"He was downtown, talking to a girl, outside of the Barracuda," she recalled. "He was like 'Mom, I'm club-kicking with this girl.'"

Harris asked when he was coming home. Her son told her "early ... before the birds chirp."

She promised she'd be waiting. "OK, I love you," she told Payton. He replied, "I love you more."

About an hour later, Harris got a call from her son's friend. Payton had been shot.

...Harris isn't sure why her son became a target. She was the only one home when bullets struck her son's bedroom window Aug. 18.

The killed person was probably no better than the killer. It's uncommon for windows to get shot up for no reason at all. Both the killer and the killed had long departed the realm of the reasonable and were fully committed to the logic of a deadly fiction—"who would you rather be, the murdered or the murderer?"

But what's truly astonishing in all of this is that Payton's rival was able to overcome an instinct which is powerfully felt in most people and is central to human sociality. Contrary to what we often see in popular culture or read in the papers, the capacity to kill another human does not come so naturally or easily. As the Dutch primatologists Frans De Waal points out in his book The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society, studies have shown that even in the moment of danger, soldiers (trained killers) find it difficult to pull the trigger on another human. Those who can naturally, effortlessly overcome this life-instinct (which has developed over millions of years) are truly inhuman.

The reason why we tend to believe that killing comes naturally to us is due to the dominance of the Hobbesian view of human nature—that we are at heart mean, selfish, murderous animals and that only contracts and policing can maintain social order. But we are social to the root of our being. We do not socialize, we individuate. The social (linguistic, genetic, environmental modifications) is prior to the individual. We do not need contracts to be kind or generous or too cooperate. The world we live in (its words, buildings, and commerce) would not be possible without an innate and long-evolved human sociality. The obvious is of course distorted by ideology. The obvious difficulty of pulling a trigger on another human is repeatedly imagined to be as simple as plucking an apple from a tree. This kind of imagining stems from the false but popular belief in the innate brutishness of human beings.