I was talking to one of our photographers in the office earlier and we traded thoughts about the Holidays, the news on the falling birds, 2012, and death. It was weird though because it was the first time that he told me about his feelings on taking pictures of dead people. He told me that he doesn’t like doing it because seeing the dead inside a coffin or on the slab would erase all the previous images he would have of the dead. He would rather remember the dead in how they looked like before they died.
I told him that he would not have had a career in the mainstream media had he tried pursuing one because in the mainstream media, cameramen/ camerawomen and photographers are forced to take videos and pictures of the dead as part of the exercise of the precision. For some it is due to the requirements imposed by the industry and the profession, for others it is a compulsion. I said that back then, I had to look at dead bodies. I had to see how the person died so that I could write more accurately on the wounds, the cuts, the bruises, and tattoos that are on the person at the time of death. Yes, I do look at the dead bodies of victims of crimes and accidents personally and I can say that I have lost count of the bodies I have seen.
The dead come in many forms and it does not matter whether they are men or women, adult or child, rich or poor. When they die, they are all the same: clumps of flesh on a slab. And while some may die with very few, if not, no injuries at all; there are those who end up mangled, disfigured, and in bits and pieces. It is actually comforting to die of a disease than in an accident, or a robbery, or a thrill stabbing. At least when one dies of a disease, the body more or less is in its recognizable form. In an accident, one might lose a hand, a leg, a head, or in a couple of cases I covered, more specifically, the brains. Those who die in robberies usually end up shot or stabbed. And the number of shots correspond to the state of being of the suspect, the circumstances of the crime, or the number of bullets in the gun. The number of stab wounds is usually also the result of the same conditions as those with the shootings. What is pitiful is when one is killed in a thrill stabbing by a gang because the stab wounds can range anything from twenty to forty or even sixty. And they are all over the body of the victim. The wounds also depend on the knives used by the suspects. Once, I had a story where a bolo was used along with the knives, resulting to the victim ended up like some hotdog with slashed on the side with huge gaping wounds from the face down to the legs.
We are all merely a combination of muscles, blood, some electric charge, and some brain cells. When we die, we die as the birds do, as the dogs do, and as the pigs do. What I think only makes us human different is our capacity to feel emotions, contemplate, and enforce our will. We give in to our feelings and we feel for others. We think of how our actions might affect others and how we can become better persons for the ones we love. We pursue our dreams and cultivate our passions so that we may find happiness and make those we love happy. These I think are the things which make us different from the other creatures.
Sadly though, as our society moves more and more into consumerist practices, exploitative conditions,self-engrossed lifestyles, we have forgotten about the more important things in life: love, family, peace, justice, and freedom. We have focused more on what material objects to accumulate instead of what values and knowledge to cultivate. We have reduced ourselves into non-thinking beings incapable of feeling for others and doing what we can for their betterment. We have become mere animals only engaged in hunting down others, killing them, and taking away what they have. And in that state, the realization I had from looking at dead bodies years back will always ring true: we are after all, mere clumps of flesh, no different from the birds, the dogs, and the pigs.