Humanity in the Balance
Picture this: You are walking along a ridge, say, 30 feet above the valley floor. The path is narrow, and, suddenly, as you make a turn you’ve taken many times before, a few stones become dislodged, and you lose your footing. You tumble down the side of the ridge, rolling down the gentle slope.
You would have picked yourself up, dusted yourself off, and rejoiced in the fact you weren’t seriously hurt. Except:
There was a large campfire, sheltered from the wind, near the place you landed, and you rolled right into it. The tenders of the fire were away for a short time, and didn’t see your fall at first. You roll right out of the fire pit again, but not before being rather badly burned.
At this point, the fire-builders come back, and the universe splits into several possibilities.
#1: They address you rather rudely, saying “Hey, watch where you’re rolling, you jerk! Can you move? Can you crawl? OK, then, move along; we’re trying to have a meeting here!”
#2: “OMG are you hurt? What happened? Did someone push you? No? Are you sure? We’ve been after the committee to make that path safer up there! Heads are going to roll for this! Let’s start an action group right now! …Oh, did you just moan? Sorry about that, maybe someone will take you to the infirmary”.
#3: “Hello, fellow human. While we take no joy in your pain, we do recognize that you are completely responsible for your circumstances in life. If we can render you immediate assistance we will; on the other hand, we don’t want to ‘enable’ you. Obviously, though, if we leave you here to just, sort of, die or something, that would mess with our own ‘karma’ so tell us what you need, but no whining or playing victim, OK?”
#4: “Oh, no, you are hurt! Let me check for injuries…can someone get the first aid kit? Can you walk? We’ll get you to the infirmary right away. Later, when you’ve had some rest and a chance to recover a bit, we’ll be by to visit to find out what happened, what we can do to help you recover, and, if you’re up to it, assess what to do to prevent future injuries in this area. Really sorry for your pain, but glad you weren’t more seriously hurt. They’ll take care of you now, please just relax and don’t worry.
Now, these are all rather overblown responses, but I think we can see that all of them “could” occur. This sort of situation came to mind recently as I participated in philosophical discussions on the topics of “offence” and “blame”. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer response #4 to any of the others. The first response would not be desired by anyone, but the middle two, #s 2 & 3, are common responses these days, and form philosophical extremes when we talk about social interaction and responsibility.
There is a large school of thought that goes something like this: “You create your own reality (or you are subject to the ‘Law of Attraction’). Therefore, anything you see and experience is because of how you are ‘vibrating’, and nothing I do can change your vibration, only you can. I am somewhat in this camp myself, by the way, even though I’ve just stated the position rather bluntly. Critics of this say it ‘blames the victim’, to which proponents reply that this is, in fact, the case, but they don’t like to use the word “victim”, as we are all really empowered to make changes. If one is feeling like a victim, that’s the time to look deeply within and focus on what is wanted instead.
Another group of thinkers takes the position that society’s ills govern unpleasant circumstances. I suppose they also think that progress in civilisation also contributes to our comfort. “Yes,” they’ll tell us, “we have a large field to play in, and many of our choices will better or our circumstances. But, what about the person that just can’t get ahead because the government has cut their program? Or people who suffer because of prejudice and hatred? If we care at all, we must do what we can for social reform!” I’m a little bit in this camp, too…with the caveat that it does NOT help us to talk and complain endlessly about societal ills. If we feel called to work for a cause, then by all means, let’s do so. A more worthy pursuit is not easily imagined. But keeping our thoughts mired in how awful things are, without either taking some action, or doing our best to focus thoughts elsewhere, is like slowly drowning in a sea of despair.
This is why I liked Universe #4, from the options above. It is a balanced approach. It doesn’t get angry at victims, outraged at injustice, or overwhelmed in trying to fix everything at once. It renders aid where it can, but also uses an incident to examine circumstances and see what can be done, should one choose action.
I think our feelings and emotions are a wonderful guide, if we will just consult them dispassionately (and I realize this is a contradiction in terms!) It’s when we get self-righteous about situations, whether as victims ourselves, or in “fighting for the rights” of those we perceive as victims, that division, angst, and even wars occur. Stepping back and assessing is always a good idea; so is allowing for the possibility that someone else may see a situation differently than ourselves. The only “winning” position is one where everyone, at least, feels heard. That is the least we can do for each other. Also the most.