Disposal Economics


When Public Executions
Were the Crowd’s Delight

Immortality is one of those dreams that would turn into a nightmare if it’d ever become reality. Even without the proverbial zombies roaming the earth, we still need desperately to die on a regular basis.
Not pretty, for sure, but a vow of support to all blessed forms of natural death, the economics of crime and punishment, and the ecology of making sure we dispose properly of the bodies of those who passed on.
According to the Annals of Improbable Research, modern forms of execution went through considerable changes until reaching the efficiency and swiftness of contemporary death rows. Or so that was the plan. Such evolution also reflects changes in our footprint on the planet.
Thus, if ancient Hebrews, living in barren lands, executed people by stoning, Arabs in nearby deserts used a sword to decapitate them. Impaling was an ancient and popular method, and the Romanian Prince Vlad III, likely to have inspired the myth of the Dracula, was an avid adopter. Turks preferred metal spears, but in most of Asia and the Tropics, bamboo was the preferred method to exact justice. To each its own horror theater.

DEATH METHODS & CROWD FAVORITES
Arguably, few could beat crucifixion as a public spectacle, though. It was the Roman way, and Jesus, its cèlebre poster boy. It even had an opening act where the condemned had to drag his own wooden crossbar to the site of the execution to the crowds’ delight. Romans could be cruel but not free of ecological concerns, though.
They saw how wasteful the method was – not of blood and guts, which there were plenty to go around – but of trees. And soon, an alternative was devised. They’d bend and tie with ropes two trees, and have the arms and legs of the doomed attached on each of them. Then the ropes would be cut, for a clean, quick end, with no waste of timber.
In Medieval Europe, the auto-de-fé, i.e., to burn alive at the stake, was the sanctioned method of execution. It killed Joana D’Arca and countless others, accused of heresy, witchcraft, and other peccadillos.

HEADS ROLLED, FIRING SQUADS SHOT
In the 18th century, a new method made people literally lose their heads over it, and became forever associated with the French Revolution: the guillotine. It replaced the sword executioner and it killed thousands but it could not slay two popular beliefs: it was not invented by Joseph Guillotin and it did not kill him either.
It never caught on in North America, where hanging was the preferred way. Still, forest depletion was a constant concern, so with the Civil War, death by firing squad was a more economical alternative.
With the added convenience of serving to execute more than one person at a time. As we mentioned before, (more)
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Vessels of Tears

Beyond Memory, Three
Wrecks That Still Hurt

The schooner that brought the last 110 Africans to be American slaves, in 1860; a boxcar that carried many of the millions of Jews to Germany’s Auschwitz extermination camp, during WWII; a boat that sunk in the Mediterranean in 2015, killing over a thousand migrants.
For their riders, hope for breaking chains, breathe freedom, or find a future, was yanked out of their reach. But even stripped of their dignity, or forced to renounce name and identity, their lives were not wasted. Now, more than ever, they must be known by all.
It’s an intriguing coincidence. The Clotilda, a slave ship just-found in Alabama; a cattle car used in the Holocaust, being exhibited in Manhattan; and the rescued wreck of the Barca Nostra, on display at the Venice Biennale, are sharing a meaningful moment now.
Slavery. Racism. Xenophobia. Neither vanquished, as believed, nor gone. As their murderous spell threatens the world again, it’s timely that all three vessels have been given a new life as beacons of memory and resistance. History is not made to be repeated.
Some are weary of attributing to objects the significance of the pain and suffering experienced by actual human beings; it risks dehumanizing them further. But it beats forgetting it all. It jolts people out of complacency, and gives them agency over the immovable past.

THE LAST SLAVE SHIP, BURIED IN THE MUD
The story of the Clotilda, the boat that transported kidnapped West Africans to Alabama, is well known. The last slave ship to reach the U.S., at the dawn of the Civil War, it was among other things, breaking the federal ban on ‘importation,’ in effect since 1808.
To avoid being caught, after delivering its heartbreaking cargo, the captain burned and sank the boat. But in a generation, the then former slaves founded Africatown, and helped build this country. They did not forget, though, and now there’s proof for the stories they’ve heard.
The discovery is worth being part of the national conversation about the black African-American experience, just like Reparations for Slavery, and prison and drug reforms. All are about giving people and their stories their due acknowledgement and place in history.

THE SINISTER CARGO OF NAZI TRAINS
In America, circa 2019, when a white supremacist goes in a rampage, killing Jewish people, or another Latino child dies at an immigration facility, the president gives the first a nod, and ignores the other. No wonder that there’s been quite a few of both lately. People of a certain age know how this winds up.
Auschwitz, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a show about Germany’s biggest concentration camp between 1940-1945, features a railcar just like the ones Nazis used to ship thousands of Jews and others to gas chambers. But it teaches more than that.
Hate and murder are the stock and trade of psychopaths in power, but they rely on forgetfulness to come back again. If the murder of six million is no longer (more)
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When Beasts Attack

Group of World Famous Animals
Is Killed By Some Stupid Humans

To call it a wave of killings would be an exaggeration. To see it as trending, too perverse to bear. But the spate of killings of iconic animals around the world does have a sinister bend to it, beyond the cruelty that garden-variety sadists usually inflict to them.
A rhino, a flamingo, a hippo, among others, all beloved and popular, have met unexplainable, atrocious fates in the past months. Even if one of them survived the injuries, the brutal attacks some have endured can only be classified as pure bestiality.
That’s why whenever an abuser is sentenced to a rare stiff punishment, there’s discreet celebration. For it goes against the grain: the norm is for them to walk unencumbered, like the dentist who shot Cecil, the Lion, or for people to ignore ethical qualms about slaughtering animals.
News coverage is usually mired in hypocrisy and selective morals. Case in point: the N.Y. Times story on Indonesians’ taste for dog meat, published the other week, which seemed to misplace the outrage on the fact that they like to eat what Westerners consider pets.
The biggest producers of industrialized animal products are not in Asia, but in the U.S., Europe and South America. And despite scandals, poor sanitary conditions, labor violations, and corruption, the environment and healthier alternatives to address world hunger are hardly covered.
The string of unrelated incidents renews calls for a radical change in the approach to crimes against the defenseless. Specially when them are used as a political prop, as was the case in at least one instance. Anyone should be liable for the carcasses their endeavors leave behind.

DOGS KILL LEOPARD & SNIPER KILLS DOG
In Namibia, known for its efforts to protect its wild life, a group trapped a leopard they considered a threat, and helped a pack of dogs maul it to death. Now there’s a global petition demanding that, if not a similar punishment to be exacted onto the culprits, at least, swift justice.
As for what happened to Grizz, it’s unfortunate but not exactly cruel. Two weeks ago, the in-training explosive-detector collie puppy at the Aukland Airport, in New Zealand, got loose on the runaway, freaked out, and failed to respond to couching and return to safety.
After three hours of flight delays, with pilots refusing to take off and risk an accident, a police marksman was called in and put an end to the worst day of his short life. It was an involuntary heartbreaking experience, and even crusty Aussie cops got tear-eyed.

PRAGUE FLAMINGO & THE AUSCHWITZ SHEEP
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to hurt, let alone, to massacre to death, a pink flamingo. In beautiful Prague, no less. And even worse, that three boys, age 6, 8, and 10, did it. But children can be cruel too, and parents, if around, are liable for what they do.
The killing is a big red flag, since some research confirmed that psychopaths and serial killers use animals as their training grounds. Intervention may help too. As for the 16-year-old bird, (more)
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