Butchers and Vets

So, the other day I was looking up some stuff on pistol/rifle ammunition.  Basically, I’d like to spend less money on ammunition and switch to only having to buy one for both guns.

The .22LR is the cheapest ammunition and there are plenty of good rifle/pistol combinations out there that will use the same ammo.

But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about (but wheee! guns! I learned to shoot on a .22 rifle in Boy Scouts)

What I wanted to talk about were people’s comments on using a .22 rifle for hunting.  For small game, they said, it worked great.  Rabbits, mice, uh, squirrels, and such–perfect.

But when it came to larger game, i.e. deer (not bears), the argument against using the .22 rifle wasn’t that it was inaccurate, hard to use, or inefficient.

It was that it was inhumane to try to kill a deer with a .22.

(.22 indicates the caliber of the ammunition the gun uses–.22 is .22 of an inch, .45 is .45 of an inch, etc.  Bigger calibers mean bigger bullets, which mean more damage, usually).

Here were people talking about hunting, commenting on the humaneness of how an animal was killed. Using a .22 is an almost guarantee that the animal will die slowly and be in a lot of suffering.

[*to me, this is one of the best reasons that .22’s make good home defense firearms.  They are enough to scare away a burglar (who, I imagine, is not thinking to himself “hmm, he might shoot me, but the caliber is small, so maybe I can take him anyway” and is instead thinking “Eeek! a gun!”).  At the same time, if I did shoot someone, the chances of a .22 round killing them would be less than with a more powerful gun–and I, like a lot of people, am not looking to go around killing people, just stopping them.  You don’t have to agree with this; but I kind of think that we should be trying to use the minimum level of force to keep ourselves safe, and not necessarily the maximum allowed by law].

Which I think says something important about the hunting community, which is that hunters care about animals, which isn’t all that surprising.  Farmers love their farm animals, all the way to the dinner table.

Knowing that something is going to be your dinner doesn’t stop you from wanting it treated well before that.  Hunters are hunters, but their also conservationists and nature-lovers.  Hunters love the animals they kill.

I think this is a good contrast to vets.  Vets also love animals, but their goal is not to kill them.  Sometimes they do, but not with the intention of eating them.  In fact, vets spend years studying how to make sick animals healthy.

On the other side of the planet, though, are butchers.  Butchers might know a lot about the anatomy of a cow or pig, but nobody should mistake what they do as love.  Killing and cutting up an animal are a job.

You might even be able to confuse a conversation with a butcher about a cow with a conversation with a vet about a cow.  Both can identify where all the organs are, what physical problems an animal might have, and so forth.

The difference, of course, is in why they know that stuff.  Vets know stuff to heal, butchers know stuff to kill.

All of this got me thinking about euthanasia and abortion.

The first rule of medicine, of course is “First do no harm.”  The Hippocratic Oath explicitly prohibits abortion and euthanasia (and probably lethal injection).

So, like 2 millennia ago, at a time when Western Civilization enthusiastically embraced slavery, pederasty, war for conquest, and all manner of inhumane things, its doctors were still like “Nah, we don’t kill people.”

But not our doctors.  The moral vector of the vanguard of our medical community seems to be much more akin to butchers (we kill these babies so we can sell the parts).

Of course, vets euthanize pets all the time.  But then, to complete the analogy, if doctor and a vet are euthanizing patients for the same reason, then we’re saying that the same medical protections that apply to old dogs apply to old people (or young people).

But, like, it’s not like there hasn’t been a side history of evil-doctoring.  Just in the last century, and without invoking Godwin’s law, we have the Tuskegee experiments, the Guatemala experiments, the Milgram experiments (which were both unethical and good at showing why people do unethical things), and a host of others.

[Maybe those of who are a little skeptical of “science” wouldn’t be so skeptical of it if it wasn’t so easy to point out horrors inflicted in its name.  Like, you know how atheists are always like “more people have died from religion blah blah blah”?  Go look up and see what scientific socialism has done recently…]

So, I guess, in a sense, my big complaint is our looseness in what we call “medicine” and “physicians.”

I think historically, these things have been healers, and the idea that killing people or babies is somehow a form of healing just strikes me as fundamentally wrong.

I’ve argued this before, but the goal of medicine should be to make the human body work as it’s supposed to.  (This is why Viagra is medicine but contraception is not–the one restores the body to a state of wholeness, the other degrades it to a state of illness).  I just can’t see any squaring of the killing of humans and calling such practices “medicine”.

But, then again, Orwell was fighting against doublespeak back in the 1940’s.

But then again, maybe today, the medical community would embrace Boxer’s trip to the glue-maker as “health care” and require taxpayer funding for it.





The Scarlet Letter

I used to argue a lot with friends about abortion.  I generally don’t any more.  I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized the following things.

1) We humans are capable of just about any kind of imaginable evil.  I’ve studied and taught classes on gladiators in Ancient Rome and chattel slavery in the Americas.  I’m aware of human sacrifice by the Aztecs, the Terror Famine in the Ukraine under Soviet rule, and the series of genosuicides in China under Mao.  There is no limit to the human capacity to kill, in small and large scale, other humans.

2) There seems to be a notion that humans, especially mothers, would not knowingly kill their own children “if only they knew” what they were doing.  This is goal of shaming laws requiring ultrasounds, etc.  Perhaps this is true for many, many people.  Perhaps some of these laws have forced women to reconsider their choices and choose not to have someone assassinate their children.

But there is no shortage of humans in our population that do not feel that way, who are not swayed by the “don’t kill people, and especially don’t kill your own children” taboo that the rest of us seem to take as a base moral compass.

Sometimes dads rape their daughters.  Sometimes slave-owners enslave their own children.  Sometimes teachers and priests and Boy Scout leaders molest children.  Sometimes mothers kill their babies.

I think back on the story arc of the TV show Maude, where Bea Arthur’s titular character chooses to have an abortion.  What always gets me is the line where she says, “Pour me a double, I’m drinking for two, now.”  This is not a woman who was unaware that there was another living person inside her.  This is a woman who doesn’t care.

Among the first four people in the Bible, 25% of them turn out to be murderers, which is, I guess, as good a ballpark as any in estimating the number of people who live in our society willing, without much crisis, to do awful, awful things to their fellow man/own baby.

3) An even greater percentage than those openly willing to do evil are those willing to turn a blind eye to it.  Roman slavery was not without its critics (Seneca the younger comes to mind), but there were no serious attempts to abolish slavery.  Northerners pre-civil war saw abolitionists as pests at best and revolutionaries at worst.  “I personally would never own a slave, but who am I to tell someone else they can’t have one,” I think best sums up the general attitude in the North.  I can’t help but see the parallel between Calhoun’s defense of slavery and the modern pro-“choice” movement.  Sort of a mid-1800’s version of “Our property, Ourselves.”

I’m sure many of my friends will be saddened to know that I believe they would have supported the legality of slavery, gladiatorial combat, and the Deutsche Ovens, had they been there, but there it is.  I’m equally sure that they will not be swayed by my arguments, and probably won’t even understand them.

4) The greatest explanation of the human capacity for evil is the end of the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird, when the jury finds the black man guilty of a crime they all know full well he could not have, and did not, commit.  But they do–unanimously, and probably slept soundly that night despite it (as much as fictional characters ever sleep).

There is no great difficulty in understanding that blacks were people, that Jews are people, or that fetuses* are people.  We know these prima facie, but some of us don’t care.  (*it’s a fourth declension noun and so fetus is the singular and plural form. Fetus is the plural in Latin, fetuses in English, never, ever “feti.”)

But in a world with child prostitution, ethnic cleansing, the chomosomicide of the mentally retarded, and suicide bombings, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that perhaps abortion is one more support for the theory that lots of people just don’t give a shit if other people die.