It's a sin to kill a mockingbird

"It's a sin to kill a mockingbird." A well-respected veteran in the palm oil industry looked puzzled when I mentioned this quote, a few days ago. We were having lunch at a Japanese restaurant, his favourite, when I asked if he had read a book titled 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by American author Harper Lee.

"What is a mockingbird? How do you spell it?" he asked.

I explained to him that a mockingbird is a creature that sings beautifully for the benefit of others and never harm anyone.


Atticus said to Jem one day, "I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit them ... but remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something. And I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy.
"They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.
"That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”


These lines from Chapter 10 are the source of the novel’s title; the idea of “mockingbirds” as innocent people who are frequently misunderstood, discriminated and bullied out of jealousy, prejudice, racism, bigotry, arrogant assumptions and ignorance.

Anyone who tries to hurt "mockingbirds" is actually committing a sin because these kind-hearted souls have done no harm but make the world a better place for those around them.

This novel is set out in the 1930s at a small southern state of USA, when the main form of prejudice was racism. The author lays down the moral of her story with the main characters, Atticus Finch and his young daughter Scout and teenage son, Jem.
In this novel Scout and Jem learnt from their father to be courageous in protecting the innocent, kind-hearted souls metaphored as "mockingbirds". There are two in this novel.

The first is Tom Robinson, a black man who did nothing to deserve trouble except try to help a young girl who seemed desperately lonely and seemed in need of his help. In an ironic exchange for that innocent act of kindness, he was wrongly accused of rape.

The entire premise of false allegations against Tom and Atticus's decision to defend him is about this theme of killing mockingbirds. It is a lawyer's job to defend his client no matter what; it is even more important when that client is unequivocally innocent but being prosecuted simply because he is black.
It is a sin to turn a blind eye on bullying and hateful racism. It is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Atticus steadfastly defended Tom. He argued that if the jury succumbed to popular sentiment and pronounced Tom as guilty, the black man's death can be equated to “the senseless slaughter of songbirds by hunters and children.”
The other mockingbird is Boo Radley. Like Tom, Boo had never done any harm but acted with a good heart to others, especially the Finch children. 

A recluse who rarely sets foot outside his house, Boo was a haunting mystery to Jem, Scout, and Dill. They imagined Boo as a very tall monster who ate squirrels and cats. They also conjured up visions of him having rotting teeth and an ugly scar across his face.

An unlikely symbol of goodness shrouded in initial creepiness, Boo secretly left little gifts for them in a knot-hole of a tree trunk. He was actually trying to befriend Scout and Jem.

A painfully shy man, Boo's innocence and kind-hearted acts were constantly overwhelmed by prejudiced half-truths inculcated by ignorant folks.

Scout finally understood humanity when she asked her father that in making fun of reclusive Boo Radley, just because he is different from others, would be “sort of like shooting at a mockingbird.”

In spite of being the subject of ridicule among townsfolk, Boo was quietly watching over Scout and Jem, like a guardian angel. 

He mended Jem's torn trousers and placed a warm blanket over Scout. Boo proved to be a loyal friend when he courageously saved them from being murdered by the vengeful Bob Ewell.

When Scout realised Boo had rescued her and her brother from being killed, that was when she saw him as a real person.

As Scout learnt how easy it is for many to misunderstand the reclusive Boo, she repaid his kindness by protecting him from prejudice.
In today's context, the mockingbird is the palm oil industry. The businessman seated across the lunch table asked ... so, when the uninformed public chants along with the critics in condemning palm oil ... it's like ignorant children killing the mockingbird?

I nodded. He blinked despairingly. An air of solemnity descend upon us. We drank our green tea in silence.

5 Responses to It's a sin to kill a mockingbird

  1. Yes rather sad that the palm oil industry has not taken a more proactive role in facing their critics like the ethanol industry in Brazil.

  2. Arrogance breeds fear. Strategists apply the divide-and-conquer methods by feeding wolves in sheep skin who work very hard for lucrative rewards. That's how the palm oil industry in developing nations, which has yet to be familiar with under-handed trade political manoeuvrings, is deceived and being held to ransom.

  3. Who are the devious wolves in sheep skin? Cruxify the enemies of the state! Stone these traitors to death!

  4. The oil palm tree is the mockingbird. It is the most productive of all edible oil crops and innocent of all the allegations hurled towards the industry. On the other hand, the industry players, as less than innocent, given that profits override all other considerations.

  5. SH Ding, when you say less than innocent industry players, are you referring to dominant vegetable oil traders and consumer giants from western nations bullying oil palm planters with coercive buying criteria? I can assure you that oil palm planters, like myself, seldom have the opportunity to "reap profits and override all other considerations." That is because profits from the sale of fruits goes back to replanting. I even have to shamelessly beg for replanting subsidy from the government, which is a paltry sum. Journalists and analysts who make simple calculation of CPO price minus production costs to get fat profits tend to forget this money goes back to annual replanting.

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