Human Nature: a special kind of ethics for a special kind of beast?

Years ago, I read a philosopher who stipulated that human beings that didn’t treat others humanely were not, in fact, entitled to the word “human” in their title.  He argued, further, that they were not persons.  An anthropologist would say this has to do with reciprocity, Jesus would call it the Golden Rule argument, Kant incorporated some version of it into his categorical imperative(s).

The Los Angeles Times, today reported that some complete assholes stole a priceless work of art.  Petroglyphs are near and dear to my heart, so of course this makes me angry.  The furies and the muses compelled the Ancient Greeks to action:  to philosophy, to writing, to theater, to art.  We have to take all that inspires us, whether blissful or…something like this story…and turn it into something else.  So I write about it.

Here, first, are some pictures of what these people destroyed:

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On the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, Native Americans kept track of their use of space through calendar-like petroglyphs.  This system of petroglyphs stretches from the California Coast to the Plains.  Paiutes still used this site in sacred ceremony and they believe the petroglyphs were carved by shamans (so do I).

Somebody came in with a winch, a jack hammer and probably a skiff loader and chopped these out of the earth.  Here’s a picture of damage at another nearby site:


The Bureau of Land Management offers a mere $1000 reward for information leading to the capture of these…thieves, and if it’s their first conviction, they face only a year in federal prison (whereas students who commit financial aid fraud face up to 20 years in prison).

Something’s broken here.  Maybe we need skiff loader laws that are like gun laws.  Maybe every skiff loader should have a GPS chip that traces its movements and another 20 years in prison for removing it.  Or, as an online friend of mine said:  The death penalty for this crime and only for this crime.  (Those of us who are anti-death penalty have a hard time using reason sometimes too).

There are no funds to police these sites.

And I have no further words to express what I’m feeling, but I am inspired to donate further to the Archaeological Conservancy, and to other entities I trust to protect our earthly heritage.


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