I have this theory that a person’s life has an intrinsic value, that cannot be erased by any doing.
But why is it so?
After all, with ~7.6 billion people around the world, one could think that life is not rare, and we tend to think that valuable things are those that are hard to come by. Like diamonds.
We also have this need to rank everything around us, including people, what leads us into thinking that not everyone has a value, not really, just a handful of people.
But this notions are wrong. And very dangerous. They don’t work for life, in my opinion. The moment you start thinking that life is disposable, you’ve lost what’s called the human side of the equation.
Well, when you see someone, you can’t see it just for what it is now or what it has done. Much less see it by how much it earns, by it’s job or it’s car.
You have to see someone for it’s dreams, for the potential for literature, music, science. You need too see it by the way it might contribute to society given the proper chance. You have to see if for the way it raises his kids. See it by the way it carries the torch of humans forward though time.
You need to remember the heritage of every living man: the unbroken line of ancestrals, the rich culture embedded within everyone, centuries of history, traditions, beliefs.
You have to acknowledge the struggle it endured, even though this can only be imagined.
The odds of conception alone, of two random strangers meeting, combining their DNA in a particular way, surviving all sorts of birth diseases, and producing this life are staggering to comprehend. Then it has to pass though all kinds of ackward situations, not to mention puberty, fighting everyday just to keep fed and breathing, only to arrive at your judgemental table.
This theory leads to a certain code of behaviour, that you can’t ignore the intrinsic value of person by action or thought. I find that whenever I’m strong enough to follow it, I’m closer to being more considerative of others.
This is, in my opinion, why you should always treat other people with as much respect as you can, as you expect to be treated, fairly. Not because you fear some divine karma if you don’t, but by conscient action that society is better this way.
Every action of violence, lie, sabotage, of exploitation of others, means violating this intrinsic value. It doesn’t mean it’s easy to know what to do in every situation, but can be a guide.
So does that mean that a mass murderer is inocent?
Not exactly, but it does mean that this value needs to be taken in consideration, even for a mass murderer. First, it means that you should refrain from pre-judging him. Let the evidence speak for itself, if you are in such a position to judge. You’d be suprised how often it’s not up to us to judge and we end up doing so.
I find very hard to support capital punishment if you believe in this value of human life, but I’d say that every case is a case.
It means that he should be given an unbiased trial (the best that can be made possible) and if convicted, that every effort should be made to find him a productive way of returning to society.
There is money around for beach houses, luxury cars, to reward stockholders, but there isn’t for taking care of someone that needs help, for a time, just to get his bearings. Not everyone agrees with this, most people consider a waste of resources to rehabilitate prisioners. But I ask again, what is the value of a human life?
I do believe that if you actually take the time to teach a child proper values, by being present, securing an adequete environment, expose him to good role models (say, in books and movies) then I believe you have a pretty good chance of ending up with an honest, decent human being.
It’s easy to forget the value of life.
When you fence refugees out of countries, when you discriminate, when you fail to provide education and proper medical care, when you ignore the homeless, when you strip people of their dreams, all of this fundamentally ignore the real measure of a human life.
And the end result of this: missed opportunities.
[IMAGE: Famous 1936 photography of a migrant woman, Florence Owens Thompson, and children, by Dorothea Lange]