Why Laughing At A Short Person Did Not Evolve As "Immoral"
by Eric Boakye Antwi
September 2011

Recently I set out to research the topic of morality - why some actions are considered wrong and others not. In the process I made a startling discovery. In order for an action to be considered wrong, the offended party should be able to mete out punishment to the offending party. Thus, concepts of right and wrong are not set in stone as many a child is taught by his parents - as in "the day you drink all the milk in the fridge you will die" - refrain.

An action evolves into a wrong when the offended party could mete out punishment to the offending party; end of story. If the offended party cannot mete out punishment, the action never evolves into a moral wrong. When social animals learnt that conflict was inimical to peaceful co-existence, they evolved morality to maintain the peace. One shall not take another man's wife, for example, is a moral truism because any man whose wife was stolen from him by another able-bodied man would take revenge on the offending party; there could be a bloodbath in the process and the society would be wiped out. It therefore made sense to make it morally wrong for one man to steal the wife of another.

Is it morally wrong to laugh at a disabled man - maybe a blind man or a cripple, then? This person cannot mete out punishment to anyone that offended him, could he? It is morally wrong to laugh at a disabled person because having done so would mean you lacked empathy - you did not care about the hurt feelings the disabled would feel at your jeers. Empathy basically means putting yourself in someone's shoes - "how would you feel if we did this to you?". One is expected to feel empathy for the disabled man because all of us could lose our eyesight or could be crippled in the course of our lives. Thus by not laughing at a disabled person, we are not inviting the gods to mete out their predicament on us as punishment - we are protecting ourselves; saving our own lives so to speak. We do not have to do it because it could happen to us - empathy.

In short, people adopted certain situations as wrong when the punishment that comes with it far outweighed any momentary benefit that could be gained - are you willing to lose your eyesight for the rest of your life just for the fleeting kick you gained from laughing at a blind man? It is not worth it.

Why was laughing at a short person not adopted as a moral wrong by our ancestors? You guessed it: short people could simply not mete out an on-the-spot retribution to any slight on account of their height; being of short stature also meant being relatively physically weaker to take on any taller person - height comes with greater bone and muscle mass as well as superior reach. Because short people could not mete out punishment to those who made fun of them for their height, making fun of a short person did not evolve as a wrong - it is that simple.

Empathy for short men is lacking because men cannot be punished with shortness - simple as that. The tall man cannot feel any empathy for the hurt feelings he would cause a short person because he cannot shrink in size to become short - he cannot put himself in the shoes of a short person because he cannot be punished with short height if he fails to do so. Bingo!

The short person is thus an outsider - the mores of society did not make provision for his protection as far as adverse treatment based on his height was concerned; laughing at a short person for his height was allowed. He was left behind when rights were being apportioned. The short person was thus relegated to the periphery of society - if you cannot defend yourself, then you are going to be the most miserable man around, as many a short kid has experienced at the hands of a bully.

This is my little pet theory on why society sees nothing wrong mistreating people for their height. Thanks for your time.

Please reach me at ericboaky500@yahoo.com