Saturday, October 22, 2011

Human Values and Human Worth

Two recent reports about the value afforded by humanity to individual human beings in different parts of the  world give much reason for reflection this week end:

 Wang Yue was a two year old toddler who  on Thursday 13th October 2011, was playing on the street of a Chinese City Foshan,  when she was knocked down by an hit and run van driver.

As emphasised by the Chinese Jesuit priest who spoke about this tragedy  in his early morning mass sermon in Wimbledon today, China does not of course have a monopoly in  heartlessness of the kind that followed. What did follow however were the 18 or so passers by who must have seen the injured baby but who carried on with their routine as if to say that the little human being's plight was not their concern. The worth of the life and plight of a two year old human  being was of little value to them. She was eventually valued enough by a lady refuse collector who stopped to attend as best she could.  Tragically  Baby Wang died yesterday - RIP

The second report concerns the Israeli   Gilad Shalit  who as a teenage boy soldier was captured  by Palestinians as were 1027 Palestinian combatants captured by the Israelis during the interminable  wars in that part of the world.

 I can see both sides' points of view in the reason for the fighting in the Middle East  although as usual history fails to explain or justify what each side today  is doing to the other. Doubtless someone will blame the British for some actions taken or not taken in about 1948. One could take that historian's approach and blame the French who invaded England and ruled from 1066AD or maybe even the Italians as the Romans invaded England as long ago as 55BC but the blame game and history in my view rarely have any  worthwhile answers.

The relevant question in the context of this blog post's title, is about  the value afforded to human life. War is always tragic but out of such tragedies can come actions which exemplify all that is great about humanity- love, compassion, bravery, generosity and  forgiveness to name but a few human traits. Prisoner exchanges arranged through some neutral organisation such as the Red Cross or UN would reflect this positive side of humanity. However trading 1 prisoner for 1027 seems not to be wholly an example of the greatness of humanity; indeed it could in some ways be said to be substantially  demeaning of the human spirit by treating homo sapiens as a commodity to be traded for political gain.

Are 1027 human souls from one side really worth the same as 1 human soul from the other? A complete stranger to world affairs viewing this transaction could only conclude that the side which released 1027 men and women of the other side  in exchange for 1 boy soldier  from their own side, sets a value of an individual human life on a different level from tthe side hat which presumably refused to contemplate a swap based on 1 for 1 or 1 for 10 or 1 for 100 souls. Of course securing the release of 1000 compared with the release of just 1 combatant can be said to aid the  war effort of the 1000 side compared with that of the 1 side, hence   the political capital sought to be made at the time.

The value put on an individual human life by the 18 who simply  passed by the dying Chinese toddler coupled with the barter of human beings like commodity trading  between Israel and Palestine, signify that the worth of each of us is at risk of being devalued dreadfully. Surely we  need reminding that each man woman and child is made in the likeness and image of god?

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