A former Baltimore homicide detective and a reporter discussed their book Why Do We Kill? on a C-SPAN program.
It’s not clear to me that the authors ever answer the question that is posed in the title of their book: why do we kill? And if they do it’s the smaller pragmatic why’s of commonly known negative social factors of single-parent homes, bad schools, barriers to upward mobility, etc. But perhaps the point is precisely that there is no answer, that violence is as absurd as the murder of the Arab in Camus’s The Stranger. People kill for nothing:
“People kill because they’re angry over a slight. Frustrated over a hard look. Pissed off because somebody talked with their girl. They kill and will kill for nothing.”
Many of the brutal murders described are committed by teenagers, in a matter of fact way. It’s not a fearless anger or revenge that drives these murders. It’s much less dramatic than that. These are kids, stupid ignorant kids, who have no understanding of (and thus no value for) human life. They carry the ultimate responsibility for failing under the immense hopelessness of their environment. But once that is clear, ideas for solutions have to start flowing (along with funding). That’s a tough thing to ask for in this climate of budget ceiling debates.
I was watching Food Inc and pondering whether the movie was a criticism or a celebration of the science and technology behind the modern ideals of our eating culture, that of: faster, fatter, bigger, cheaper. That is, we want it produced all year round, we want it nice and juicy, and we want it dirt cheap. Science makes that possible. Science lets us outsource both the hunter and the gatherer jobs of our hairier ancestors at incredible efficiency.
I guess the movie is supposed to defend organic farming as a healthier alternative for society (in dietary terms) than the current practices of the big slaughterhouses, etc. Except to me, it didn’t do a convincing job of it. It showed the “evil” giant corporations as treating animals as objects that can be genetically / chemically modified to solve any issue. From the aspect of health, I’m not really sure how organic is better. Why is it better that the chickens are killed in the sun instead of in windowless darkness. Why is better that the cows eat grass before slaughter instead of eating corn? And if it has a slightly lower chance of contamination, is it really worth the large jump in price? Maybe it is. I don’t know. I was too distracted looking at living creatures being slaughter to think about the economics of it all.
That’s the bigger question to me, for which I haven’t found answers for myself (and found the movie lacking in addressing), of whether we should be okay with the mass mechanized murder of animals. Let’s say it will soon be possible to clone human beings cheaply. It would make a lot of sense (from a cow’s perspective) to make clones of humans and use those clones to perform the most difficult manual labor jobs (assembly line, construction, etc), brainwashing them into thinking that their life is the best kind of life. Why does that seem wrong, and the growing of animals in a box for murder not seem wrong, or not enough to stop it.
I was not at all disgusted by the images in this movie (in fact I ate lean ground turkey while watching some of the worst parts). But it did make me think about where I draw the line about what I thought was my compassionate value for all life, and that my moral system is flawed, contradictory, and built from ground up on denial and ignorance.