It is like something out of a horror story: four people digging up bodies, dumping them and then re-selling the burial plots to unwitting customers. Unfortunately, this scenario is quite real.
Naturally enough, people will wonder why this was done. The most obvious and likely answer is money. Perhaps the initial motivation involved a desperate need for money or perhaps it just started right away with greed. People will of course wonder how these people could do such a thing. While it is easy to understand the psychology of a scam artist (they want to make easy money by tricking people), understanding the sort of person who would descrate corpses to make some extra money poses more of a challenge. That, it would seem, requires a bit more than the usual greed. It would seem to require either something that pushed the people beyond the normal moral limits or perhaps they were lacking whatever it is in most people that makes the thought of descrating a grave to be unthinkable.
From a philosophical perspective, one question is what makes this sort of descration wrong. The part about stealing the grave plot of one person and re-selling it is easy to handle. This is straightforward theft. In the case of what was done to the bodies, it might be tempting to say that the dead were not harmed. After all, they are dead and hence the person is long gone, just leaving behind decaying matter.
While it could be argued that if there is an afterlife, then the people whose bodies have been descrated could be aware of this and thus harmed by this misdeed. Of course, that requires some rather radical metaphysical speculation.
Interestingly, Kant‘s argument about why we should be kind to animals can be applied here. A corpse is not a person and hence could be seen as lacking in moral status itself. However, how a corpse is treated affects and reflect how a person would treat living people. As such, the mistreatment of human remains can be seen as violation of the duty we have to other humans. This, of course, assumes that Kant is right.
Obviously, the living relatives of those whose bodies were disturbed have clearly been harmed by this desecration. After all, learning that a relative has been dug up and tossed aside like so much garbage would certainly be an awful and horrible thing.
One reason why we feel so badly about the dead being mistreated is perhaps because they are completely helpless-they have no ability to resist or protest. They are, as it were, the most helpless of victims. There is also the idea that the dead have earned their rest and should not be disturbed. Of course, there is the challenge of reconciling this view with the fact that we mostly tolerate the disturbing of the ancient dead in the name of archeology.
In any case, this crime is horrific in many ways and almost inconceivable. Not only did these people do evil, they were also amazingly stupid. After all, how could they possibly think that someone would not notice what had happened?
Gravediggers. Ya gotta luv’em. Witty. Philosophical. The kind o’ guys you like to share a beer or two with or elect president.
EX: Read this transcript of an exchange surreptitiously recorded at a recent grave desecration.
1 GRAVEDIGGER Come, my spade. There is no
ancient gentlemen but gardeners, ditchers, and grave-makers: they hold up Adam’s profession.
2 GRAVEDIGGER Was he a gentleman?
1 GRAVEDIGGER He was the first that ever bore arms.
2 GRAVEDIGGER Woo.Woo.Woo.Why, he had none.
1 CLOWN What, art a heathen? How dost thou understand the Scripture?The Scripture says Adam digg’d: could he dig without arms? [He pokes Gravedigger 2 with his shovel] Get it? [snickers]. I’ll put another question to thee: if thou answerest me not to the purpose, confess thyself, —
2 GRAVEDIGGER Okey.
1 GRAVEDIGGER What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?
4 GRAVEDIGGER The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a thousand tenants.
1 GRAVEDIGGER I like thy wit well (He slaps 4 Gravedigger upside the head)But thou dost ill to say the gallows is built stronger than the church; argal, the gallows may do well to thee. To’t again, come.
3 GRAVEDIGGER Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter?
1 GRAVEDIGGER Yes.
2 GRAVEDIGGER Marry, now I can answer. [lengthy pause]
Mass, I cannot answer.
1 GRAVEDIGGER (gives 2 GRAVEDIGGERS’ ears a twist and pokes his eyes)Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
2 GRAVEDIGGER Ow.
1 GRAVEDIGGER Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass–that’s you, get it? (snickers)– will not mend his pace with beating; and when you are asked this question next, say ‘a grave-maker;’ the houses he makes last
5 GRAVEDIGGER [tossing a humerus out of the grave]Then what about this guy’s house. Are we breakin’ and enterin? [giggles and flips out a radius and a femur]
1 GRAVEDIGGER Smart ass. [He smacks 5 GRAVEDIGGER forcefully over the head with his shovel and GRAVEDIGGERS 1,2, 3, and 4,while continuing their witty conversation, cover 5’s body with 9 or so cubic yards of dirt)
And then there were four.
Apologies to the Bard.