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The Cheapening Of Human Life


The Cheapening Of Human Life

Robert C. Koehler

The cries of terror and disbelief continue. Teenagers lie down in front of the White House to protest the nation’s tepid, stalled gun-control legislation. Parents grieve for their children and stare at the wound carved into the American soul. Assault rifles have more rights than schoolchildren.

A movement simmers, or so it seems, a week after the latest deadly school shooting: seventeen people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many more injured. A disturbed loner — yet another one — is arrested.


The cheapening of human life far exceeds the vast carnage of NRA bought government. The cheapening is fully embedded in our culture, where we send our young people over to die in false wars, to kill innocent people who happen to live in a country America decides to own. The cheapening is on full display when we see people dying at home because they can’t afford prescription drugs or doctors or hospitals or food, while the oligarch’s get tax cuts. And the most deceitful cheapening of human life is the disgusting culture of ‘patriotism’ which props up this corruption decade after decade, while praising Jesus. Republicans and Democrats have created the culture that cheapens human life. There is only one way to heal this gaping wound.


Excellent point in this article - which does not mention that the Florida shooter was a JROTS member of the shooting team and which had also received funding from NRA - as a fresh example of the integration of this societal gun culture.

But the militarization of the psyche (and the society) is one aspect of the cause of these shootings, there are other aspects which are cultural and social i.e. alienation and fracture of the fabric of the society, lack of human scale community, lack of meaningful social/health services or social supports, and ultimately lack of meaningful representation of the will of the people. They are all integrated - the shooters too are victims, but of the system.


I didn’t grow up thinking life and people are disposable. I cannot imagine what goes through young minds when they discover they are disposable. Very scary.


Your 2nd paragraph ought to be gold plated! Thank you.


How do we heal this? This cheapening not only of human life but the life of other species as well.


It is all connected! Anyone who can’t see that is either delusional or intentionally refusing to look at it and admit it. Robert Koehler saw this coming when he wrote the above-quoted column in 2006. Many of us saw it happening as well.

Under the current Administration (and Congress) and the near-total lack of empathy and glorification of militarism, ignorance and violence on the part of the Right and Alt-right, we
are experiencing an acceleration in the final shredding of what remains of our society’s moral

Thank you Robert Koehler, for your very astute and honest observations. I wish that everyone would read this column!


Like father, like son. Like government, like people.
Your country is killing people all over the world to steal their wealth and resources and people don’t think the populace notices? Of course they do. They act out the behavior they see demonstrated by their government.


How? Maybe by living the life of excellence, teaching compassion, giving without question or reason, it has to be done on a one to one scale, it spreads just like a tall tale because it feels good, it feels right. Don’t worry, by asking the question you already know :slight_smile:


sbrownn…ever thought of writing opinions for news outlets? You pack one hell of a punch. Wow.


I went to his site and offered my help via my sites content.

Off subject…when I lived in Casper Wy I would go to the North Platte River east of town at sunset and watch a flock of nighthawks dance above the water catching their evening meal. Your screen name trips me out every time :slight_smile:


“a symptom of the general cheapening of human life in American society”

This is the natural result of politicians/rulers accountable only to their corporate/big money contributors. Maybe we haven’t totally lost control, but that is certainly debatable with horrible evidence to the contrary. Corporations do not care about anything other than profits no matter what the human cost. That is why assault weapons are legal. That is why health care is a disaster in this country. That is why we are at war killing untold numbers overseas almost daily. Changing this may be impossible without uncontrolled upheaval threatening all. Connect the dots.


Thanks! Glad you like it. There’s a story behind it, but much more mundane than what you have shared. Nothing compares to the natural world!


“The nation’s weak gun laws — the easy availability of AR-15 assault rifles — are, in fact, a symptom of the general cheapening of human life in American society, which is reflected in the nation’s ever-expanding obsession with war and a military budget the size of Godzilla. War always has a way of coming home.”–R K

thank you, robert, for speaking the connection between america’s world threatening violence and violence within our borders. amazingly, most journalists who write articles demanding stricter gun laws fail to draw that most obvious parallel. why, i’ve even read articles that suggest a new law that would assure no 19 year old can attain a gun. wait just a darn minute! how old is the average military recruit?

"There’s a bigger problem embedded in the social order than our lack of effective gun laws, and I hope the movement that emerges out of the Parkland massacre makes the leap beyond anger and single-issue politics.

The kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School might agree. Of course, Plan Bush has morphed into Plan Obama and, now, Plan Trump, whose recent budget proposal for next year allots $716 billion to the Department of Defense."–R K

again, thank you, bob, for not using this tragedy as as opportunity to promote a political agenda. there’s something deeply wrong in our society. the lack of public trust tells me people are waking up. the biennial game of musical congressional seats accomplishes little to nothing to alter this disastrous trajectory. yet in anger and utter frustration people flock to washingtom d.c. or their state capitols to beg “their” elected officials to do the right thing, the humane and sensible thing. most of us see that corruption and croney politics permeate throughout our governments top to bottom.

why is that?

simple, really. you and i are not mega-corporations. mitt romney explained bluntly that corporations are people! then our venal judiciary for hire supreme court punctuated that obscenity by declaring money as speech allowing corporate interests to bribe or buy our executive, legislative and judicial branches. all of us together cannot come up with enough money to catch the ear of our reckless law writers. unlike the fossil fuel, the financial industry, big pharma and the munitions industries the nra conducts business as a non-profit entity. don’t you believe it! somehow this non-profit group managed to scrimp together 30 million dollars to donate to the trump campaign to protect “our” second amendment rights. just the tip of the melting iceberg; these mega-corporations and faux non-profits invade our state and municipal governments too. corporations exist for two reasons. #1 to make a profit and #2 to protect upper management from liability for disastrous, harmful decisions.

so to answer robert koehler’s question, “Life is sacred. Isn’t it?” NO! not to those who worship only money and power. It’s up to us, we_the_people, to create a real egalitarian democracy.


I am pretty sure that it will take “controlled upheaval” to bring back our Democracy.

Country, the only fear I have is that no one will show up for the revolution.

Many of us talk the talk about wanting their children and grandchildren to grow up in a country without Fear, and then every two and four years these same folks vote for the Two Worst Warmongering political parties in this country.

It’s easy to see why so many are cynical and resigned to not voting. Nothing changes.

And why should it. The same 95% vote for the same corrupt politicians over and over and over.


We are living in the United States of Insanity.

Most everyone we know is responsible for the devastation of our Democracy.

It’s like they don’t have a single thought of their own.


Just struck me that there is something kind of circular in this reasoning re campaign contributions: those running for office need corporate money, not for their personal accounts, but rather to pay for sound bytes and advertising so they can be elected. So far, so good. But by whom? The people who vote. In other words, the money is used to woo us. So, “democracy” really is working–because like the rat in the food maze, we keep pulling the trigger. I know it’s obvious; I think it just reminds me of our stupidity and complicity in the very things that are happening to us. Oh well.


H.S. campuses often have specially designated offices for military to be present in the school and conduct recruitment activities. ROTC is a status class that attracts many of both sexes. And I have to say that football, esp in light of NFL pandering to the Pentagon, is training ground for the “toughness” and “manliness” that feed right into the military, patriotic, and follower-ship mind set that bedevils our entire nation.


Your last two sentences clearly declare something that has been on my mind for some time now. The most normal and decent people around us are complicit without knowing it, and it’s maddening.


the cheapening of life began when we started ignoring the homeless. we would rather set up refugee camps for our wars that kill our troops. what does a 16yr old male think of war? that they will be called to join or join voluntarily? all we talk about is war, war, war and those of us who oppose are called weak and now in some places we can’t even feed the poor. want to know about the cheapening of life, let’s look at ourselves and then at these young teenagers organizing and taking a stand. i think we missed our calling folks.


Whatever Happened to Empathy?

I wrote this several years ago, but the situation seems to have gone downhill ever since. Empathy and compassion are now weaknesses, to be treated with contempt.

Years ago, empathy used to be imbibed with mother’s milk. If you did something thoughtless or inconsiderate, mom or dad said, “How do you think that made them feel?” or “How would you feel if someone said (or did) that to you?”

Eventually, you learned to reflect upon the beliefs, customs and feelings of other people, not only in foreign countries, but in other areas of your own. If you were really lucky, your folks or your buddy’s folks subscribed to National Geographic magazine. After you got over your pre-adolescent sniggering over the occasional naked breast, you began to realize how diverse and rich in customs our beautiful world was. Now, with the advent of home entertainment centers and global satellite links, the world has shrunk to the size of our livingroom. With this benefit, we should be far beyond provincialism and jingoism, but unfortunately our current obsession with the “bottom line” seems to have blunted many of our human sensibilities. Empathy seems to have faded. The ability to put yourself in another’s place is now looked upon as a weakness. This extends not just to foreign nations and customs, but to our own.

The jobless and homeless in this nation, whose numbers are legion, are not freeloading parasites. They are, for the most part, people whose living has vanished as company after company has closed plants and “outsourced” the work to countries where people work for a few dollars per day, then move them even further when they find a place that accepts pennies per day, or perhaps just a bowl of rice. These companies, or their managing staff, look upon every dollar spent on employee retirement funding, medical plans, or workplace safety, as money wasted; money which could go into their pockets or into the acquisition of yet another company which can be raided and dismantled for profit.

To these people, the workers they displace are not people, they are merely ciphers. There is no empathy, they do not put themselves in the place of those desperate men and women trying to feed, clothe and house their families.

Albert Pike, writing for Freemasons in the nineteenth century said, “Teach the employed to be honest, punctual and faithful as well as respectful and obedient to all proper orders: but also teach the employer that every man or woman who desires to work, has a right to have work to do; and that they, and those who from sickness or feebleness, loss of limb or bodily vigor, old age or infancy, are not able to work, have a right to be fed, clothed, and sheltered from the inclement elements: that he commits an awful sin against Masonry and in the sight of God, if he closes his workshops or factories, or ceases to work his mines, when they do not yield him what he regards as sufficient profit, and so dismisses his workmen and workwomen to starve; or when he reduces the wages of man or woman to so low a standard that they and their families cannot be clothed and fed and comfortably housed; or by overwork must give him their blood and life in exchange for the pittance of their wages: and that his duty as a Mason and Brother peremptorily requires him to continue to employ those who else will be pinched with hunger and cold, or resort to theft and vice: and to pay them fair wages, though it may reduce or annul his profits or even eat into his capital; for God hath but loaned him this wealth and made him His almoner and agent to invest it.”

When Pike wrote this, the industry of the United States, and that of other industrialized nations, was controlled by the robber barons, or “Captains of Industry,” as they preferred to be called. To get an idea of the condition of the working class, one should read some of Dickens’ novels, set in the slums of industrialized England.

Many writers, including Dickens, brought enlightened views as to the dignity of man, as our Constitution had put forth the rights of man. The great depression of the 1930’s brought forth Franklin D. Roosevelt, who instituted programs to provide jobs, and to see that none should be left to starve after their working years had ended. World War II left the world with hope, as the United States set out to help rebuild a ravaged planet. The United Nations was established so that all nations, all peoples, would have a forum to solve disputes without resort to war and violence; to promote programs to end famine, ignorance and poverty. To a degree, this worked. It was not perfect, but at least it provided a forum for understanding. People had empathy. They could put themselves in other’s places and understand and feel their problems. Slowly, we were taking steps forward.

Suddenly, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, which should have been a time of hope, we suddenly reverted to the days of the robber barons. Greed and expediency outweighed every other value. Laws and treaties which had given hope to the world were unilaterally discarded. The wealthy were given breaks beyond their wildest dreams. We suddenly became the power which, with overwhelming military force, could stand astride the globe, dictating what other nations must do, making war upon those that did not kowtow to the new power.

Whatever happened to empathy? How did the world suddenly become inhabited by good, red-blooded Americans and a bunch of gooks, slopes, ragheads, hadjis and any other pejorative which makes them seem less than human? How did the world suddenly become us and them? How is it that no one’s beliefs and concerns have validity except ours? How has it come about that the world is now divided between us, our few allies, and a world of terrorists?

Islam is not a religion of terror. It is a kind and loving religion, drawing its influence and origin from the time of Abraham. It regards the religions of Israel and Christianity as also being, “People of the Book.” Unfortunately, it has its fanatical adherents, just as we do, but in the main, the Muslim peoples are no different than us. All they ask of us, of the world, is the chance to live in peace, to raise their families and provide food, clothing and shelter for them. To educate them and teach them to live in peace when their generation matures. These are hard lessons to teach in the midst of death, starvation, war and killing. When this is all you know, you lose your ability to have empathy and put yourself in another’s place. You then grow to learn that there is you and the enemy, and you kill the enemy. If you have no hope, then life becomes cheap and it is easy to sacrifice it; to strap a bomb on your body and walk into a building full of humans, who are no longer humans, but the enemy, and push the button.

Somehow, we must take hold of our destiny and our lives and return to a path of peace and construction. War, greed and destruction is not working. A good start would be to once again learn the skill of empathy, and learn again to put ourselves in another’s place. As we would not be treated, so should we not treat others. Come to think of it, isn’t that covered in the Golden Rule?

I wrote this in about 2001, then republished it in my blog in 2010. 
Perhaps it might be a good reminder today.