Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"Shadow", Chapter 2, Part 4

The executions I have seen performed and have performed myself so often are no more than a trade, a butchery of human beings who are for the most part less innocent and less valuable than cattle.
This quote seems very callous, and it may very well be, given the character's upbringing and profession (which are the same thing) but in context (see the last post) it's more confusing than that. Coming after a statement about how life abounds in a place of death, it almost seems like a non sequitur. It seems like Wolfe is getting at something, but I can't figure out what it is. So I'll just do some free association: Can the word innocent be applied to animals? And is that how some vegetarians view eating meat, as the slaughter of innocents? All you vegetarians should let me know. To me, innocent is a tricky word. I don't think that cattle can make moral judgments, so I don't think they can be innocent. But then, babies can't make moral judgments, so I guess I wouldn't call them innocent either. And by the time you can make moral judgments, you've probably done things that upon reflection you consider wrong. So maybe "innocent" is one of those useful theoretical words like "stationary" that you only see approximated in real life.

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