In Oklahoma they are thinking about bringing back the gas chamber because their supply of anaesthetic drugs has run dry. Or the electric chair, or the firing squad.
There are a thousand ways to kill a human; we are very inventive on that score. Thankfully most of the excessively cruel ones, like hanging the culprit upside down over a sulphur pit, have falling into disuse. Nowadays for the State to eliminate one of its members there has to be a swathe of laws to guarantee that the miscreants are put down mercifully.
In ISIS they don’t waste time with legal niceties. They are not interested in killing ‘humanely’ like their hypocritical American cousins. Beating about the Bush is not their style.
Public execution is all the rage. Off with their heads! And upload it to the web for all to see.
And we do, with morbid curiosity.
We had believed that the days of barbaric slaughter were over, a thing of the past, the stuff of History. Wrapped in comfort and relative security we had faith in the positive evolution of mankind. But as Lord of the Flies tried to warn us, the barbarian is inside us all. The veneer of civilisation that we have acquired over the centuries is fragile and thin. In one generation the culture of millennium is blown away.
We are what we learn. If we are taught to hate and destroy, we do so with verve and efficiency. If we are told that we have the right to set ourselves up as judges and executioners, so be it. Let the guilty tremble, our hands will not shake!
In the name of God, in the name of the Law, in the name of some Ideology or other, it makes no difference. It is power over persuasion, obedience over education. That is the real conflict. But it is a never-ending conflict; we must at all times remain alert and nip these attitudes in the bud. Not by the use of force, but by the use of reason, culture, tolerance and humanity.
There is no utopia. The moment we relax our efforts others will take advantage of that laxity.
And we will be the first against the wall.