Is killer instinct something that you’re born with? Is it trained into? Or, as is perhaps the more terrifying possibility, are we all capable of murder and mayhem given the right set of circumstances and stressers?
As with many things, this occurred to me while I was gardening. My garden is a bit of a wild thing, and I’m forever behind on weeding, I don’t use pesticides for the most part out of laziness and pretend it’s an environmental thing, and I don’t have a problem with sharing a bit of my garden with the wildlife.
Until I met the slugs. Who had devoured all of my marigolds – the poor plants were covered in the grey dudes – and worse, some of the slugs had the audacity to head after the real prize plants in the same bed: my tomatoes.
Something about these circumstances had me grabbing gloves and a salt shaker, and I proceeded to pick the slugs off the plants, and either squish or salt them. Slugs also aren’t squeamish when it comes to cannibalizing their own, which I witnessed. Alas, I hadn’t gone very far before I was disturbed by my actions and ended up leaving the remainder of the slimey critters to the garden. Yes, later I did hope they’d drowned when it rained and pooled in the garden, but I don’t think I’ll be picking them off and committing slug-icide any time soon. I started thinking about the fact that I was killing off their grandpa, and grandma, mom and the kids, and thus, the slugs remain to devour my garden.
Okay, so I’ve just spent a lot of time talking about slugs, but my point is this: I felt guilty about even killing slugs. I doubt I’m alone in this – lots of people let the spiders outside rather than squashing them, or weep for the animals who didn’t make it across the road. But we all have our line, don’t we? I do squash spiders and don’t feel terribly guilty about it. I despise the little creepy crawlies that enter my home, and they face termination as a result. Yet slugs: apparently they’re a line. Does that line move? Can it move? Or is it only ignored in the most extreme of circumstances?
Some people kill without remorse; maybe for some of these particularly disturbing individuals, building up from neighborhood pets to the neighbor is the way that they move their own “line”. Then there are the circumstances you hear about where someone kills out of self-defense, or possibly after something horrific was done to their child. Did their line move because of these circumstances, or was it just a momentary deviation?
Humans have had a nasty tendency towards murder probably since the first guy picked up the rock and whacked the other guy over the head with it – maybe because they needed to fight for food and survival, or maybe just because he felt like it. But as humans, how is it we can promise that we will never kill, that killer instinct will never develop within us?
It terrifies me to wonder if maybe, we can’t.
What do you think?
Thanks for reading, and have a great week.