Is Life Getting Cheaper?

“It is a world where life is cheap. Death can be bought for a few hundred pounds [sterling] and there is no shortage of those willing to provide the service.”—The Scotsman.

During April 1999, in an assault that shocked the entire world, two adolescents violently took over Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado, U.S.A., leaving 15 dead. Investigation showed that one of the attackers had a Web page on which he had written: “DEAD PEOPLE DON’T ARGUE!” Both attackers died in the tragedy.

MURDER is universal, and untold numbers of people die a violent death every day. South Africa led the world with a murder rate of 75 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1995. Life is especially cheap in one South American country, where more than 6,000 were killed for political reasons in 1997. Killing by contract is a normal procedure. One report on that country states: “Shockingly, the murder of children has also soared: In 1996, 4,322 children were killed, a 40 per cent rise in just two years.” However, even children are becoming murderers—of other children and of their own parents. Life is cheap indeed.

Why the “Death Culture”?

What do these facts and figures show? An increasing lack of respect for life. Power-loving and money-hungry people kill without any qualms. Drug lords order the murder of whole families. They euphemize their killing by using such expressions as “whacking,” “rubbing out,” “eliminating,” or “terminating” the victims of what they call hits. Genocide and ethnic cleansing have added to the toll and have cheapened the value of  human life. As a result, killings have become daily fare on the news menus of TV stations worldwide.

Add to this the violence and mayhem glorified on television and movie screens, and our society appears to be wrapped up in a morbid culture centering on death. In this regard the Encyclopædia Britannica says: “During the latter half of the 20th century, death has become a strangely popular subject. Before that time, perhaps rather surprisingly, it was a theme largely eschewed in serious scientific, and to a lesser extent, philosophical speculations.” According to Josep Fericgla, a Catalonian professor of cultural anthropology, “death has become the last effective taboo in our societies, and therefore, it is one of the most important sources today of ideological manipulation.”

Perhaps the most outstanding characteristic of this “death culture” is the popular belief that power, supremacy, money, and pleasure are of much more importance than human life and moral values.

How is this “death culture” spread? What can parents do to counteract this negative influence that surrounds them and affects their children? These are some of the questions that will be answered in the following articles.

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How Much Is a Life Worth?

▪ “The younger lot in the gangs [in Mumbai, India] are so desperate, they will do a contract killing for as little as 5,000 rupees [$115].”—Far Eastern Economic Review.

▪ “He Killed a Passerby Who Refused Him a Cigarette.”—Headline in La Tercera, Santiago, Chile.

▪ “It costs about $7000 to fix up an average contract killing in Russia [in 1995] . . . Contract killings have increased sharply in the economic explosion of post-communist Russia.”—Reuters, based on a report in the Moscow News.

▪ “A Brooklyn real-estate broker was arrested . . . and charged with paying a teen-ager part of a $1,500 fee to kill the man’s pregnant wife and her mother.”—The New York Times.

▪ ‘The price of killing in England is coming down. Prices for a hit have fallen from 30,000 pounds five years ago to a more affordable 5,000 to 10,000 pounds.’—The Guardian.

▪ ‘Vicious Balkan gangs put Mafia in the shade. This is a new type of criminal, with new rules and new weapons. He has explosives and machine guns and doesn’t hesitate to use them.’—The Guardian Weekly.