A lot has been spoken and written, and more still will be be uttered, about the breathtaking and sub-human savagery unleashed in Paris in the past day. Others will comment about the sadness, the fear and the evil; I’ll add my voice to the chant, but I’ll not try to outdo anyone in grief.
Instead, I’ll say that as a doctor, my job is not just to save lives but to enrich them. When people wonder why they are alive, part of what I do is to step in and help them try to make sense of it. When they ask why they should keep going, I use what small wisdom I have to guide them.
And so, in Doc Rat, I try to spread the philosophies I have learned, bought by years of my own experience and the life experience and losses of many, many other people. Anthropomorphic animals may not look as if they are seriously taking on the real world problems of the environment, overpopulation, racism and terrorism, but in a sense the issues that bunnies, mice, wolves and foxes face in the Jennerverse are still fixed with the same tool kit as we may use on our own problems.
“No-one should want to hurt anyone,” cried Flopsy. And that’s true. Whatever the pressing problem that brings people into conflict up against other people, no one should ever want to hurt anyone. No-one should feel happy to have hurt anyone. The moment anyone can feel okay about having hurt someone is the moment that person has become more animal than human. That person’s punishment will be worse than anything we can inflict in revenge, because a life not connected to other souls is a shallow life without meaning.
Indeed, you don’t have to have reached the stage of hurting someone to become sub-human. You can be sub-human just with the preparedness to hurt, the preparedness to disregard. Conversely, the preparedness not to hurt and not to disregard, even to our cost, that state of mind is the membership dues we pay for the privilege of calling ourselves an individual of the human race.
“Quarrydog says “It’s not okay to hurt people.” Boss Alpha Blutenstein says “Sometimes the violence we accept for granted in our own generation will look shocking to the next.” Broken people, broken things and broken relationships will be fixed, not discarded, by Doc Rat and the other healers, and when their recipients build up the strength to do so, they say “Thank you for saving me.”
We only have one life to walk our mortal journey. Sometimes, the lives of some of us will be unfairly brought to an end by the physical strength of others. Violently, in fear, in regret, in terror. I have no answer to redress that. But I can only say that to mean anything at all, our mortal journey must also be a human one. Those of us who call ourselves human know we are this or we are nothing.
And so, what is the means by which the pen counters the bloody might of the sword? In the face of face of a massacre of people for the simple reason that they were there? Only this dearly-bought wisdom: It is impossible to feel okay about taking a life and still be truly human.
The greatest self-punishment of a killer is to exist empty and damned.