Tuesday, October 03, 2006


A good portion of my intellectual and emotional energy has been devoted, in the last few days, to trying to comprehend some of the horrifying violence that I've been watching on the news. I think I may have come to something important.

When I was teaching the Holocaust to high school freshman last year, we watched a film called Nuremberg. A well done TNT production, the movie focuses on the Nazi war crimes trials and the effect the trials had on some of the key figures who took part in the tribunal. One of the characters in the film, a Jewish-American army psychologist, struggled through the entire experience to try to understand how such evil can happen: what makes people not only capable of carrying out atrocities, but believing that it is right and good to do so? The answer, he decided, is that certain people lack empathy. This lack of human feeling and connection - this soullessness - he conjectured, can be the only explanation for what happened during World War II.

I'm beginning to agree with that idea.

I've been paying close attention. I've been watching people around me for quite some time now; I've been seeing how they behave with me and each other, I've been seeing what they teach their children and how they treat their animals and how they conduct themselves in business. Now, I'm not saying that I'm living amongst a band of vicious savages, but I do have to say that I've noticed that there aren't a whole lot of people really looking out for each other. I'm only seeing a tiny bit of 'love thy neighbor' in amongst a whole lot of 'survival of the fittest.'

I think we've been steadily losing our sense of our place in humanity. The "greed is good" attitude of the eighties seems to have morphed into a dangerous kind hedonistic, selfish, demanding madness. Of course, I recognize that the extreme cases of this get all the press, but I do think that we're losing touch with each other. Kizz likes to refer to the pre-flight safety speech that tells us to put our own oxygen mask on before helping others. I'm not sure that most people are getting past the "put your own mask on" part - and some, I think, are taking the masks off of others.

I'm feeling helpless and vulnerable and small in the face of all this violence and randomness and fear. There's only so much I can do, and I try to be mindful of doing it every day: I strive to be kind to everyone I meet. I am mindful not only of what I TELL my children, but of what my example teaches them, as well. I give what I can of my time, my money and myself to the people and projects that resonate with my sense of humanity and harmony with the Universe.

It's all I can do, yet I still find myself asking if it's really enough.


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