cities such as Beirut, that hardly made the western press at all. Two days prior to these events Mike, my father in law sadly passed away. So, it has seemed to me that death had been all around for the last few weeks.

I have been struck by the contrast of one man, a family, a whole team of nurses and medics trying to enable someone, Mike, to live and another man who straps explosives to himself and ends the lives of hundreds of people. It makes no sense to my emotional mind yet logically I do get it. It all seems to come down to the social grouping of ‘us’ and ‘them’.

This week I also watched Goggle Box, that crazy programme were we watch other people watching TV and their responses to the programmes. One of the programmes they were watching this week was ‘The Hunt’ were David Attenborough talked about a variety of animals attempting to kill other animals to enable them to eat and survive. The clip that interested me was that of the seal and the polar bear. At the outset, as the bear was trying to catch a seal to eat she looked big and strong, at that time everyone hated her in favour of the seal and they all shouted at the screen for the seal to get away and live which it did.

Later, when after a long winter the polar bear was skinny and near death due to lack of food the watches swapped their allegiance from the seal to the bear in the hope that she would now catch a seal and eat in order that she may survive. It became obvious that the watchers of these acts of death and attempted death were supporting those animals that they identified with at the time. It was as though the animals had been accepted as one of ‘us’ and were therefore supported by ‘us’.

This sense of ‘us-ness’ is a sense of anthropomorphism in which we assume human values to a particular animal. We assume that we know what these animals are thinking or feeling, it is as though we humanise them. This is both an emotional and a cognitive response. The opposite is ‘them-ness’ this is when we strip humanity away from another person and treat them in ways that we would not treat ‘us’. The Nazis did this with the Jews reducing them to the status of less than other humans, therefore making it ok for them to be mistreated and murdered at will. Any waring faction in the world can only do so when it separates either themselves or their victims and create ‘them-ness’.

The massive resources of money, knowledge, equipment, medicines, nursing and love that were poured into Mike were an expression that he was one of ‘us’ and that we would do all that we can to save him and ensure that his passing was as peaceful as possible. Over all these were all acts of love.

The Isis bombers that spent their massive resources of time, money, knowledge, training, weaponry, and so on, to prepare for these great events of hurt to others confirmed that their victims had become ‘them’ and as they were no longer ‘us’ could be treated in that way. This was an expression of hatred to those that they killed and sought to kill so that it could be as awful and as painful as it could possibly be.

Acts of ‘us-ness’ tend to be acts of love while acts of ‘them-ness’ tens to be acts of hate.

In a fractured world where human consciousness breaks the whole of humanity into various groups of us and them, acts of hurt become commonplace. To the asleep mind ‘they’ don’t matter because they are not ‘us’. ‘They have no feelings’, “They are not like ‘us’”. The divisions become endless, black/white, gay/straight, Christian/Jew, Muslim/Hindu, the list goes on forever.

It is easy to see those that we see as ‘them’ as inhuman and not like ‘us’.

On the basis that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter George Bush and Tony Blair, as the instigators of the Iraq war, may be seen by those in Isis in exactly the same way that ‘we’ see Jihadi John in the west. That is uncaring, immoral, violent, hateful, murderers and so on.

Russell Brand also popped up this week. A video clip from some months ago appeared on my FaceBook feed where Russell was talking about how we could overcome these violent acts of terrorism, we put the clip up in the list after the podcast and it is worth a listen. In the statements that Russell makes is the clear suggestion that in the end all that will solve the worlds problems is Love. Alongside this have been many quotes from John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. This all feeds into my basic belief and life work that is simply, if we all look after each other then we will all be ok. This obvious and evident truth is the basis of my life and my work.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Having come myself from a family that was full of ‘us’ and ‘them-ness’, with me being the ‘them’, to watch the love of ‘us-ness” that Rie’s family poured into her dad was a joy to behold. It so starkly shows me that if we could all just treat each other in the same way then there would be no wars, no strife, no hunger, no refugees. It would be so easy to create heaven on earth but to do that we have to imagine no countries, imagine no religion just imagine all the people all living life in peace.

If you did watch Goggle Box or The Hunt you might consider, the next time that you bite into the body of another being, that other beings do not really need to die in order for you to live. For most meat eaters the act of eating the flesh of others is an unconscious act, “it is what humans do, isn’t it?” It is only possible to eat another being when you see that being as ‘them’ that is provided to feed ‘us’. Strangely, when given the option to kill the lamb, the calf, cow or pig for themselves most people recoil in horror and disgust, just like those watching The Hunt. We may choose to see animals as different to us. If we allow ourselves into the mind of animals, another piece of anthropomorphism, we may well be seen as the imprisoners, torturers and murderers. These are the very same acts on animals that we decry when they are carried out on human beings.

Surely, and in the end, love is all there is?

Take care and be happy

Sean x

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