I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.


Let me make it clear: I don’t particularly like rats. Mickey Mouse included; even if it will be the Year of the Rat pretty soon.

But then again, I’ve no great hatred or disgust for them either. I squeal when I see one, sure, but I don’t get hysterical.

I also have no quarrel with people laying out rat poison or – when the ninnies I dorm with are too squeamish – with picking up a dead rat and throwing it out (with rubber gloves, of course).

But why the fuck can I not bring myself to kill a trapped rat.

Here’s the situation: there’s an old drum round here where we catch rainwater. A rat fell into the damned thing, and now it can’t get out. There’s only enough water to keep the rat on it’s hindlegs, so the rat isn’t drowning. So the options are to tip the drum over and let the rat out, or to take it out of there somehow to kill or to kill it in there by holding it underwater until it drowns.

Obviously, letting the rat out seems to be unthinkable. They’re vermin. They carry disease and ruin stuff. Except that I can’t kill the damned thing! I haven’t been able to sleep because of this stupid dilemma.

Which brings me to my rhetorical question of the day: Why the fuck is it so much easier to lay out poison than to kill a rat up close and personal?


Filed under: musings, , , ,

13 Responses

  1. tonio says:

    because you don’t see it die. and because the death occurs out of your sight, there is a certain deniability to it all. after all, the rat was stupid enough to eat the damned poison, yeah?

    being personally responsible for the death of another creature… what more a creature closer to us in the taxonomical scale (Kingdom Mammalia, right?)… is much harder. there is a strange kinship there… and you see something reflected back in the other creature’s eyes when you stare at it with murderous intent.

    i’m not surprised you hesitate. it takes a different kind of person to deliver death upon another creature. someone less… human… in a way.

  2. BrianB says:

    It’s how politicians get to live with themselves.

  3. Jeg says:

    Why the fuck is it so much easier to lay out poison than to kill a rat up close and personal?

    Because theyre cute?

    They’re vermin. They carry disease and ruin stuff.

    Aha! A clue to your reluctance. That sentence above could also be said of the human race and in looking at the rat, you see a reflection of yourself. If being guilty of carrying disease and ruining stuff is enough reason for a death sentence, maybe at some subconscious level, you realize that you as a human deserve death as well.


  4. BrianB says:

    true, but too thick with edumication for my taste.

  5. cvj says:

    If you kill a rat with poison, you’re a liberator. If you drown the rat, then you’re a terrorist.

  6. BrianB says:

    cvj, that’s original:

    In other words, the means justifies the end.

  7. cvj says:

    Brianb, something like that. I figure that’s why smart bombs are viewed by many as less morally reprehensible than suicide bombers.

  8. tonyFL says:

    A suicide-bomber represents two failures. The bomber broke under brainwashing— his/her natural desire to survive has been crushed. Second, his war-chain-of-command is evil to have killed one of its own.

  9. rom says:

    methinks its because killing from a distance (rat poison is killing from a distance in the sense that the act of killing is not proximate to the result) allows you to disassociate yourself from the result. that makes it psychologically more acceptable.

    cvj: i think i would draw a distinction between the two in that smart bombs are designed to kill specific targets; executed properly collateral damage can truly be said to be accidental or beyond the control of the person aiming the bomb. no less reprehensible, of course, but the fact that it was not intentional can at least be taken in mitigation.

    suicide bombers on the other hand are rarely ever surgical in their approach. Indeed, a suicide bombing would probably be considered a failure if it didn’t take out a lot of people, preferably innocent. Therein, after all, lies the power of terrorism. And that’s what makes suicide bombing really deplorable.

  10. cvj says:

    Using smart bombs, the killer abdicates the risk of of killing innocents to the device and/or circumstance. It’s that level of indirection that makes it less morally reprehensible to observers. From the point of view of the innocents affected, it doesn’t matter how they were killed.

  11. tonio says:

    in a smart bomb (particularly them TV-guided ones) you shift perception to the screen, making it more “unreal” somehow.

    more palatable…

  12. BrianB says:

    “allows you to disassociate yourself from the result.”

    Not the result, ROM but the death pangs.

  13. cvj says:

    This might help answer your question:

    Refer to the ‘Trolley Problem’ at page 2.

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