Friday, June 25, 2010

on killing

I recently visited the Srebenica genocide memorial in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I have no desire to rehash what I felt when I was there, nor do I want to describe the details of massacre. Both are gruesome.

Now that I'm back in Toronto, where G20 protests are considered violent, and a small earthquake that leaves no damage is considered excitement, most of the horror that I felt while I was in Bosnia has been buried underneath the guise of the common twenty-something emotional facade. The negative emotions that I've been taught to feel in this society are stress, sadness, and dissatisfaction. I suppose you could say that everything is relative. We can justify our emotions by comparing our experiences with what is considered normal in our society. We can justify using the words 'starving' or 'exhausted' after a long (?) and tiring 9 hour shift at work, because well - to us lucky ones, we really do feel starving or exhausted. But are emotions actually relative? Or is this logic another way of us Westerners to help us carry on with our existence as happily as possible, because attempting to understand the horror that other people on this planet face every day is simply too disrupting for our lives?

MIA released a video for her new song "Born Free", which can be watched on her website. The video was banned and discussed ad nauseam. Once you watch the video, if you haven't seen it yet, you may decide that it is unnecessarily violent, or that its metaphorical nature makes it too vague, and therefore not relevant to us. Because after all, why would any society, especially a society that looks so much like ours round up people with red hair and murder them? That makes no sense. But perhaps it's this insistence on sense that gets us in trouble sometimes. We try to use logic to understand killing. We use race and culture or religion to understand evil.

Yes, undeniably these things play significant roles in atrocities. But looking past these man-made definitions is much more frightening. Because then we see that underneath all of these apparent divides we are all human. And we are all capable of killing one another.

And this is why I think the "Born Free" video is indeed worth discussing. To me, the video illuminates the irrationality behind killing. The pointlessness of killing someone else just because their hair colour is different. The monsters that we can become. And to me, attempting to understand wars or murders or genocides based on race or religion seems to me an attempt to avoid facing what is essentially human or, human perverted by society - whichever explanation you prefer.

At Srebenica I kept asking myself, "how?" How is it possible for humans to do these things to one another? I cannot, and will not ever comprehend this, but I think sometimes it's important for us to at least try to understand it on a level that makes us uncomfortable.

Perhaps if we keep looking at wars and genocides in other countries as wars between others, rather than wars with one another we will continue to overlook a component of humanity that we all possess, whether it is natural or not. I am not sure whether I would agree that killing is an innate human flaw, with society playing no role in this act, yet I do question our continual attempt to understand killing in societal terms.

No comments:

Post a Comment