The value of human life 

Or: Technology as a promoter of moral evolution

by Adriano Autino

The pictures of this page are taken from the site: http://www.irobotmovie.com/

and appears thanks to courtesy of Twenty Century Fox

The Isaac Asimov's 3 laws of robotics
  1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders conflict with the First Law.

  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. 

Could the modern weapon systems behave according to the above laws?

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Abstract Morals and concret morals

Faced with the many tragic events of the beginning of this century and millennium, opinion formers divided on traditional political lines. On one side - the heirs of the XX century's progressive movements - they said "no to the war, unconditionally". Other people, moved not only by considerations of economic and/or power interests, said yes to "just" wars, and some also spoke about so-called "humanitarian" wars. I want to overlook, in this reflection, the economic and power-political causes of the wars of these last years, since I have already devoted other articles and reflections to these aspects. I want to resume, here, my reflection solely on the ethical and humanistic levels.

Most of the analyses have defects that, frankly, give me urticaria! The most serious defects are the following: (i) to analyze the activities or the cultural characterisitics of societies as fully abstract and extemporaneous facts, totally detached from the historical and social processes which precede and/or accompany them over time; (ii) to treat as discounted and universally recognized (as to their ideological, political or philosophical inclination) certain moral categories, as if they were absolutes, fully independent from dimensional data: number of people, physical geographical, cultural, dimensions.

I move instead from another starting point: nothing is discounted, in reality; moral categories, valid for everybody and for every time and place, don't exist, nor do things like mythical "values" to which we can return, by simply removing the supposed obstacles. Any analyses always should consider, as fundamental parameters, the matter of the number of people involved, the circumstances in which they act and of the available resources.

Although the supporters of simple solutions continue in the majority, we need to keep on emphasizing that reality is more and more complex, and that 6.5 billion people cannot hope to survive and continue their growth by simplifying reality. And neither they can succeed keeping on proceeding in zigzag fashion, following the blind practice of "if this procedure begins to cause serious problems, then let's try to do the contrary"! Probably the contrary will give even more problems, and, furthermore, many of the problems will be completely new! We should finally reason with old Aristotle, and retire him. We should then start to use his dualism as only one of the tools to read reality, and no longer as the only one! The achievement of more advanced ethical values can only be the fruit of a hard work of analysis, elaboration and comparison between different behaviours and concepts: a work of continuous corrections, and not of suppression of problems because we have had enough of them. A work that consists of searching the quality by deeper observation and analysis, and not rejecting anything which doesn't perfectly seem perfectly white or black at first sight. Since all of us earthlings are different, in interests, philosophy, morals, and vision of the world. Different, but not always necessarily opposite, and seldom referable to easy schemes of good and evil. But a few of these differences are enough to seem to us not only irreconciliable, but also incomprehensible. A few are enough to allow the culture of extermination, to be raised again, in apparently inexplicable ways, instead of fading away (as we have fondly imagined during the last quarter of the past century).

The matter of the processes that bring determined cultures to take place is of primary relevance. It is therefore very relevant, for instance, to study the motives that brought certain groups of people to arm themselves, in order to understand and to determine if the weapons will be used, or not used, in the future, and how. The historical processes remain in the culture of a Country or an ethnic group, for far longer than individual memory. Some partisans in Italy, which armed themselves for fighting Fascists and Nazis, held the weapons hidden for decades, after the end of the World War II, in case they had to fight against some new dictatorship. Terrorists wedded to coercive and authoritarian (leftist or rightist) ideologies armed themselves for fighting their hallucinated and crazy wars. The Italian State is constitutionally armed to defend the national boundaries from possible invaders. The citizens which purchased weapons, for reaction to a supposed threat of spreading criminality, would constitute another peculiar process, as to goals, and characterized by an high, nervous, disposition to use weapons.

The true social poison is the murder, however legitimated 

However, in almost all the motivations that bring groups of people to arm themselves, I notice a common, puzzling, trait: people are prepared to use weapons to kill, and not only for self-defense. The business of appraisal as to whether, in a given situation, I am really in mortal danger or not is obviously completely relative and subjective: if I am neurotic, I will easily be prone to use "first strike" strategies as the best defense. If I am very neurotic I will probably join with other neurotics, and constitute patrol squads of vigilantes, to go seeking out "potential criminals, before they can harm". From that point to violently coercive regimes is not a very big step, and then any ethical discourse would become pure raving: with such regimes it is usually impossible to reason, and Reason would necessarily give way to Force. It is interesting to note how certain processes have brought weapons to rust in their secret deposits, while other processes lead to their use. And we also should notice that it is not terribly relevant whether weapons are abundant or scarce, in society: September 11th 2001 has shown that anything can be used as a weapon for extermination. What makes the difference, in the last analysis, are not tools, nor technologies: it is the willingness of people to kill. And this behaviour sinks its roots in the animal instincts, and can be sublimed only thanks to cultural evolution of our species.

To distinguish between just and unjust wars is therefore an inappropriate way to arrive at political and ethical judgments on conflicts. Any war, any revolution, any resistance, even if born out of noble motivations (e.g. to get rid of a coercive, violent and liberticide regime), becomes wrong, as soon as it blemishes itself by the first homicide. This is a dilemma which all those who have had to take up arms weapons against oppression have had to face: I become an assassin too, a destroyer of human lives, even if, in the judgement of History, the oppressor undoubtedly carries a far greater responsibility.

Since Prehistory, such a dilemma has been disguised with the help of rhetorics, songs, and epics of the heroism of... the winners. All such considerations, I want to emphasize, are not aimed at all to approve the relativistic thesis which equalise the oppressors, who kill and torture for ideological choice, and the oppressed, who are constrained to kill in order to overthrow tyranny. Rather we shall add to the moral debt of the oppressors the extra responsibility for having imposed upon otherwise pacific people the need to become murderous, even though for self-defence.

Nevertheless, we have a duty to consider that, for people who have had relatives killed, the pain is the same, and the same will be the desire of revenge, leading to the perpetuation of the chain of hate - a real social poison. It is exactly such poison that our communities should strive in every way to eliminate: to be precise, the social poison that originates from murder, whatever its motivation, whether moral or immoral. The millennial commandment says: "Do not kill" full stop. It doesn't add any consideration on the motivations of the murder: on such concept we should reflect, whatever were our premises of faith, religious or secular. The old law doesn't even add any qualifications on homicide, e.g. forbidding it to the individuals and allowing it to governments. It simply says: "Do not kill". We should reflect on such a concept for our social convenience, as we discuss the social cost of smoking, or illnesses. We finally need to investigate how much it would cost, in a more and more complex world where more and more the careful participation of all of its inhabitants would be needed, not to create an ethics capable of finally writing the word "END" to the bad custom of homicide.

Science and technology are part of the solution, not of the problem 

Nowadays we see everywhere around us the finger pointed against technology, as chiefly responsible for our violence, and for our moral retardation.

According to such theories, moral evolution has not been equal to technological evolution, and we are seen as big babies, endowed with toys too dangerous for our inadequate ethical knowledge. 

And the solution would be: to stop scientific and technologic development, in order to give to morals a chance to equalize! Nothing could be more false and dangerous: it would be like removing the ax and the hydrant from the hands of the fire-fighter who is trying to save us from a house fire! If humanity in the third millennium wants to have a hope of growing up as a civilization, it cannot live without technology, no more than it can live without fresh water to drink. And a day will come, when we will have fresh water and oxygen only thanks to our technology, provided that we haven't succeeded in committing suicide beforehand. But maybe those who pronounce such accusations against our only hope of salvation actually hope that we "burn in the fire", so that we will be punished for having "ruined the planet". Without technology, we don't have any hope of salvation, in any direction, from any of the "fires" which menace us.

More: scientific research and technology can help our moral evolution, provided that we are lucid enough to see the real threats, and to make the correct political choices, and wisely choose the directions in which to direct the research itself. We, for instance, keep on searching for new weapon systems targeted to kill and to destroy, instead of addressing other directions. But I want to return to this discourse later: for now, I am just saying that technology in itself is not guilty, and I haven't yet revealed any clues that contribute to uncovering the real offenders in our cultural backwardness. Such agents operate at a much deeper level, with respect to the levels where technological research moves. The technological research is the fruit of political decisions. Political decisions are fruit of value systems and views of reality which our societies have cultivated for centuries and millennia. It is there, at the philosophical level, where we have to look, if we really want to find the bugs, and try to remove them.

The religions and the respect of life

Let's start choosing the parameters for our search. The first one, and perhaps also the last, is respect of the human life. This is a value that many religions - be they theist or secular - claims to sustain; however they are continuously belied by actuality. It is easy to adopt abstract conceptions of respect of the life, which are not translated into the respect of every single living human being, and of his/her fundamental rights. And it is even easier, if we think about the very many distortions (some of which I listed at the beginning of this discussion) which are quietly approved as if they were perfectly logical and reasonable: what appears reasonable for all humankind is evidently not the same thing to each and every one of 6.5 billions earthlings.

I don't want to think that in reality all the religions - as sharply observed by prof. Luigi De Marchi - were born in order to remove the fear of death. Some of them could also have been born out of sincere inspiration, if not divine, at least directed to a good result, to combat the chaos and the random cruelty of Nature, and to bring about higher behaviours and social relationships. Besides, I hold a lot of respect for the faiths, especially when they lead to the disinterested voluntary work (and not to the market of faith in exchange for help).

Having made all such premises, we should ask ourselves, and to our Christian, Hebrew and Moslem friends: considering that our world, the monotheist one, has for since some thousands years proclaimed a law that says "Do not kill", why we still don't respect it? Please let's avoid any temptation to unload the responsibility: the responsibility for the failure to apply this law falls on all of us, entirely. As I have written in other articles, it doesn't matter what religious or ideological faith is professed by single individuals (believers, atheists, agnostics, liberists, statists, etc.). All of us were reared in these societies, and we have sucked the same ideological milk. Still underlying the ethical differences between Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims, we have that law, that says "Do not kill".

It is true that good old Moses brought down from the mountain those tables, where the commandment "Do not kill" was at the same level of "Do not desire the woman of your neighbour". Please, each of you, have a look in your conscience, and sincerely answer: do you consider indeed to make love with someoneelse's wife and homicide as two sins of the same severity? I am sure that we can all clearly see the difference: to voluntarily kill another human being is the most atrocious crime. It brings us morally much closer to the animal kingdom, to which we biologically belong. To sexually desire another human being is a sane instinct of life. And to make love, if it is not accompanied by feelings of malice towards someone, if it is free from senses of guilt, if it is not done for stealing something (for instance the woman of another person, as if she was a sheep or anyway a chattel!) can be a means of union among people, of greater understanding and love.

If we think about it, and with this I don't aim to offend the religious feelings of anybody, we can discuss any of the other nine commandments, both in the original version of the Bible, and in the revised versions of the different Churches: to consider "your neighbor's wife" as the ox, the house or any other properties, I believe should lift, and with reason, more than an eyebrow. After all, it is only recently, that some religions have considered Woman a full human being. Also in the summary of the commandments, made by Jesus Christ in the Gospel, "Do not kill" has the first place. The Koran, to say the truth, doesn't condemn killing tout-court: "Whoever kills a person that has not killed anybody or has not committed an horrendous sin, it will be as if he had killed the whole humanity. (5:32) Do not kill anybody without a right cause, because God made the life sacred: as far as who is unjustly killed is concerned, We give to his administrator the power to avenge him, but he shall not exceed in his revenge, that God will think to help him (17:33)." It is not my intention to minutely analyze the differences among the different monotheist religions. Rather I notice in the words of the Koran a concept interesting to me: to kill a person is like to kill the whole humanity. This concept decidedly sounds similar to the concept of Robert M. Pirsig, about the death penalty: it is better that a whole society dies (not in the sense of the people that compose it, but in the sense of the juridical/politic entity) rather than one human life is knowingly suppressed, since every killing potentially deprives humanity of a dynamic thought, a carrier of innovation and dynamic quality.

This concept, of the absolute preciousness and sacredness of every and each human life, it is the secular ethical level proposed by the new-humanism.

All people, any faith to which they belong, should stick to it, and to work inside their own communities, so that it is adopted and fully metabolized.

Each life is precious because it could bring a fundamental wedge, for the solution of the problems that hinder the further growth of our civilization.

And he/she will certainly do it - the new-humanism adds - if only the society will succeed in becoming organized so to give everyone the possibility: the human patrimony is immense, but it lies forgotten by the bureaucrats and terrocrats which govern the Countries of the world: the last thing they consider is to use such a patrimony! 

But this simple evolutionary footstep, to recognize the sacredness of every and each human life, seems so far away today, that we still need to deepen the analysis: if it was enough to point out the correct principles, humanity would likely be very much more advanced. We also need to conceptually remove false and misleading metaphysics.

Now, all the religions - not only the monotheist ones - propose some type of life after death. It doesn't matter so much, for the people's ethics, whether such beliefs were arose to removal of the ancestral horror of death or not. Please pay attention: I am not trying to convince millions of believers to rid themselves of their faith! Myself, I am not an atheistic: my position is of open agnosticism. I too find rather peculiar the birth and the development of intelligent life on a lost grain of sand in the universe, and it is not enough for me that this is statistically possible (it is the number of zeroes after the comma before the first meaningful figure, that impresses me :-). And however it is not necessary to throw to the nettles our own faith, it is enough to be aware that it can be very difficult to bring to the light some ethical problems. Problem: any consoling action, if from one side it gives us the peace of mind, on the other side it brings with itself the terrible risks of forgetfulness, of the relapse into the same error and to devalue entire ethical systems. A sample: Catholic faith includes the sacrament of the confession. Confession of sins, even the worse ones, and making due penitence, cancels them, and we regain serenity. But, if we have killed or reduced to slavery someone, how are we to consider the rest of our life? Can we think about returning to the good priest, and to confess to him: "My goodness, Father, I have done it again!"? Something does not fit, in the give_and_take balance. There's a similar problem also for the concept of forgiveness. Certainly, to forgive is often a relief more for the forgiver than for the forgiven one. Nevertheless, both the confession and the forgiveness bring unfortunately a painful flip of the coin: once confessed and forgiven, I have reset the accounts with my conscience, and I can sin again! Again: we can even smile, if the sins we are speaking about are love stories, but I doesn't feel like smiling for homicides, slavery, terrorism, bloody wars and terrocracy (to govern by terror).

Now, likely, the life after death, the reincarnation, the re-birth, the different heavens and hells, on the one hand they console us for the loss of our loved ones, and for the certainty that some day we have to die. But they have perhaps a partial responsibility (and not a minor one), for the scarce value attributed to human life. After all, if the soul keeps on living, in the presence of God, or it reincarnates sooner or later in another body, death doesn't destroy an existence at all. And if, however, the wicked ones are punished by hell, or by reincarnation in inferior forms, our level of tolerance for their actions in this life increases: we don't have to care so much, God, or the Karma, will deal with it.

We are not dealing, exclusively, with a problem of religious integrism. A not integrist reasoning, for any believer, would be however the following: "I am sure, in my faith, of life after death. However I cannot - since it would be a morally inadmissible coercion - impose such conviction on others. Since in society both the conviction and rational doubt over the existance of an afterlife co-exist, the extinction of any life provokes enormous despair in my neighbor, and sets up chain reactions of hate and of inextinguishable feuds. I am obliged therefore to attribute to every and each human life a sacred and inviolable value, exactly as if the non believers were right. Be this my principle of precaution and greater attention for all of my neighbors, be they believers, unbelievers or agnostics". 

The political ideologies and the respect of life

I have examined the problem of the theist religions, but the secular ones have their responsibilities as well. And our culture, too, seems in general to have tied itself in knots, as far as fundamental human rights are concerned. All the collectivist ideologies (rightist and leftist) which animated the industrial age, have minimized the value of the single human life, for the supreme social good, the utopian society or, more prosaically, the privileges of the ruling bureaucracy. Also these conceptions, and the social processes that led to them, have taken root in the philosophical feeling of our societies, according to the different religious philosophies: of the sacrifice (Roman Catholicism), of the supremacy of the favorite by Lord (Protestants), of the persecution of the infidels (Islam), of the biblical right to take other people's ground and goods (Hebrews). The liberal ideologies, for their part, have always had a hard and fiercely competitive conception of human relationships: if one doesn't succeed, very well, there will be more profit for me! The competition, for the integrist liberals, who love to take the natural law as a model, includes the death for the losers, without any moral problem. In the last thirty years, we have seen the ascendancy of a philosophy, the green one, that puts in first place the rest of Nature on this planet, and quietly accepts the idea of the subordination and reduction of the human kind. In trying to achieve its own goals, this philosophy has instilled in our minds (as if we ever needed it!), an unprecedented sense of guilt and a desire for expiation: what punishment would be suitable for having ruined the planet?! The only planet that benevolent Mother Nature has kindly given us! Such a sense of guilt is nothing but another yearning for childish regression, to be able to return to the time when we were so little and na´ve that we were able to pollute only small and fully negligible areas of our planet, as a baby succeeds at the most in dirtying the bunk with his own pee.

Now we are grown up, and should finally somehow heal this planet, going to colonize another pair of planets, bringing there life, making plants and gardens bloom, making laughters of children sound where only dust and bleakness have reigned before. But in order to behave in this way, reopening the world to hope, we also should become adults, and reach beyond our limited perspective.

Nearly all the governments of the western world (and I don't discuss the Oriental one because I don't know them enough), govern thanks to terror, they can therefore be defined terrocrats. If the world had not been precipitated into the spiral of terrorism and war, it is likely that our communication technologies would already favoured much lighter governments, and evolved in the advanced societies, toward popular self-government. The most critic ones mantain of course that the terrorism-war spiral is determined by the terrocrats, in order to keep their power, but I believe to concurrent causes, more than to the big brother's strategies. Finally, since the Christian societies continue to fight against Islamic integrist societies, it will be fatal to regress to levels of religious integrism, as relics of other ages: as Robert Pirsig observes, fighting the same enemy for so long, one assumes some of its cultural characteristics. It happened at the times of the American frontier, between pioneers and redskins: according to Pirsig the American culture of liberty comes indeed from the indomitable character of the native Americans. And it will happen again, but not in a positive way: though the most evolved Islam can surely give us some positive principle, in the arena of ethical and evolutionary concepts, it is not against the most evolved Islam that we are fighting. We are fighting against the terrorists and the culture of martyrdom suggested by the most backwarded Imams, who, while they remain safe in their mosques, send their young people to sacrifice. And I am appalled by the supreme contempt for the life of the individuals that this practice expresses.

Unless we succeed in learning something from history, it will be fatal to follow terrorism into its spiral of death, reacting to the killings with other killings, contributing so to delay for yet more centuries the application of that ancient law that I mentioned above. A lighthouse of hope has been lit (for all) January 30th 2005, by eight million of Iraqi people that went to vote, at the risk of their lives! A lesson in democracy that the West maybe didn't expect, and perhaps it will take time to understand indeed.

Entertainment and respect of life

All our culture is gloomily following a black spiral, entertainment included. In ten films transmitted by any tv, at least eight tell stories of butchery, horror, noir, tragedies of craziness. The remaining two are stupid little tales for overgrown children. In all the movies daily administered to us, and that we meticulously absorb, almost if they were a mediatic Mass, the respect for the life of single individuals is not even the least of the worries: it doesn't exist at all! At around middle of any movie, the protagonist-celebrant warns us that "everything will be all right", since after all this is only a film, the goal of which is to softly inoculate its terrocratic poison. Our whole culture seems stubbornly targeted to make us accept the idea of a great holocaust, to prepare us for the future next Armageddon. This pressure becomes stronger and stronger, with passing months and years. More and more our reality becomes worse than movies, and it splits the world in two parties: the terrorists and the ones which govern thanks to terrorists.

But beware: this regressive process (as all the processes since when this strange, social and sentient, animal begun its walk on this strange planet, happy oasis in an otherwise hostile to life solar system) first of all exists in our mind, and develops into reality only because we allow it to grow.

It would be enough if we oriented ourselves in another direction, and the whole process would go into reverse.

This is what we have to do indeed: to acknowledge the reality, and to start to walk in another direction. It isn't a matter of abdicating our own faith or ideology. I just beg you not to huddle yourselves in it, as if it were the mum's womb. I just beg you not to be sure that it is absolutely correct and that it contains all the answers. If you reason about it with some objectivity, you will see that a lot of answers are missing, and it is up to all of us to find them. Please don't submit yourselves, body and soul, to your ideology: sooner or later someone could ask you to aim a rifle, in order to defend it against other ideologies. All those ideologies - yours and the others - are lacking some angle, maybe exactly the ones that could finally make those ideologies truly humanist. But you would not find yourselves to shoot ideologies, even if so they would like to make you believe: you will be coerced to shoot other people, bearing the same hope for rightness, and in their heart the same certainty, to make evil, and worse. The persistence in infringing that three thousand years old Law, that we should have learned to respect since a long time: "Do not kill".

The ancient law doesn't say "do not fight". It says: "do not kill"

And here we come to the crucial point of the whole discourse. To say "no to war" is surely right, and it is time that other systems were found to solve economic, social and power conflicts. But war is an activity whose origins are lost in the mists of time, when men were little more than warlike apes, facing each other for the possession of a puddle of water (not very different from today, we could cynically observe). 

Can warfare be ended, from an anthropological point of view, just because many of us, Earthlings of the third millennium, hold it desirable? I will fight against wars every time I can, because there is always a possibility to sit around a table and to negotiate some different solutions. But I am afraid a long time will have to pass, before a mass of virtuous negotiations is sufficient to bring so radical and vast a change in our behaviors, to finally abandon the war, as a solution of conflicts.

Well, you will tell me, so all you wrote until here is it useless? We cannot do anything, and we have to be resigned. No, gentlemen, it is not so: we can do much.

The ancient law doesn't say "do not fight". It says: "do not kill".

I know that it sounds strange, because nobody has tried until now to conjugate these verbs in such way. It is necessary to start reasoning in another direction: to fight doesn't necessarily mean to kill. This new awareness immediately transmits to us a feeling of liberation from an awful oppression, because it redelivers to us the ability to fight against injustices and tyrannies, and to fight for our ideal, avoiding injuring anybody. But how is it possible? Nobody fights barehanded anymore, and weapons kill. After all bare hands also can kill, if properly trained. But if we were able, in the short turn of two centuries, to invent technologies that a 1700' Earthling would find pure magic, do we think that we couldn't invent non-killing weapon systems, able to disarm the wicked? Balls! It is only a political problem. 

Non lethal weapons, able to immobilize the bad ones without killing them, can be found in the real world, not only in the vast science fiction literature (e.g. the Isaac Asimov's neuronic whip, "The End of Eternity"). Such weapons already exist today, but on a very small scale, compared with the (more profitable?) weapons of mass destruction. Some samples: expansion adhesives, liquid polymers that tie and immobilize the target; chemical agents, tear-gas and paralysing gas (CS gas), boring agents absorbable through the skin; electromagnetic impulse weapons (EMP), that disable electronic circuits and electric machineries; laser and blinding weapons; electromagnetic microwaves weapons, that disturb the functions of electronic instruments, and also human brain's functions; acoustic weapons, using generators of mechanic sound pressure waves; non lethal Claymore mines, that disperse non-penetrating bullets; devices to stop terrestrial vehicles; big nets, sprinkled of adhesive or urticant "immobilizing effects"; rifles that shoot a viscous foam and barriers for immobilization of individuals; spiral vortex weapons, high-technology devices combining throws of whirling gas with a blinding flash; systems for tactical launch from airplanes capable of shooting incapacitating chemical substances, kinetic ammunition, and tracing dye. In the mission statement of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (Marines US), we can read: "NLWs are defined as 'weapons that are explicitly designed and primarily employed so as to incapacitate personnel or materiel, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the environment.'"

What potential do such weapon systems of competing with the traditional mass destruction weapons? You could find it eccentric, even in this case, that a new-humanist, whose work is addressed toward the respect and the maximum value of the human person, should start sponsoring some weapons. After all, weapons are always offensive, and can be used not only against tyrannies and terrorism, but also to better coerce and terrorize the populations of the so-called democratic countries. Well, new-humanism, is worth repeating, is not the final simplifier of all the problems of reality. In this study I tried to analyze the shameful tolerance of murder in the most evolved societies, and to find methods to improve this state of things. Yes: to improve, to mend, to eliminate false metaphysics, errors and flaws, to debug the philosophical thought. I don't share the simplified world view of unconditional pacifism: to avoid murders, tortures and destruction, it would be enough to eliminate the war. Simple and political. Why not to abolish the rain, in order not to wet ourselves? (As I already said several times, I will in any case always promote alternative non violent solutions to conflicts). Or, in order to avoid the exploitation of man by man, to abolish the private ownership and the free market (this I already heard about :-). In the real world, Mankind has to deal with the rain, with the tsunamis, with the earthquakes, and with its own animal inheritance: to deal with nature, in short, and to find methods and technologies to defend itself and to become emancipated from nature's laws. Every weapon, as every martial art, and including the non lethal ones (but the reasoning can be extended to any tool, hands included), can be used both to defend honest people and to oppress them. Therefore its practice can never be separated from ethics and from the constant struggle for justice, honesty, and transparency.

Missiles, tanks and bombs, I said, are apparently more profitable, since they are very expensive and they have the nice characteristic (for their builders) habit of destroying themselves in their work. Therefore they must be replaced in full. Besides, what has been destroyed has to be reconstructed, and so the business extends to other suppliers. But did someone try to make some economic market projections for a world in which people could realistically hope that their own children and nephews will face less risk of brutal destruction? A world where new markets continuously open, where comfort and wealth are in constant and harmonic increase? Another utopian vision, sure. But it would be somehow nearer if the rate of killing were to decrease, and the voluntary termination of a human life was seen as a horrendous crime. A crime, above all, which is no longer necessary nor justifiable in any way. Why not to bet on a similar world? After all, the real world of today is based on the bet that homicidal violence ad destruction lead, in some tortuous way, to progress. If some steps toward a murder-free world will be successful, as it is highly probable, it would be a gigantic step forward! 

Then, yes, we can look any religious or secular fanatic in the eye (provided that many of them would still be around, and as dangerous as they are today), and say to him: you fight me in name of an ethics that you believe to be higher. But look, my ethics are higher than yours, and the facts show it, because I can win without killing you! 

And we will be able, by right of goodness, to affirm a new ethical code, focusing on at least four principles, concrete and irrevocable: 

DO NOT KILL,     DO NOT TO REDUCE TO SLAVERY,    DO NOT TORTURE,    DO NOT RAPE.

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1 "Il Solista" - Luigi De Marchi - Edizioni Interculturali 2003

[English version was revised by Michael Martin-Smith]

[005.AA.TDF.2005 - 19.02.2005]