A fellow twitterer with the kind of dark bend I respect as much as a no-boundaries sense of humour posted a poll with this question — and the condition that you could choose who you kill — and I answered honestly. After all, I just published a book whose main character kills her own son whom she loves deeply to gain eternal life… and the power to save a doomed city. The results of the poll were quite evenly split, which is understandable, I suppose, but my honest opinion cost me two followers.
For those unfamiliar with Twitter for writers, followers are a sort of a currency that, according to general belief, buys you agent and publisher attention. There is some evidence in support of that belief but it is inconclusive. I don’t hoard followers but I do like to have more people to talk to and besides, unfollowing fells like I’m boring and/or offensive and I don’t like being either. But that’s just the pain talking.
On a more serious note, the discussion and the opinions expressed on the thread got me thinking, so I decided to spill it all out here, cost and all.
First my opinion, verbatim: Yep, I would. The thought of losing loved one is not the nicest one but at least I’d be there for them far longer than if I live out my natural life. No qualms about taking a life if it deserves to be taken. Yes, I know how this sounds.
I do know how the bold part sounds. 1. I’m an individual who does not respect human life and believes not everyone deserves to live. 2. I’m an individual who would lightly take any human life for personal benefit. 3. I’m an individual who believes in eugenics and all brutal practices associated with this idea. 4. I’m a latent serial killer hiding their true self from the public.
Do I need to say none of these are true? OK: none of these are true. And since it is this part of the question HarlequinGrim asked that got me thinking about things, I’ll only discuss it and not the pros and cons of eternal life. I’ll leave these for a separate post.
So, what’s your first thought when faced with the idea of killing another human of your own choosing? I know what my first thought is: anyone who threatens my daughter’s life is dead. What? The question, as asked, offers so much space for interpretation and since it is an entirely hypothetical one, I feel free to interpret it as wildly as I like.
You see, it is my firm belief that all mothers are killers (I’ll add “deep down” for the benefit of the more delicate among us). We have to be. We need our offspring to survive and we would do anything — and this means anything — to ensure this survival. I don’t know about fathers in general but I know the father of my child shares this belief. Any human who dares threaten the survival of our offspring is a dead human if we catch him/her in the act of threatening.
Right, I know this opens up a vast space for discussion about what “threatening the life of” actually means, so I’ll close it immediately with a hypothetical example: if I see someone trying to force himself on Cat I will hit first and wonder if I hit too hard later. You think this is violent? You either don’t have children or the kind of horrible imagination I do. Please do not take this as criticism of any kind. I envy you.
But let’s look at another interpretation, the one I’d call the default interpretation: you get to pick a person you know or don’t know, to whom you have a certain attitude and possibly feelings, to kill in order to gain eternal life. We all have people like this in our lives. Nobody can like everybody on the planet and that’s completely fine.
In all honesty, I don’t personally know anyone I’d be willing to kill without being provoked by them attacking me but I do have a short black list of public figures I wouldn’t mind taking a stab at to make the world a better place if given the chance. Dangerous thinking? Absolutely. Am I sure I’d take a stab at anyone on that list if actually given the chance? No. I’m not. Because I have no ideology.
I know a lot of younger people would translate this as “I have no morality” but the reason is that they have never lived in an ideology-dominated society. I have. I spent the first 12 years of my life in totalitarian Bulgaria so I feel I have a perspective that most of the Western world lacks. So, please believe me when I say this: ideology is bad for your health. It’s also bad for the world but I refuse to digress in this particular direction.
Let me illustrate with a quote from Sir Terry Pratchett:
‘But there are causes worth dying for,’ said Butterfly.
‘No, there aren’t! Because you’ve only got one life but you can pick up another five causes on any street corner!’
If you’ve read Interesting Times you will recognise the characters. For those who haven’t read it: Butterfly is a member of a rebel organisation with a lot of ideology and no hands-on experience at all. Rincewind is a skill-less wizard. Who survives. I highly recommend the book as one of the most brilliant satires on ideology ever written.
People with ideology are not just willing to die for their cause. They are often willing to kill. You don’t believe me? You haven’t been paying attention to the Twitter rants against, say, the U.S. president. A lot of people swear by the “All life is precious” idea but a lot of them also wish openly that Donald Trump dies… because their ideology tells them so.
There’s an uglier word for this phenomenon but I won’t mention it because I want to keep the tone of this blog relatively polite. Also, don’t get stuck on the name, Trump is just an example. Feel free to substitute with whatever public figure a lot of people claim to hate (because this figure deserves it, of course. Most of them do. Or do they, if all life is precious?).
I’m afraid I’ll have to call hypocrisy on that. I don’t believe all life is precious. I don’t believe the life of a billionaire who literally exploits people is worth as much as the life of any of the people s/he exploits. Please be so kind as to take note of the word exploit as opposed to provide a means of living to.
If you would bear with me, here’s another quote from Sir Terry: “Evil begins when you begin treating people as things.” Take a moment to absorb this. Ready? Now, do you honestly believe the lives of people who treat others as things is as precious as the lives of people who treat others as people?
Perhaps you do and that’s fine. I do not because I have an unpleasantly excessive sense of justice, which can roughly be described as “No person should treat another person as a thing and if they do, I’m fine with them ceasing to be alive. If the situation calls for it, I think I might be capable of delivering the deadly blow.”
Well, would you look at that. I wrote 1,000+words to explain an unpopular opinion shared on Twitter in a friendly discussion. I felt I had to, so I did. The reason I felt I had to was that I got the sense I was getting punished by people who, to put it mildly, do not share that opinion.
I know it’s silly but we all like to be liked, don’t we? And we don’t like punishments. But I’ll tell you what I like a lot less than either being disliked or being punished (By strangers. On a social network. This is hilarious.) I dislike the kind of view of the world that takes every single thing, including purely hypothetical situations, as seriously as if these situations were real and imminent. This sort of attitude scares me.
There, I said it. People who take life too seriously scare me. But that won’t make me shut up about anything, so I guess everything’s fine. Oh, and I don’t plan on killing anyone to gain eternal life. The one war criminal I would have gladly strangled with my own two weak hands already died.
P.S. If you think I’m exaggerating the capacity of a mother to kill, read The Chain. McKinty got it all right.