Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why "innocent"? The Malaysia Air passengers had no foibles like anyone else?

It riles me no end to read and hear the drumbeat of "innocent" passengers killed in the Malaysia Air plane over the Ukraine. Without any disrespect intended to the dead (although, why not, since we don't particular honor the living?), I am sure that these people all had their moral failures; including the children.

This happens with annoying regularity. Yet what makes people killed randomly innocent?

Gazans and Israelis do not cheat on taxes or their mates? Boston Marathon bombing victims had never cheated in school or failed to come to a full stop at a stop sign? And don't get me started on the scummy bond traders who died in 9/11!

The same applies to children who, any truthful parent or teacher will testify, are selfishly wilfull.

All right, you might say that these people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, were innocent with respect to the conflicts that caused their deaths. But were they?

Conflicts in the Middle East and the Chechnya did not occur in isolation to everything else. Certainly, also, the largest economy in the world, the United States, is in some respect dependent on almost every corner of the planet.

For example, when something grievous has happened in the Middle East, we have to think of our oil interests. Surely some oil company has profited and its employees have purchased something that has spurred economic activity that in some way has splashed upon us directly or indirectly.

As Dick Gregory once told a Canadian who claimed to be uninvolved in Vietnam, "Did you pay sales tax on those socks you're wearing?" When the young man admitted he had, Gregory went on to show in a complicated train of events I have long forgotten how those taxes freed resources for war.

We are all much more interconnected today than we were in the 1970s, when Gregory's remark was made. No one is entirely unconnected to what happens in Gaza, the Ukraine and elsewhere. We all in some way continue to thrive in the global human system that makes these events happen.

There are no innocents. Indeed, long ago one Augustine of Hippo proposed the theory of "original sin" (or original concupiscence) as an explanation of the reality that, even at birth, we are all culpable. The rich baby effectively exploits the poor baby born the same second, taking a greater share of resources than, strictly speaking, are his or her due.

None of us is an island. We are all in some way responsible for everything and have the duty to stop the bad and increase the good. To the extent we fail at either, we are guilty of moral failure.

There were no innocents on the Malaysia Air flight as there will not be in the next tragedy that occurs.