Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
12.12.2001 | O. Stepanenko, Chortkiv

When would you agree to become an executioner?


At the end of February the state TV channel ‘1+1’ showed a feature ‘Breakfast with 1+1’, whose content and tone could be regarded as symbolic for modern Ukraine. The showmen Ganna Bezuglik and Anatoliy Yarema with their usual optimistic morning grins proposed their viewers to answer the question: ‘When would you agree to become an EXECUTIONER?’ I believe that you can easily imagine the tone of the question of the type ‘Do not worry – be happy’, something between a musical clip and an advertisement. They also proposed variants of the answers:

‘For money’,

‘For an idea’,

‘From pity’.

Note that there was no variant about the impossibility of killing a person under any circumstances. The reverse question: ‘When would you agree to become a victim of an executioner?’ was not considered either. What conclusions may we draw? Is it not clear that killing by the state is immoral and illegal in Ukraine? It must be noted that, according to the tone of this light-headed morning show, the showmen did not embarrass their viewers with moral, ideological, juridical or even utilitarian arguments pro and contra the death penalty. They did not refer either to Plato, or Dostoevskiy, or to tragic experience of totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. They used nothing but a chain of jokes about medieval and modern executioners. And no one, I repeat NO ONE did not express protest and interfered to this interactive nonsense! I believe that everyone has the right to have a breakfast with ‘1+1’, but…

In the course of the feature the statistics of the viewers’ opinions was accumulated. The overwhelming majority – 297 people – voted for the financial reason. As they say, the comment is extra. Long live Ukraine and Ukrainians! Fortunately, the showmen were not interested in the details: whom, how and for how much. The respondents were also not interested in such insignificant details and did not try to justify their opinions. Actually, what is the difference between the profession of an executioner and of a hired killer? It seemed that the viewers never paid attention to such a philosophical question.

Those prepared to kill for an idea were more than two times less – 130. They were preferable women, and the metal in their voices almost proved their sincerity. They affirmed as a well-proven truth that ‘each citizen must do this to traitors, maniacs and various scum’. Some of them reproached the ‘financially-minded’ executioners saying that ‘if one wants to clean the country from scum, how dare you to demand money?’ Those, who were prepared to kill from pity were not numerous – less than 90. The potential victims were incurably ill, such as AIDS-infected. The showmen almost did not comment the new and dubious for our society topic of euthanasia. It is instructive that no one, who was against any kind of killing, could not reach the feature.

It is senseless to reproach the showmen. The topic considered again reflects the unploughed field of morals and the attitude to the problem of admissibility of killing. In the recent periods of our history the concrete humane life was considered less valuable than certain political, military and similar goals. It was not only admissible, but honorable to kill ‘for the Faith, Czar and Fatherland’, ‘for victory over enemy’, ‘for the revolution’ or ‘for Lenin and Stalin’. Now we can see how the former idols are exchanged for the primitive Mammon’s cult, when money becomes more valuable than human life. Certainly, the great distance is preserved from our society to those, which proclaimed the right for life as most fundamental (natural right, from which no one can deprive, including the power). After all such valued have been declared by our Parliament too (Article 3 of the Ukrainian Constitution). However, this is a typical lip service. The responsibility for making human life in the new society an all-sufficient fundamental value lies upon us, NGO representatives, upon priesthood, mass media and humanitarians in general. I propose to discuss this topic in ‘Prava ludyny’.

I have been working as a physician since 1983, in an intense care ward for the last 15 years. Frequenting the brink between life and death, both patients and doctors feel the value of life especially acutely. I am sure that the problem of the admissibility of depriving one of life must be considered in the circle of moral categories, not of political, ideological and economic ones.

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