“Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.”
Hannah Arendt (German born American Philosopher and Political scientist. 1906-1975)
There is a lot of noise. Men with their lungis wrapped efficiently around them, moving about purposefully, bargaining hard with the customers flocking around them.
But my gaze seems fixed to the large round baskets set all around me. Rough, thick wire netting works as the covering for each. And inside each basket there are about ten chicken, stuffed so full that the only way one of them can move around even a few small chicken paces, is if one of them is hunched over and sitting. The odd lucky one cranes out of the netting, in an effort to get some air and space. I am sure she spies more baskets and sees other heads also peeping about.
Grain and seeds are strewn all along the basket floor for the hens to feed on. But there a certain listlessness about these hens. They seem oblivious to everything, just standing or sitting there, bumping other chicken when they unfold their clipped wings.
Suddenly the stillness inside the camp is rent. One of the lungi wearing staff expertly whips open the cover, drags out a black feathered hen by the scruff of its wings. The hen starts squawking, terrified, her yellow eyes wide and flicking everywhere, while her legs claw the air helplessly.
Meanwhile, her weight measured, the naked hen becomes someone else’s property. She is whisked off the scale into the sure hands of another worker in the background, hunched on top of a large flat stone and a wooden block in front of him. He then picks up a machete and raises it over his shoulder.
Some more blood spills onto the wet wooden block.
Arendt spoke of Eichmann as being a perfect example of what she thought was the “banality of evil”. Sometimes, I wonder why it is that people think that by putting a word such as ‘banal’ and ‘evil’ together, one can explain Man’s motives.
And for those who think that this is an indictment of non-vegetarians, be warned: I’m coming to you, you vegetarian hypocrites.
If you think that you can get away by calling those who eat chicken butchered before their eyes sick, heartless and cruel, you should think again. Taking a sickle and slicing neatly through scores of wheat shoots, sitting atop a massive tractor and mercilessly ‘harvesting’ hectares upon hectares of corn, uprooting sweet-potatoes when they have just blossomed, hacking out tomatoes, brinjals and bananas is not any different from the butcher’s blood.
What is probably worse is thinking that just because at one killing you see blood, or wings fluttering and helpless innocent hens plead for help, you think of yourself as guilty. But when relishing a hot steaming meal of baigan bharta and roti, we feel no remorse, no guilt.
Man left Eden when the Agricultural Revolution took place at the dawn of History on the banks of the Tigris & Euphrates. It is of course ironic that I write this at a time when the people of that same valley are all but drowned.
I profess no overarching judgment to any man. I can eat pretty much anything that is edible, if it is cooked well. If there is any guilt, in my case, I shall not hide behind any ‘banality’ or ‘collective’.
My only plea is that before we point fingers at those amongst us who seem the most guilty, we should accuse them in the knowledge that Paradise was lost a long, long time ago.