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Tragedies, victories and defeats
by Jan Sand
2006-09-23 17:39:23
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One would think that the universe was enough of an enemy to satisfy anyone. It has habits and capabilities to produce the tiniest most insignificant particles from nothingness and then promptly exile them back to where they originated. It can dawdle and diddle with dust with the utmost patience for multiple millenniums to produce stars and planets and galaxies in a huge range of varieties and then crash them together just for the hell of it. And it can nudge the basic ingredients of life in a rather unique environment on a run-of-the-mill planet that swung around a not noteworthy star to produce the wildest circus of creatures that could be imagined.

We humans must divide the universe into parts to explain to ourselves how it does its job so we say that life is the magician that whips out its pack of cards and fans them out. “Pick a few,” it says to the universe and the universe obliges.

Those few may withstand the vicious glee with which the universe tries to kick them around. Luckily, a few have always survived and from these the magician generates another pack for another try. It took quite a few millions of years playing this game to end up with tigers and bedbugs and scarlet tanagers and Charlie Chaplin but we finally made it. It is rather doubtful that some midget tyrannosaurus rex was Charlie Chaplin’s distant ancestor but you never know.

The universe, occasionally referred to in a familial manner as Mother Nature to give it a kindlier face, still is hell bent to wipe out any genetic line that offends such whims as plagues, droughts, cosmic rays, tornados, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, ice ages, stray asteroids and tsunamis. It frequently sits on the sidelines grinning while the various protein progeny duke it out amongst the species. Mankind, throughout its rather short existence, has honed its homicidal skills to a high degree by offing generous quantities of members of itself.

Many animals, and even plants, stake out territories, domains, and declare ownership, declare that no other may occupy or utilize their staked out portion of the planet’s surface without permission. Mankind has made this a firm basis of its residence on the planet so that the only territories now available for anyone to roam without hindrance are those covered by the open seas.

One of the oddest extensions of this domain capture is group injury. It has become a form of abstract wealth, whose debt is recorded in the form of world guilt. Various divisions of mankind have accumulated this strange value. Africans whose ancestors have suffered slavery, Armenians who were persecuted by Turks, Jews who endured the horrors of the Holocaust, native Americans who were butchered and chased into sequestered pockets of undesired lands and many defined groups in recent history who have had members tortured and slaughtered by wild excesses of their neighbors.

In these regular exercises of religious, racial, or cultural profiling of the injured group throughout history it is in modern times that the injuries have engendered an obligation of humanity in general to be in moral debt to the injured parties. But what form proper compensation takes is highly irregular. To an overwhelming extent these obligations remain unfulfilled. The American Indians currently are making hay by running gambling casinos and fleecing American suckers at a monumental rate, while the Jews have been permitted to wrest a nation out of the Middle East. African Americans have yet to squeeze even an apology from the American government and they still suffer a good deal of economic and legal deprivation from their rulers.

But viewed from a more universal angle, these injuries should, in my view, not be seen as horrific violations of decency upon a small division of mankind but rather atrocities upon mankind itself. For all of us, white, black, red, yellow, and all intermediate colors, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Animist, Buddhist, etc., are human, a variety of primate and for this we, as members of that species, are owed an obligation, are due proper compensation for the horrors performed upon our selves. The obvious difficulty here is, of course, who is obliged and to whom is payment due?

John Donne had one pointed answer. “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”


  
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