Mother and Baby Elephants


Conscience usually includes fairness. You treat me well, and hence I should treat you well. You babysit my child, and hence I should babysit yours. You make me happy, and hence I should try to make you happy, too.

We may not need to follow exact equations. Namely, if you treat me dinners three times, I do not necessarily have to treat you back exactly three times. But I should conscientiously keep your hospitality in mind. Whenever opportunities arise, I should willingly treat you back, which is basic fairness.

So, I have visited your house 3 times in the past. Every time, when I visited you, you treated me a dinner. Today, when you visited me, I did have time; no pending serious commitments awaited me; you did have time; no serious commitments awaited you; there was food in the refrigerator; my cooking skill was not too bad. Yet, I intended to avoid the inconvenience, and to save a few dollars. So my mind clicked a few times, and I uttered an excuse,

ďAh, so sorry. I need to go to the bank to transfer some important funds. Perhaps the next time I can cook you a good lunch. Do visit me again.Ē

It was obvious that I was being unfair.

Why was it obvious that I was being unfair? because the example given above is related to common sense and our daily life, without any sophistication.

Now consider the tragedy that happened within Virginia Tech campus on April 16, 2007. Thirty two innocent students and faculty members were shot to death by a disarrayed loner. This tragedy shocked the nation, and somewhat shocked the world.

Here I am not saying that this tragedy should not have shocked the nation or should not have shocked the world. No, of course not. The event was very tragic. Thirty two lives were taken away abruptly without any good reasons. Deepest sorrow has befallen the surviving relatives of these victims.

What I like to point out is that, at the same time, in a much greater scale and magnitude, tragedies have been happening in Iraq. So many Iraqi civilians have perished by gunfire and bombs. The number can easily surpass 32 multiplied by 1000. We are, however, not shocked by such casualties any more.

Why is there such a difference? Does this difference suggest that the values of American people are higher than that of Iraqi people? If it does not suggest so, how do you interpret such a difference?

See, unconsciously, we have been being unfair. Not in reciprocating dinners, but in respecting values of peopleís lives.

Without thinking hard enough, we may think that Mozart, Einstein, and Churchillís lives are more valuable than a Tahitian farmerís life. After all, these giants contributed much more significantly to the human race than a typical Tahitian farmer does.

But what about the contribution of 32 Americans and the contribution of 32,000 Iraqis?

We should have a hard time in answering this question. On the other hand, we also should be very safe. We can rest assured that nobody, or no laws, will reprimand us for being unfair over such an issue.

Once I watched a film on the Discovery channel. In the film, a mother elephant lingered around her dying baby elephant, which was unable to walk due to sickness. She appeared very attached to her baby, panicky, and stressful. Other elephants in the group had to march on to find other grassier pastures. The mother paced back and forth, not knowing what to do. I do not remember if she eventually abandoned her baby and joined the group or not. But the scene of her pacing up and down around her dying baby forever registered in my mind.

The elephant may be of lower value than a human being, from our human beingís perspective. The mother elephantís affection toward her baby, however, should be in a similarly deep fashion as a human motherís affection toward her baby.

When we are eating a juicy veal steak on the plate next time, just imagine that there is a mother cow pacing back and forth, agonizing over her calf being led away to the slaughter house. Furthermore, if we do not eat that veal steak, there are dozen ways to substitute it with bean products in order to supplement the nutrition we need.

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