late May of this year, Anthony McIntyre wrote and
published an article entitled The
Killing of Children, addressing such murders
in context of the Northern Ireland and the Middle
East conflicts. The article challenged its readers
to consider the special wrongfulness of combatants
snatching away these youngest lives in the course
of socio-political battles.
McIntyres views were, I had thought, laudable,
important, and uncontroversial, but a responsive letter
disagreed. That letter read in full:
Killing of Children' by Anthony McIntyre,
I to take it that McIntyre places value on human
life according to the number of months lived - the
fewer, the more valuable that life is?
have two children aged 23 and 26. Is it less wrong
to kill them now than it would have been to have
killed them when they were 18 months or 5 years?
At my ripe old age of 54, am I about to fall off
the scale of value? Or perhaps I already have?
watching developments in this very latest Good Friday
Agreement crisis, Ive held off responding to
that letter, but now seems an appropriate time to
answer to Ms. Watsons questions, my surmise
is that Mr. McIntyre does not place value
on human life according to the number of months lived
- the fewer, the more valuable that life is.
if that surmise is correct, why then does he feel
- properly, I think - that the murder of a child in
these circumstances is an especially egregious wrong?
answer is certainly not that the average Joe,
whether walking down the street in Belfast or in Jerusalem,
deserves to die from political violence
more if he is 40 years old than if he is 4 years old.
the reason that such murders of infants offend - or,
at least, should offend - the conscience more than
the political murders of average adults
has to do, I believe, with fundamental, if perhaps
subconscious, notions of social responsibility and
a society suffers from such endemic, persistent, and
virulent socio-political conflict that cross-community
murder becomes part of the everyday landscape, one
thing can truly be said with certainty: no two-year-old
child in that society has ever had any opportunity
to take any affirmative step to address those conflicts
in any way whatsoever. Simply put, a child of tender
years has, unarguably, no responsibility for the condition
of the society into which he or she has been born.
will see coming - but some may nonetheless have extreme
difficulty accepting or, at least, admitting - the
implications of the answer to a related question:
does the average adult Joe or Josephine have any
responsibility for the state of the society in which
he or she lives? The answer to this question must
much responsibility? Perhaps not much individually
but, even individually, the answer cannot be none.
Adults are the operators and caretakers of society
as well as being the immediate caretakers of their
children, who will of course take those same social
reins when they come of age and when their parents
retire from societys center stage.
converse assertion - that average adults
are no more responsible for the condition of their
society than are their infant children - would be
beyond ridiculous, reaching indeed the point of cowardly
facts underpin, in my view, Mr. McIntyres correct
position on the particular reprehensibility of the
murder of infants and children in socio-political
Ms. Watsons letter was disturbing its apparent
unawareness of the responsibilities of 56-year-olds
and 26-year-olds and 23-year-olds to their society.
If problems within a society are so severe and extreme
that infants are too regularly the victims of political
murder, average adults in that society
ought to figure out that they ought to try to figure
out how to address those problems. If such problems
have been happening over the course of many decades,
perhaps average adults in that society
should come to the conclusion that their leaders arent
adequately dealing with those problems and that some
other approach not actively advocated by their leaders
needs somehow to be attempted or at least investigated.
- in the Northern Ireland context, and with the Good
Friday Agreement scheme perhaps on the verge of its
final failure - what other approach might be taken?
have urged that opposing tyrannical techno-industrial
corporations is the one of the most important
ways to address social evil, in Northern Ireland and
beyond. Others have argued that harping on how reunion
will solve Irelands long socio-political conflict
is the best way forward. If any average adult
reader of this small writing sees merit in those approaches,
I would urge that he or she either actively and publicly
oppose those corporations, or actively and publicly
harp on reunion, or both. Doing something peaceful
to try to reduce political conflict and violence in
Northern Ireland - even doing something that may seem
pretty silly - may be better than doing nothing at
reading these words may already be aware that Ive
advocated that people speak up and ask the British
and Irish governments to undertake a first-ever formal
inquiry into whether a fair and workable six-county
independence might be both feasible and broadly acceptable.
(If any reader hereof would like to receive, via e-mail,
a computer file with about a hundred pages of articles
on this subject, published over the last two years,
me a note.)
much easier, though, than taking any such step would
be for an average adult in Ireland or
Britain to sit back in a cozy chair - all the better
with an ample libation in hand - and expound to any
willing ear on what a damned shame it is that nothing,
really, can be done.
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