THese quotes all seem to belong together and they all relate to my thought processes over the last couple of days:
“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”
― Hannah Arendt
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
–Martin Luther King Jr.
“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”
— Edmund Burke
“Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do”
Yesterday I rectified for basic first-aid. I need to do that every three years in order to have our foster daughter living here. It’s fairly interesting and I always end the day wishing I knew a bit more. Each time I take the course (this was my third) the teachers tend to emphasize different things based on the changing course requirements and whatever regulations had been passed in the last few years and to some extent the teacher’s personality. Yesterday the thing that the teacher emphasized the most was protecting ourselves not only against liability but against any risk. She kept saying that a first aider had to put their needs above those of the people we are supposed to be helping. This troubled me a bit and seems to speak to an ingrained selfishness in our culture. Now I can understand minimizing risk but not the spin that was put on it. If it means I can save lives or help isn’t that worth some risk?
Transcript of a conversation on Facebook with my friend Vajra :
Vajra Krishna: How do we open the way for compassion in others?
First step is always opening them up to step into other people’s shoes….
Many people only empathize with the suffering of others… so to them, there is the victim, and the perpetrator.
The victim and the evildoer.
They empathize with the victim, but not the evildoer, so in that case, it is about opening them up to step into the shoes of the evildoer.
Because otherwise the “good and evil” dichotomy again becomes a stereotype.
Most people are too afraid (for one reason or another) to empathize with the evildoer, and that is one of the big challenges… to learn to step into their shoes and have compassion for them too.
Gary Johannes-Rosenberg: Do you feel that perhaps we fear that once we empathize with the evildoer we may find we like it?
”There but for grace go I” has more than one connotation for sure
Vajra Krishna: Some reasons for being afraid to empathize with the evildoer;
1. It is a place of darkness… murky, desolate, alienating, lonely… all the shadowy corners of our own selves come to surface…
2. The fear of desiring power and control. Of abusing power. We have all done it in life, and we didn’t like that part of ourselves very much.
(If you take an example such as George Bush and why he would be comfortable with abusing power, it is because in a sense he is indoctrinated OUTSIDE of the social norm by his family tradition. Many rulers are conditioned to believe that mind-controlling people is simply for their own good.
But another example is a person who has risen to power by his own efforts – such a person often has the pressure to conform or perish. That is, conform to the ways of the elite, or lose his power. Such a person conditions himself or herself to believe that “playing their game” is a necessary process.
Then there is the clear example of Hitler. He also rose to power, but he is a sociopath. In that sense, I suppose it is important to even step into the shoes of a sociopath… that is a frightening ordeal because what makes a sociopath function is the inability to forgive, and a “state of mind” that doesn’t forgive is a painful state to be in… a hardened heart… it is not easy to step into such an uncomfortable state.)
3. As you said, being afraid that we might actually like it. We are all too aware of how there is a thin veil between the socially accepted norm of “good behavior” and our own indulgences. Many don’t like to look too deep into that.
I would add
4. Sometimes when we empathize with those whom we have perceived as evil, we start perceiving ourselves as the real evildoers and realize that what looked like an insurmountable border was really the mirror’s edge
Vajra Krishna: This brings up something else for me –
Question 2: Is it possible to know someone better than they know themselves? If so, how?
There is tremendous misconception surrounding this. No, people DO NOT KNOW THEMSELVES. This is a fact.
They would like to believe that they know themselves… but here’s the thing:
They are largely unaware of why they feel depressed for no reason at times, unaware of the way advertising functions to entice hidden desires (‘hidden’ being the key word – and this was clearly established by Sigmund Freud and shown to actually work in getting people to do what you want, buy what you want, by transcending their conscious state and making suggestions to their unconscious).
How many people do you know who really try to look into this stuff?
Instead, people know what flavor of ice cream they like, they know when and in what situation they get angry, they know what situations melt their heart (to a point, usually this stuff surprises even them), they know which qualities they value, and for what reason… then they think that means that they actually KNOW THEMSELVES.
It’s bullshit, pure and simple.
“To thine own self be true” but first, KNOW THYSELF. This has been said over the ages, and now it gets lipservice.
The reality of the situation is that anyone who has stiven to know himself will also know the inner motives of the MASS POPULATION, as well as the individuals he meets in general, better than they know themselves simply because they have not made that introspection.That is also uncomfortable to accept. People’s usual argument against this is that we are all different.
We are also all HUMAN, and that has an essential nature that requires DISCOVERY.
Gary Johannes-Rosenberg: ”This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
— William Shakespeare
Obviously WS agrees with you that once you know yourself, can be true to yourself then you can know others as well
Vajra Krishna And it stands to reason, for one who seeks himself, there are no strangers.
Gary Johannes-Rosenberg “Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion”
Click on image to see full-size
Green-Space Mandala by G A Rosenberg