Kian was a now-grieving mother’s son, and she is inconsolable in her grief. Even the mother of an executed criminal has every right to grieve, and Kian was no criminal at all. His executioners suspected that he was one, and executed him like they had convicted him of being one. Because of this, the whole nation should be grieving with Kian’s mother at how far down the road of remorselessness and cruelty we have gone.
What shocks me more are the attempts to justify Kian’s murder. The mere refusal to concede, in the very least, that something wrong, something immoral, took place is itself an affront to our supposedly evolved moral sense. It is a perverse undoing of what centuries of refinement in moral sensibility and thought have brought forth. It is nothing less than the return of barbarity donning the habiliments of “collateral damage” and going by the pretense of a “response to exigent circumstances.” No, no exigent circumstance is good enough an excuse for the murder of Kian.
Even if Kian had been espied with a bulging sachet of shabu or a brick of cocaine in his hand, it would still have been morally wrong and legally a crime to shoot him to death. It would have been necessary to apprehend him, to prosecute and to try him and, on the strength of the evidence, to either convict or acquit him. When an offender is caught in flagrante delicto…in the act, that might seem like a useless ceremony, but the ceremony is called “due process” and it is not only a constitutionally vested right. It is a human right: a claim a person can make against one who wields force on the ground of reasonability. Due process is a demand of right reason. The refusal to grant due process is the refusal to abide by reason. And it is therefore the height of unreason when someone like Kian is shot dead while doing nothing criminal nor even slightly suspicious! “Due process” is what establishes the necessary distance between the offense and its punishment—not only so that guilt or innocence may be determined, but so that there might be distinguished just sanction from vengeance or reprisal.
It cannot be “a more perfect society” that is not outraged at Kian’s death: made to hold a firearm and told to fire it, so that he could be fired upon in a manner so cruelly and diabolically calculated. If “responsibility for the Other” is something that binds me, ab initio or ex natura and not because I am thoughtful and kind but because I am a subject, then it must call for a total rewiring of conscience to resign ourselves to the treatment of others, the way Kian was dispatched. It is more than the “lax conscience” of which Medieval moralists wrote when they reflected on the apparent insensitivity of the consciences of some to what were clearly immoral acts or omissions. It is even more than the “resentiment” that Scheler took over from Nietzsche. It is far more malevolent, something more devastating on the individual soul as destructive as it is of the nation’s spirit. It cannot be the same as the detestable lust of the Roman mob for blood at the arena, that made them applaud gladiators bludgeoning each other to death or wild animals tearing condemned persons or being set afire as human torches. Several centuries have passed since, and moral consciousness has evolved. It is nothing less than a repudiation of what we have already realized to be human and humane. It is turning our backs on centuries of social and cultural evolution.
Not even the post-modern posture of refusing as definitive the morality of the past will wash the stain from the bloodied hands of Kian’s murderers. The present spate of killing goes by one dangerously and destructively grand narrative: that some people are irreparably loathsome that their extermination is the only option. If all philosophy after the Holocaust should take its bearings away from the crematoria and the gas chambers of Auschwitz, what terrifies me most is that we seem to have chosen to retrace our steps to the dreadful camps where human beings were marked out as “unsalvageable,” suitable only for destruction!
“Weep not for me, but for yourselves and for your children.” This is what the suffering Jesus, on his way to crucifixion, told the women of Jerusalem. Kian could very well be telling us that now for it is the path that leads to our self-destruction that this trail of corpses marks. When pictures found their way on social media of Kian in a body-bag, atop a morgue table, what I saw was the picture of a morally bankrupt nation.
Why should we not grieve with Kian’s mother?