What is a life worth?The timeless question in the era of the masses and their judgement.
What is life worth? The question in the end is that, no? It was Stalin who once said: “If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that is only statistics.” There is brutality in those words, we have to understand how these words work inside our ideology, how much they are true right now. There is another phrase that complements Stalin’s: A picture is worth a thousand words.
So, what is life worth? Who didn’t feel as a kid his gut hurt when little Simba didn’t understand that his father, the good Mufasa was dead? Or Bambi and the sadness with which we looked as his mother expired because of the hunters? Who with a little heart would not feel kindness, or remorse to see a cute being hurting that way? Don’t animals hurt as much as we do? What is suffering?
Sometimes it seems that our world is full of suffering, that there is no way of escaping it. In our civilization, wherever you look, any place, the products we use, our lifestyle, our social and political doctrines are all soaked in pain, exploitation and death. Animal suffering, human suffering. The Suffering of entire communities of people, of complete ecosystems, of thousands of forests burning, of millions of fish dying overnight, of the rampant extinction of species.
And amidst all this havoc, a random tragedy makes the masses explode with contained fury. It was about six months ago that the international media incident of the death of Alan Kurdi happened, and the level of anger and indignation was similar to what happens now. The masses are selective with the events they decide to cry about or for which they decide to show sadness or indignation, for the ones they decide to do something. In the end it is a strange phenomenon: the masses mobilizing in the net to accomplish something close to a collective mourning and search for revenge, but worldwide scale.
There are sicknesses in our culture, culture that either for good or bad has become worldwide, that generates a brutal impact in the environment and all human beings in the planet earth. There is a thing in which some people are right about is about a responsibility that they have to assume if our society is not to collapse under its own weight.
Who could defend, who could be able to protect the poor man, with all his faults and weaknesses as an individual against the nuclear bomb of public opinion? Oh, the masses and their rage have always been unrelenting; if you don’t believe me ask Thomas Hipp or Abraham Smith, or Jesse Washington, there is nothing that can stop the mobs when they think they are making justice. But what is justice?
There is no reason to get into philosophic conversations, we can only say, that in essence , the society that was dedicated to the lynching of Afro-Americans at the beginning and middle of the XX century seems to be the same that wants today(in a world-wide scale) that the parent of the children that fell into the gorilla’s cage is shot, or even the kid himself. Around 450,00 people are signing in the page change.org the petition about “Justice for Harambe” Today the cry sounds full of spite, absurd, the same thing could be said of the burning of someone alive, the castration, the ripping of fingers, the selling of body parts as souvenirs. All in name of justice. That is the thing with mobs, if suddenly talk sparks of a lynching, the whispers will turn into actions and when a society enters the frantic collective conspiration the thoughts of the deranged individual can become, in the heat of the moment, into the thought and actions of everyone.
That is why the tsunami of acusations and critics that the human actors of this tragedy have received are disturbing, much more than the death of the gorilla itself. It seemed to be that the negative commentary, some of them openly xenophobic could become in any moment the thoughts and actions of the population, a new ideological tendency that spawns from the endless post-modern era, we have to be careful.
The society that lynched Jesse Washington, Thomas Shipp and many others, guilty or not of the crimes they were charged with, suffered a disproportionate reaction in the punishment that certain crimes deserved, for them the raping of a white woman, murder, voodoo pratices and even demanding respect or voting for the wrong party could carry a death penalting by diverse ways of lynching. It seemed that a little boy and his parents are blamed in their distraction for the crimes that the entire humanity has made against the animal world. That is not how things work, we can’t lynch a family of black people because with them our sins as a human race will be forgiven, that is not the message of Christ’s story.
We have made many mistakes, many. We have a storm of consequences approaching our way and we know it. Maybe we don’t all know what it was that we did as a culture that unleashed these never-ending conflicts, but the truth is that a child, his mother and father cannot be loaded suddenly with all responsibility in an attempt at a global catharsis to end the mounting tension even for a little while. There is no “Justice for Harambe”, and there cannot be in the sense that the society of the viral internet makes these kind of events the knowledge of the worldwide public is not a society that can take responsibility of anything, as it show in its selectivity.
One day is Alan Kurdi, the other is Trayvon Martin, the next is Harambe, tomorrow whe don’t know what could happen, but public opinion won’t stop to look for people to blame for the tragedies that haunt our time, the won’t stop to seek “justice”. But they delude themselves, justice is not what they want, they want a way out of the responsibility that they have as gears of a system that has created our circumstances. It was said by I believe Lisa Simpson: “You cannot create a monster and then complain of it destroying a few buildings.”
If we analyze what happened in México with the movement “un circo sin animales” (a circus without animals) we can notice the approaching tragedy if we take the road of the prohibition of these practices, the violence against animals doesn’t come from sacrificial rituals in India, which have been happening for hundreds of years, nor the death of Harambe, nor Cecil the Lion, nor even the bad zoos and circuses. When the movement of “un circo sin animals” accomplished it’s goal, they sacrificed around four thousand animals that could not be taken care of nor rehabilitated to the wild, that and the destroying of the business of hundreds of families. When the consequences of their “good actions” where known, public opinion just looked the other way, their work, their vengeance, and their “justice” where already accomplished.
Besides the virtual aggressions and the media exposure of the kid and his family for the death of Harambe we could not say that they will end the same way as Thomas Shipp or Jesse Washington, but in essence, the worldwide scolding is short of being the same thing. In the sense that a mass cannot measure its words or its actions even a little. In the end maybe the family can continue living a normal life, but the incident will be registered in the selective memory of the public , for the time the narrative is useful to the mass media and its agenda.
With the rising of the “animalist” ideology, the place of circuses with animals is in serious danger worldwide, in many places the prohibitions are now in vigor, like in the case of México. The zoos face a similar danger. We already know that the public opinion is not able to deal with the demons that it unleashes, it doesn’t know what it actually defends and any moment anytime anyone can be its enemy, it can be the Afro-American parent, the working mother or even the kid can be ruled guilty of the crimes that the mass thinks should be paid.
So what is the value of life? To finish with another quote (this time very likely a fake one) that I saw in a movie. Pinned on Saladin: What is Jerusalem worth? The hero asks of the sultan, who answers: “Nothing… Everything.”. What other way to say it? What is the value of something besides what you assign, tell, decree, dictate, a contradictory whim? In the end the road could be to look for the fights that have to be fought, find the enemy wherever it resides, even the one that is inside of us all and confront it, however painful it can be.