Wednesday,20 June, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)
Wednesday,20 June, 2018
Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Born to kill

The address of the French president to the US Congress
The address of the French president to the US Congress

The address of the French president to the US Congress was riveting, well deserving of the 30 standing ovations he received.

He spoke with fervour of the environment and how we should care for our planet, “for there is no Planet B”.

A point well taken, but Emmanuel Macron failed to mention how we should preserve the human race that inhabits this planet.  We are the only human race that we know of so far, yet we kill each other off, one by one, day by day.

Have we no shame? Has technology rendered us less human? Do we truly deserve to be called homo sapiens, meaning wise? Wise indeed. How wise is it to eradicate the planet of all humanity?

We kill, kill, kill. We kill our friends, rivals, colleagues, parents, spouses, brothers, sisters. We kill children. Children kill children. We even kill ourselves by suicide.

We kill for entertainment, because we do not believe we are killing people… the pleasure of domination. We are genetically pre-disposed to kill all living things… even each other.

In his book Why We Snap, Douglas Fields (PhD) of the University of Maryland explains: “We are the most relentless, oblivious killers on earth. Slaughter is a defining behavior of our species”. It has roots in our evolution. The data indicates incessant repetition throughout recorded history, even pre-historic times, of murder and wars among all cultures of human beings.

The desire to kill goes back to our primate ancestors, scientists explain, which were exceptionally violent creatures. What have we done throughout history to abate such violence? Little it seems.

Governments have killed far more people than terrorists.

Ironically, some blame it on our brains, our big brains which make us the most intelligent of all species on the planet. When software is able to make better software is a clear potential for disaster.  

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s research found emotion plays an important role in decision-making. “To kill or not to kill”.  That same emotion inspired humankind to create great civilsations, immortal monuments, celestial music, sublime literature, rapturous poetry, profound philosophy and more. That very brain that has the infinite capacity to achieve the greatest things on the planet could not quell the thirst for killing our fellow man. 

Man is the only being that kills its kind without any biological reason. “The lack of shame is a sign of mental weakness.” The conscience does not function any more.

Richard Wrangham, Harvard biological anthropologist, wrote: “When it comes to killing, adult humans really are exceptional.”  

Countless hours have been dedicated by scientists to save human life, prevent disease, replace dead organs, extend man’s life span, his capacity and productivity, then we turn around and wage wars, commit murders, destroy that very human we wish to protect and perpetuate. No culture, grace, knowledge, refinement, dignity or civility has polished that primal pre-disposition to kill.

The sight of Syrian children gasping and struggling for life has softened no heart…. no human heart. Or is it that what we call the human race is not really human? Austrian ethologist and Nobel laureate Konrad Lorenz wrote: “I believe I’ve found the missing link between animal and civilised man. It is us.”

We and our primate ancestors stand out as aberrations in our penchant to kill our own kind.” Are we sub-human awaiting Nietzsche’s “Uberman” or Superman?

It is astounding that one of the most advanced nations in the world has killed the most people. Britain tops that list… more than 35 million in India alone.

There are multiple theories and reasons for this madness, primary among them is the de-humanisation, of the victim, rendering him sub-human. We kill strangers… we kill people different from us in appearance, beliefs, race or social standing.  

If “killing” is our aim, why not let nature do it for us?

Pollution is a global killer. It kills nine million people a year and is responsible for diseases that kill one in every six worldwide. How about nuclear war? Bio-engineered pandemics have killed more people than wars.

Cars kill. 1.3 million are killed in traffic accidents worldwide.

Mosquitoes kill more humans than do humans. The Bill Gates Foundation established the campaign for Mosquito Initiative…. man kills 475,000 each year, mosquitoes kill 725,000. No wonder they say the mosquito shall survive mankind.

There is what is called “the Unknown Unknowns”… something out there that we have no clue about.   

What about that vast outer-space, so mysterious, silent and deadly? Are there aliens out there? Dark, deadly and silent, it often seems to be waiting, waiting to terminate us.  

Artificial intelligence, which we created, has made us less and less human and is likely to destroy us… leaving us rid of our finest robes of knowledge, art and technology… the  naked ape…again.

Is that who we really are deep down, the same basic cavemen, predatory animals without our silks and satins, smart-phones, automobiles, science, medicine, philosophy, technology or are we the enlightened, civilised guardians of this one and only planet?

Are we to take heart from the thinking of Steve Pinker, Harvard social psychologist who wrote in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature that violence has declined amongst humans? 

Nationality, religion, sect, caste and gender are no match for compassion, love, tolerance and peace. We can love no matter how different we are.

It is only a theory, but we intensely believe that the professor is right… that we are human after all.


“Man partly is and wholly hopes to be.”

Robert Browning (1812-1889)

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