THE EDITOR: There is no more glaring return to the animal state than humans preying upon other humans whatever the cause, as in the Las Vegas massacre. It a mark of the beast to prey on its own but this requires no moral yardstick in the human sense, simply because they do it out of instinct.
Some animals may consume their young after protecting them but we as humans cannot impose a moral code of right and wrong on such behaviour. When, however, we as humans prey on our own as in Las Vegas, we have entered the domain of the beast.
Our humanity is expected to constrain us from consuming our own because our socialisation would have imposed such constraints, so when we kill our own, in a sense we have lost our humanity.
Lear in Shakespeare’s King Lear, in reacting to the “marble-hearted fiend,” “ingratitude” of his daughters, would have made the telling comment that “Humanity will prey upon itself/As monsters of the deep,” as he agonised in the storm. Daughters, out of a filial sense, are not supposed to treat their father this way, and when they did they degenerated into becoming “monsters.”
Stephen Paddock’s behaviour, in killing 58 so far and maiming over 500 in Las Vegas, would be explained away by armchair psychologists as that of a sociopath or a psychopath but these are mere euphemisms for a man who will have lost his humanity.
In such a situation, the moral equilibrium which allows for rational thought leading to sound judgment coupled with the moral sense that invites sympathy and remorse — all that made him human — seemed to have dissipated and his behaviour is the instinct of the beast.
This maybe a difficult conclusion to accept and people may want to academise his situation and speak of an underlying trauma and the possibility of reform but such moral degeneracy in human behaviour is a reality we cannot avoid.
Even in our own country we have symptoms of this degeneracy in the killings without remorse, and in the corruption without an iota of conscience, inter alia, but even though lesser in degree, they are on the same continuum with Paddock’ behaviour in Las Vegas, for the moral and ethical constraint that makes us fair, just and reasonable — human, when all is said and done — seems to have eluded us.
DR ERROL BENJAMIN (firstname.lastname@example.org)