Monday, June 13, 2011

Just a number...

AK-47 Assault RifleImage by via Flickr

I really can't remember how many men I've killed. In Metal Gear Solid I've slit the throats of Spetsnaz spooks. In Call of Duty I've gunned down Arabs and blown American soldiers to bits. In Tenchu I've beheaded many Samurai warriors and in Grand Theft Auto I've indiscriminately killed everyone from the police officer to the ordinary citizen in the most sadistic of ways. The number of ways I have killed is almost as innumerable as my victims. I've used piano wire to choke them, a high powered sniper rifle to reduce their heads to mince meat, pushed them off cliffs, thrown venomous snakes at them, fed them poisoned food, suffocated them with a plastic bag over their head, perforated them with automatic rifles, used an old fashioned sword to mutilate them and many many more. And you know what? It was fun. It was exhilarating. It was epic.

You're the same. You love it too. Killing is.... exciting, for the lack of a stronger word. In every movie we all move to the edge of our seat as the protagonist is about to deal the final blow. The doves fly, everything slows down, the music swells, the hero pulls the trigger and down goes the bad guy. The clouds part, the sun shines down. The evil one lies in a pool of blood and is forgotten after one final shot of his corpse. Everyone celebrates the death of a man. In that moment, that final moment, killing is glorious. It is proof that as civilised as we are, within each of us still beats the heart of a barbarian.

There is nothing glorious about killing.

It doesn't matter how many video games we play or how many films we watch. Nothing can soften the full blow of watching the real thing. These days, that is not a scarce sight. It seems the road to hell begins in Pakistan. This week, we all saw an unarmed man get killed in cold blood by none other than the guardians of the people. And I don't know about you, but I'm still trying to figure out what just happened. I'm still lost in that "what the f***?" moment. I can't process it. How can someone just do that? End a life, for no other reason than to end a life? By what process does a mans mind just decide to pull the trigger, or swing the blade and end someone? How is it possible for someone to suppress all that is human and kill in cold blood?

Sometimes I hate the empathy that I possess. It's annoying to see everyone else's point of view. Seeing that video, that too inadvertently, I can't help but picture myself in that same situation. I can't help but see myself there, bleeding away, screaming for help and watching in horror as no one does a thing to help, knowing that the only thing a "concerned" citizen is doing is recording my last moments to spread "awareness". I can't help but wonder what that mans last thoughts were. Did he think of his loved ones? What did he want to say to them? What did he think of all the spectators to his demise? Did he feel hate for them? Did he have regrets? What did he ask God in that moment? What did he feel for the one that pulled the trigger? I can't help but have all that run amok in my brain and the sheer horror of that moment, being the victim of an injustice, lying in a city of eight million with not one doing anything to help is enough to paralyze me.

So did he deserve to die? Does anyone deserve to die? Does anyone deserve what happened to that man? And who gets to decide when a life must be extinguished? Who is the one who deserves to carry out the deed? Knowing what I know so far, the only thing I can say is that what happened was wrong. There is no way to justify the killing of an unarmed man, without trial, without just cause. Anyone who says otherwise, is wrong. What he was, what he may have done, whether he was thief and murderer, he did not deserve the fate dealt out to him. If people have to be shot because they were probably evil, because they had probably committed the crime, then you'll have to line up everyone in the country and put a bullet in them. The actions taken by the ranger on that day are no different than any terrorist.

What about the other side of the story? There's always another side. If we assume that the ranger was a reasonable man then what can drive a reasonable man to do such a thing? Well, the nature of his job always puts him at risk. He is always there in the places we don't dare to go, dealing with people we don't want to meet and experiencing moments we don't ever want to be in. Maybe after watching citizens lose their lives over something as little as a cellphone, after watching his comrades die trying to protect an ungrateful society, something in him snapped. Maybe after all the senseless slaughter he decided that the only way to fix things was disproportionate punishment, to set an example to serve as a deterrent to others. Don't deny the fact that somewhere deep down you feel the same, that the best way to fix the problem is with a bullet. But that will fix nothing.

I don't condone what the ranger did. I'm surprised some do.

I remember back in A-Levels a friend showed the whole class a video of a man being beheaded. Our teacher had to rush to the washroom as he could not hold down his lunch. Nothing can prepare you for the real thing. It's easy to watch all the bloodshed in movies and video games because we can reassure ourself, it's fake. But that video, knowing that what we were watching was a real human being, with family, with hopes, with memories, with dreams and emotions, that it was all real, something changed in us. It was like a punch to the gut and pain would not just go away. It was the same thing with the video of the incident in Karachi. So why does everyone feel the need to distribute it? What is it that you wish to obtain from the footage of a man dying? And don't tell me it's for "awareness." When did simply knowing an innocent man died stop being enough to stir emotion? What joy do we derive from watching and spreading the death of a man? Am I the only one who feels that this is disrespectful? Who is being helped by the proliferation of the footage?

Spreading a video doesn't make you a patriot, tweeting doesn't make you a part of a revolution, changing your profile picture doesn't spread awareness and liking some page doesn't make you a better Muslim. For that matter even blogging is meaningless. People need to wake up and realize that these meaningless things just mean they are too lazy to solve the problems that we face today. They are silly games, made to make us feel better. Here's one last question, when our descendants ask us what we did to make things better, what do you think they'll feel when we tell them "well beta, I updated my facebook status"?

I for one hate preaching, I hoped to write a different post this time around but our country never fails to surprise.

Talha A. B.

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