Justifiably, the world sighs with relief. Some are glad that the shooting has stopped. Some are glad the killers are dead.
Currently, the dead number ~200, the killers, 11. A ratio of ~9:1 killed per killer.
In recent years there seem to have been more and more pointless killings. America has had it’s all too familiar share of mad schoolchildren who go beserk. Last year Finland had Pekka-Eric Auvinen in the Jokela High School Massacre who killed 9 – remarkably the same killing ratio. The UK has had Hungerford and Dunblane.
The truth is that there are always massacres. Maybe they are just reported better nowadays. Here’s a (remarkably incomplete) list.
However, spurious number slinging aside, wayward bombs dropped by the USA recently against largely Muslim targets in IRAQ and Afghanistan/Pakistan have killed the same numbers, and usually, the American pilots fly safely home. Over the years, thousands have died this way.
In this context, the actions of the Mumbai killers do not look so mad. In their eyes, they see their action as retribution – a continuation of the Jewish principle of “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”. (an aside: No matter how much the Muslim world loathes the Jewish world, their innate justice is remarkably similar – today’s news for instance, is that an Iranian Islamic court is going to blind a man who blinded a woman – literally, an eye for an eye.)
Nichiren Buddhism’s view on this is consistent and unequivocal. Simply, that all human lives are precious, even the killers. It’s simply the law of cause and effect applied to the real world using real people’s lives and experiences.
Cause and effect is simple. The cowardly killers made the cause – now they are dead. For them it was easy as there was no-one to fight back, and when an armed response arose, they’d be pretty certain to die quickly…true cowards…
But very little will really change, especially in Mumbai. The world has selective memory. Since 2001 there have been huge bomb atrocities in Mumbai, Delhi and elsewhere which have killed the same amount of people as this latest gun battle. And that’s just India. (an aside: We notice now and we are bothered because it’s very public and rich westerners are involved this time - 300 people have also been murdered today in Nigeria – did you notice? )
In other words, the killers can keep killing, themselves and others, but there is a natural order of things that is very hard to change. The world did not change because of the previous attacks. If it had, the killers, if they have truly honourable motives would have stopped the killing? Wouldn’t they?
So When or How will the Killing Stop?
The people of Northern Ireland finally realised this futility 10 years ago. So former enemies are now partners in peace. The country is slowly changing to reflect this, although it may be later generations who will finally reap the benefits and take down the wall. The huge death toll in the province and elsewhere affected a lot of lives….
Another effect (by design) of the killers is that of widening divisions and increasing hatred. But as in Northern Ireland, eventually even this hatred runs out of steam.
The USA is also reaping the effect of the causes it’s making. It’s reliance on high-tech mass-killing methods to protect it’s own armed forces from harm is actually fuelling resentment in the local affected populations that will last for centuries. And the thing is, in the end the men on the ground are harmed just as much anyway by the guerilla tactics of roadside bombs from an angry and energised local population. It’s how the US/UK has lost most men.
Truly, cause and effect.
Hopefully, the failed days of Bush’s “shock and awe” will change to ones of building bridges under the new president Obama. The rippling effects of peace will then reflect back to America and it can assume it’s self-styled role of a beacon of enlightenment.
The angry men who fuel the excesses of people like the Mumbai killers will then be ridiculed for what they really are – sad, angry despots, living to have an excuse to deal death.
An example of this shift was in Northern Ireland this very month. Loyalist Michael Stone was found guilty of attempted murder (he was a convicted murderer anyway, but was released as part of the peace process). Once (in)famous throughout the land, hardly anyone bothered to turn up in court – he’s just too boring and people don’t want the killing anymore and certainly don’t wish to hear his meandering gibberish.
It was like closing the final chapter on a dreadful book. (added 8 Dec 2008: 6 times murderer Stone gets locked up for 16 years! )
And what of the one remaining gunman? What does Buddhism say?
If verifiably true, the man has done wrong. Cause and Effect means he will suffer as he’s disrespected human life in the most profound sense - he’s killed. Cause and effect is immediate.
However, in the film “The Bird Man of Alcatraz“, Burt Lancaster, the multiple killer, is eventually rehabilitated into a world of peace. Self acknowledgement of his evil acts is part of it. But time cannot be unwound, so the effects of his killing actions last for a very long time. That is, society has it’s backlash.
The Mumbai killer may or may not reveal his Buddha nature, but even if he does, the negative effects he generated will linger, dependant on the cause he originally made.
In this respect, the film of the Bird Man, is a view of how we’d like Robert Stroud to have been. The real Bird Man, by all accounts, was a complete twat who continued all his life to make bad causes and suffered the bad effects as a consequence!