By the time I finished reading the Sunday NY Times I had a knot in my stomach and a spitball of anger waiting to launch. The volume of villainous, merciless cruelty being unleashed throughout the world overflowed the front pages and confronted readers with unimaginable suffering and spilled blood in every corner of the battered globe.
Ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya peoples of Myanmar, illicit massage parlors imprisoning foreign women, Latinos lynched during racist terror in the American west, Muslim detainment centers in China, reports of rampant childhood abuse, human rights violations in North Korea, fatal violence in Kashmir, terrorism outbreak in Tunisia; torture, sex trafficking, mass murders, campus rapes, domestic violence and I’ve not yet had a second cup of coffee.
A sliver of sun light defied the grey morning and reminded me the clock had started its post meridian lap and I still was in pajamas. I felt like a slug after gorging on a lettuce leaf, but I put the crossword puzzle aside and accepted Arlene’s suggestion – literal meaning, demand - that I get dressed and get out of the house.
The walk across Millennium Park wakes up the senses. We pop into the Art Institute where after decades of membership and untold number of visits to this magnificent museum we wander newly discovered corridors and stumble across unseen galleries that appear like Brigadoon, idyllic, unaffected by time and remote from reality.
Searching for the Rembrandt exhibit we meander softly lit passageways and enter the Aoki gallery, a stunning display of Japanese silk screens and pottery that is the Japanese aesthetic distilled into magical, rarefied air that transforms visitors into esteemed sensei.
In the dim light there is a bench for repose and reflection. In silence I contemplate the morning’s painful reading and the afternoon’s soothing palliative. And my brain explodes.
How can we Homo sapiens, translated from the Latin as “wise men,” be so ignorant and brutal and morally corrupt while displaying compassion and angelic sensitivity and soaring creativity at the same time?
This question has been asked ever since man decided to walk upright and invented acupuncture to ease the pain of taking the vertebrae vertical. Socrates, Aristotle, Hagel, Spinoza, Nietzsche and the drunk seated next to you at the bar all have offered an answer.
I don’t think the answer is a philosophical one. I think it’s found in political platforms, social science rather than social conscience.
When people have a decent job, some money in the bank, a respected place in a stable and safe society, they can find room in a live-and-let live culture, with space for the radical left and reactionary right to engage in civil debate. Nobody gets killed.
But when half the population of the world is church mouse poor, living under constant stress, their lives unstable and unsafe, people will climb over whoever is in front of them and do what it takes, no matter how heinous, to survive.
That is not a scenario caused by the presence of evil being inherent to humans. That is the result of the yawning gap between the 26 families that have and the world’s 3,700,000,000 people who have not. Greed has climbed to the top of the seven sins.
Do note that when we got back from the accountant’s office earlier this week it took a double slug of Johnny Walker to write the quarterly tax check for 2019. But to find an answer that makes page one news as readable as Arts and Entertainment, I’m thinking that maybe Bernie and Elizabeth Warren and AOC are creating a definition of Democratic Socialist that deserves more than a kneejerk shrug, “too radical.”
I’m thinking more seriously about the questions they ask. Is it radical to posit that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect rather than corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders? Should our resources be used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs? If the workers and consumers most affected by economic institutions owned and controlled them, would the current policies remain the same?
It’s been a long day. Man, at his worst; man, at his best. Questions posed; answers lacking.
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