Thursday,20 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1340, (13 - 19 April 2017)
Thursday,20 June, 2019
Issue 1340, (13 - 19 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Kill, kill, bang, bang

attacks on the Tanta and Alexandria churches
Attacks on the Tanta and Alexandria churches

No, it is not a Hollywood movie, but a stark, ugly, horrific reality.

The fall of man and his loss of Eden has never been more evident than it has in the last century. As his technological proficiency developed his human potential diminished.

No, we do not kill innocent Christians praying on a sacred day in their house of worship. Terrorists do.

No, we are not destroyers, incendiaries or executioners. Criminals are.

We are grateful to the few foreign press releases that distinguish between Egypt and the Islamic State (IS).

We too are victims of Islamic terrorists and suffer at their hands more than is ever revealed. We are a peaceful Muslim nation with a Christian minority with whom we have lived in peace and harmony for centuries and will not shy from expressing our affection, respect and kinship with them.

Everywhere we look there is death, bloodshed, butchery and carnage. We shudder at those who yawn at the slow suffocation and ghastly death of their fellow human beings. Are their eyes closed to their miseries, their ears deaf to their wailing? Does blood run in their veins? Are their hearts hardened to stone? Who are the sub-humans, the persecuted or the persecutors? Do we not have a duty towards them? Unless we open our eyes to their miseries, we may well be next.

What progress have we achieved during the past years —not technological but moral progress?

What do evolutionists say about why humans still harbour the urge to kill? Have we evolved to kill with the same fervour as we have evolved to live? The answer is yes. Our progress in medicine and prolonging life matches our progress in warfare and killing techniques.

Are we hardwired to kill? Anthropologist Vanessa Woods of Duke University finds that our murder rate is the same as that of chimpanzees. Killers are mostly male in both species. The FBI concurs, reporting that 89 per cent of killers are males. Why? Questions lead only to more questions. Human curiosity always asks why. Human creativity always finds ways of answering.

Some scientists believe that a certain level of human violence is inherited from an ancestral past. There we go blaming others. Are we blameless? What about culture? If humans inherited their propensity for lethal violence could not culture modulate that violence through the ages, as it did other traits? Instead, it gave us the means and comfort of pressing a button and watching hundreds suffocate and die.

Where are the heroes of our day? Winning wars is no longer a triumph of courage and bravery but of chemicals and technology. Good-bye bravery, nationalism, valour and heroism. Even the sound of a shotgun is better than the silence of Sarin gas.

Are we no longer secure to go shopping, dining, dancing or praying? Why a truck, knife or automobile can end it all, willy-nilly, for no reason, in any part of the world? The only aim is terror.

As for chemical warfare, it is ironic that April marks the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the founding of the Chemical Disarmament and Global Peace and Security.

Whatever happened to two brave men standing against each other, using their physical prowess, and may the best man win? 

Would you be shocked to know that chemical warfare goes back to 10,000 BC?

History is replete with accounts of how man used the great gift of thinking into killing his fellow man — or rather men. Poisoned arrows and spears since the Snow Age were used in South Africa. Fighters dipped their arrows in venom from snakes, scorpions or poisoned plants. It was used for hunting antelope, but progressed to human prey.

War in antiquity seldom matched the heroism of its myths.

Just like today, ancient authors condemned the use of chemical warfare but to no avail. Instead, we continued to use them, used more of them and invented even more.

If we could only control that killer instinct and instead nurture those noble, human dormant instincts like compassion and love for our fellow man.

It seems that all the virtues we once revered as culture, knowledge, morality and decency have withdrawn, making way for all the evils to be set free to roam the earth and do their damage.

Blame it all on Pandora.

The Greek mythological story of Pandora comes to mind.

Pandora, the first woman on Earth was endowed with many gifts by the gods. They clothed her, gave her beauty. Apollo gave her musical ability and Hermes gave her speech. Zeus gave her a large jar/box which contained all the evils in the world, with instructions not to open it. But Zeus knew that Pandora’s curiosity will take over. Until then man had lived in a world without worry. But curious Pandora opened the jar, which contained all the ills of man.

Realising what she had done she hastened to close it but the whole contents had escaped, except for one. At the very bottom of the jar remained hope.

All we have left is hope.

“Pandora’s box” (really a jar) is the metaphor we use today, meaning we know not what we are getting ourselves into. We also have to bear the consequences of our actions.

If we learn from our past mistakes, hopefully no bang bang, chemical warfare or any form of killing will be needed.

Man is an abyss and I turn giddy when I look down into it.

George Buchner

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