Until challenged to think differently, I am more idealist than realist. Go back in time a couple years and ask me if all lives are equal, and I would look at you like you’re mad. Duh, all lives are equal.
Recently, a friend and I got into a discussion about Artificial Intelligence in driverless cars. In the case of an unavoidable crash, should it be programmed to prioritise the life of the occupants or the pedestrians? If it can swerve left towards an old man or right towards a child, which side should it go?
Truth is, I never really thought about this. Until one day, I learnt the concept of triage. In a mass medical emergency (think a horrible multi-vehicle accident) a health care worker should split incoming patients into red (immediate attention needed but patient can be stabilised and saved), yellow (serious, but not immediately life-threatening) and green (need of minimum care, minor injuries). It’s pretty straight forward so far.
Then comes the black category; this consists of patients who are dead, or who are so close to death that they’re no longer a priority. I cringe as I write this, but the argument is infallible: if you have one life-saving machine and there are two people who need it, A and B, and A is likely to survive if he gets it, whereas B would probably die even if he does; two is more than one. It’s math.
Even as the guileless child inside me screams at the unfairness of it; the realist keeps a steady argument going.
We give a death sentence to a serial killer because it will protect many innocent people. We allow animal testing to go on because we want our children to have safe medicines.
If forced to decide, I would want the driverless car to be programmed to swerve towards the old man, and then probably die of guilt myself.
Arguments on all of the above can keep going on and on and on. All sides will have valid points, both the idealists and the realists will continue an endless war. This used to disturb me.
A year ago, I would shy away from this conversation because it was too uncomfortable, too painful. Both sides seemed to be invalidating themselves when they took a side and said, it should be this way. I have slowly realised these arguments are healthy; they’re the only way forward when our inquisitive minds continue to push us along this path of evolution. These issues will keep coming up, and not because some lives are worth more or less, but because all lives are worthy, all life is precious. That’s why we argue and debate. Each and every life deserves an advocate and our words have mutual effects on our collective growth.
But, aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves?
The driverless car is something yet to come. Animal testing and vegan arguments are changing, evolving and are time-based according to the societal scenario we live in. We could all be forced to be vegan to save our planet in a few years. Animal testing could become obsolete with cell culture testing.
But aren’t there a few timeless issues when it comes to the value of a life?
The right to live.
The right to adhere to any faith.
The right to prosperity.
The right to dignity.
It’s okay if we mess up on the issues that are in the gray areas, clarity will eventually come, but what about the ones we’ve collectively agreed on?
They’re still being violated all over the world, and shouldn’t that be our focus? In my opinion, all lives are equal (idealist, sorry) but life isn’t worth anything if we aren’t creating a better world.
Politics will use propaganda to make you believe that these fundamentals are as debatable as the right to eat meat, but they’re not. Insinuation and divide-and-rule ideologies can make us subconsciously act as if some people are more worthy than others, especially when identity triggers are used. We need to stop falling for this. Humanity changes, it evolves. What seems relevant now wasn’t so a thousand years ago, and who knows where we’ll be a thousand years from now, but the basics are the basics.
I’ve heard events of decades ago (They destroyed our mosques! – They forced all the Brahmins out. – This land belonged to us in the first place!) used to validate cruelty of today, human rights violations happening now.
Listen, it wasn’t okay then. It isn’t okay now. It never ever will be okay.
No human should suffer because of the colour of their skin or their belief system or their demands for dignity and freedom.
We’ve agreed on this.
Now we only need to remember it.
When TV polarises humans into radical groups, we should remember we are the same.
When some people are projected as “other”, we should remember that we all fall in love the same way.
When politicians use events of yesterday to collect todays votes, we should remember that we all bleed red.
When lines are drawn between us, and we are set up as enemies even before we realise it, we should remember that we cry and laugh in the same language.
We don’t have to agree on everything.
We don’t all have to be the same.
Unity in diversity is so much more powerful than uniformity.
Live, and let live.
Because all lives are equal, all lives are worthy.
We are different. We are one.
We are capable of world peace.
All my love,