Death by Praying
Long ago I had a dream of a new form of capital punishment - death by forced overdose of cough syrup. Strap the condemned into a (deliberately uncomfortable) chair and then slowly but continuously spoon feed him codeine-laced cough syrup over a period of hours.
Recently, I thought of something new along the lines of execution: death by being eaten alive by a large bag full of Praying Mantises (“kamakiri” in Japanese). The first idea is retarded by the vice of the involvement of a narcotic drug, codeine. But the second idea carries the virtue of being environmentally friendly. It’s recycling. I hope it appeals to the eco-mindful.
The condemned might have to be doused in honey, or something to attract the interest of the insects to begin with. Or, maybe they can be carefully starved for a short time before the execution to encourage their hunger. Maybe they would swarm, like locusts, or go into a feeding frenzy, like piranha, to hasten the prisoner’s demise and shorten his physical suffering.
The idea occurred to me when I watched the Praying Mantis classroom pet of one of the teachers at work quickly consume a live cockroach fed to it by the macabre pre-teen students. I already knew from television documentaries that female Praying Mantises eat the heads of their mates after copulation - a metaphor for the human female disposition, in my opinion. Watching this mantis consuming the cockroach was both fascinating and gruesome. It held its prey in its spiky forelegs while it fruitlessly squirmed and kicked. Then it nudged into it with its wedge-shaped head, picking away with its mandibles and pincers in a routine, matter-of-fact manner. The roach wriggled determinedly but couldn’t escape. I knew it was finally dead when its antennae stopped swiveling. It was a strange feeling to feel sorry for a cockroach. The mantis severed and discarded the wings, but then I was interested to see how it cut off and then consumed a leg - like a cartoon character slurping down one long string of spaghetti. I guess it was a leg man. So I was standing there in the hallway with the classroom teacher and another teacher at recess time - three adult men made stationary and immobile by the fascination of watching a bug at feast, just as if we were little boys. So I remembered the dictum that adult men are just boys with different toys. Or, maybe not so different.
This particular insect was discovered by students during recess. The other teacher was on duty with me and saw children throwing basketballs at it off in an isolated, bushy corner. He trotted back to his classroom to fetch a spare plastic insect box, commonly used in the hot summer months to house rhinoceros beetles (“kakbuto mushi”) and stag beetles (“kuwagata”) which are popular seasonal pets among Japanese children. His thinking was that it was better for the bug to be alive and in captivity than squashed and killed for no purpose by immature children.
Maybe death by being eaten alive by Praying Mantises would be painful and count as cruel and inhuman punishment. Or, maybe not. But either way, so what?