The death of Osama Bin Laden: understanding actions and reactions

It has been exactly a week since the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden and his passing incited intense debates on the decorum expected. Specifically, there are people who believe that there should not have been any rejoicing about the killing of Osama because he was also a human being. Some have said the dead should be respected, and others have wished his soul rest in peace. The commentary on his passing has also extended to the other end of the spectrum illustrated in phrases such as: Rest in pieces; or Hallelujah he is gone.

When we think back to the recent hate-mongers in history: Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan, and Charles Manson, among many others, it is probable that the mere mention of their names incites raw feelings in people, especially those directly affected by the hatred these individuals/groups have displayed. Perhaps the reality is that, the only people who will show compassion are those indirectly affected. Is it possible that direct experience ‘blurs’ the vision and thoughts of the affected. Conversely are people showing compassion because they forget that in life you should reap what you sow? As someone who did not lose someone in the Twin Towers, but has seen the atrocities carried out by Osama’s followers, it was surprising to read and hear some of these comments. Are people so quick to forget the hate they incited?

On the opposing end of the argument, it cannot be denied that the death of Osama is another chapter in the book of Islamic fanaticism versus the West. Therefore, his death will not put an end to this terror but rather is highly likely to result in more anger and reckless action by members of Al Qaeda. In that regard, the celebrations by Americans seen across the globe can be considered premature and incendiary. More importantly, another human life was lost and it is disrespectful to celebrate death even when you consider someone to be an enemy. Yet when you consider that this same man had no respect for human life himself, is it not just that he be killed in the same manner? And when that happens is it wrong to celebrate that another hate-monger is no more?

From a purely scientific point of view, the universe has a balance. It is why there is a food pyramid: grass grows and is eaten by cows, which are then eaten by cows, which are then eaten by humans, who return back to the earth as organic matter which nourishes the grass. It is the reason for the law of conservation of mass: Whatever amount of matter you have in the beginning of a reaction is what you have at the end of a reaction. It is also the reason for Newton’s third law: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Mahatma Ghandi is widely quoted as saying: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” meaning retaliation is not the way in which the world should work. Bearing this in mind, how then does the universe balance itself out? Should we be patient and wait for events to play our naturally? Is there not a reason why law and order was established such that if your actions are averse to the society’s laws then there is a consequence? Of course the next question will be: What is the right consequence?

Going back to science, consequences should be equal to actions committed. How then is justice acquired when one man is deemed to be responsible for the death of many? That is probably the biggest question in this whole saga: Is there ever a way to find peace and justice when the reaction cannot be equal to the action?


Damilola Daramola is a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the Center for Electrochemical Engineering at Ohio University, USA, where he conducts research on hydrogen production from wastes like ammonia and urea. He received his Doctoral degree in Chemical Engineering from Ohio University and frequently writes on personal growth and science.

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