Between living beings there is a moral boundary that delimits the rights of one over the other.
The idea that life belongs to us comes from way back, from a primitive ideology fanatically centred on man as the absolute owner of everything that surrounds him. For this reason, the deformed sense of ownership that marks our upbringing, which began in childhood with the chick in the piñata being chopped up because the child wanted to see how it worked, is not so obvious. After all, it’s just a dismembered chick that is thrown away and the only consequence is that mum says “no more piñata chicks” ….
Thus, in the same arbitrary and incomprehensible way, we own the life of the tree that obstructs the view from the balcony and for that reason spilled out under the edge of the axe, transforming that thriving almond tree full of shoots into green and useless firewood. “It’s my garden and it’s my tree. And I cut it down when I want to. It’s the same with animals. As it is the fashion to have fine puppies or show cats, let’s have one. It doesn’t matter what we do with it, as long as it belongs to us.
And so, there goes a living being that belongs to other living beings who possess enough power to make its little life a hell or a paradise. Yet life, that concept which has mobilised the neurons of philosophers, artists, scientists and theologians throughout the ages, remains a mystery; an arcane one that eludes us and leaves us ever perplexed by its miracle.
Perhaps this deranged sense of ownership has also led to the habit of disregarding the lives of so-called inferior creatures on the grounds of physical force, economic power, social position or ethnic difference. And this includes children, the elderly, women and other human communities. From what macho protocol does the stereotype that physically or socially weaker beings are inferior derive? Going back to the chick in the piñata… how can we accept that a living being is handed over to another living being to play its games of power and domination?
It is not necessary to go very far to extract from this position of arrogance many of the worst warlike actions of all times, and practically all the systems of slavery that still predominate in countries that claim to be models of democracy. The lives of others do not belong to us. If we want to be the custodians of it, as in the case of domestic animals, or if we want to enjoy its beauty, as in the case of the natural world, it would be a good idea to start thinking about the fact that by owning them we acquire the commitment to respect their integrity and to provide the most adequate resources for their subsistence.
The case of the family is similar. It is not “my family, and I do whatever I want with it”. It is a group of beings in a situation of cohabitation or legal bond, but who do not form part of the patrimony of the strongest, as it is customary to believe in many of our societies.
This eminently masculine and therefore patriarchal attitude is one of the most decisive factors in the moral weakening of the human community. Absolute power over the lives of others is the fastest way to the loss of values and the consolidation of a materialism that justifies the horror of wars of extermination, justifies warfare based on racism and makes us believe that the strongest commit the worst crimes in order to protect us, the weakest, from ourselves.
The concept of private property has limits, it does not include the life of other beings.