Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Disquieting Thoughts

I had a small epiphany the other day. It was not a nice one to be honest. This is not a comfy post, nor really a hard hat one. I apologise if it is a bit uncomfortable, I am just speaking my mind about bad stuff.

I have always thought that most people are basically good and decent and as kind as they are able to be. Deep down I think I have not changed my mind.

But not everyone is. And I believe many people who probably see themselves as basically good do terrible evil in the name of some political ideology, religion, or other belief.

I am reading a novel just now that involves slavery. I found the description of the raid on one of the main character's village, the raiders murder of his father. His mother's desperate attempts to keep his sister and himself together. The terrible voyage, the fact of slavery and what was done harrowing and horrifying.

It is not like I don't know the facts, but it came fully home to me again. We over use the word "realised" I think, but I realised the reality of these things happening, again, and again, in the fairly recent past.

"How can people treat other people so terribly?" I wondered.

"But that was the past right?" I thought to myself. "History."

I imagined it happening to me and I thought. "Thank goodness we live in more enlightened times."

Then I thought of stuff in living memory like the Nazis "final solution", like so called "ethnic cleansing" that has been going on in different places over the last decade or three.

About the unthinkable things the Taliban and other such murderers feel they can justify to themselves, in the name of God too, may they wake up and smell the coffee.

And I really "got" that these are only enlightened and civilised times just so long as someone has the muscle and the will to make it so.

And something else I thought... How thin is the foundation of what peace and security we have? "It couldn't happen here" is really just bull we comfort ourselves with.

And then I thought thank goodness that there are those who will put themselves in harm's way to do just that. Our Armed forces and Police Fire and ambulance too I guess.

Certainly in some places the Military and the Police are the exact opposite. They are part of the problem that is cruelty, violence and oppression.

Does something make those of the "Western world" different somehow? How they think and see themselves maybe. Maybe those who have been influenced by the English speaking world even? I don't know.

And if you think slavery does not happen any more then You are fooling yourself. Think about those poor girls and maybe boys too, but mostly girls who are trafficked as unwilling prostitutes, especially from some of the territories of the former Soviet Union as one example.

Now I don't know, but I think from conversations that the vulnerability you feel towards stuff like this might be greater if you are female, it is more difficult to physically protect yourself without an equaliser. Guys are generally physically stronger and I guess feel deep down they can resist physical compulsion and violence better. When all is said and done in the case of these poor trafficked girls it is male physical force which is a big element in compelling them.

We keep stuff like that at bay only as long as we are willing to pay attention and not hide in our comfortable lives. Only so long as we are not willing to permit such things, not willing to acquiesce because it is "expedient" and have not just the willingness but the ability to prevent them.

I like blogs that sometimes have quotes that are to do with some of the posts so I dug some out. I got a bit carried away. Here are some of them:

"Freedom is like taking a bath -- you have to keep doing it every day!"
Florynce Kennedy

"So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men."

"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."
John Adams

"A right is not what someone gives you; it's what no one can take from you."
Ramsey Clark

"If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too."
Somerset Maugham

"Beware lest in your anxiety to avoid war you obtain a master."

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
George Orwell

"What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?"
Winston Churchill


jmb said...

It's hard to imagine from our point of view today that slavery was thought to be acceptable.

But it seems someone is always using their power to their advantage over other people, even today.

I am currently reading the Book of Negroes and no doubt will find it as disquieting as you did yours.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Absolutely JMB, uncomfortable disquiet are maybe not so enjoyable, but necessary all the same.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

In reality, darkness always dwells near the surface in the heart of men. In our lifetime, we have seen the use of chemical warfare, ethnicf cleansing, rape as a weapon, the killing fields and we have still failed to eradicate slavery (even in the U.S.; only now it is poor illegal Mexican workers in slave camps), child labor (indeed even children armies), flesh trade etc.

But just as once, slavery was declared abolished and just as apartheid came to an end. we have to continue and must not give up the fight.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

LGS, Absolutely, I could not agree more.

Berni said...

I often think along these same lines. I personally don't think mankind is becoming more civilized with each generation. It is just a veneer.

Indigo said...

You only have to look at the scriptors way back when Jesus Christ was born, we haven't stopped killing each oter since then , infact I think he was the start of all this 'hate' amongst mankind!

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Indigo, I don't think you can necessarily blame JC for hate and killing. He was all for forgiveness, turning the other cheek and against prejudice. His good Samaritan story was designed to jolt peoples preconceptions as well as make a point.

I guess the nasty stuff comes when people say if you don't think like they do then it's ok to kill you in the name of God. I think it was going on before that too.

Bernie, I think it is up to all of us to help keep that veneer in place and make sure it is as thick as possible.

Thanks for your comments.

Liz said...

I felt like that reading The Help. Although I knew about racial segregation it struck me afresh how appalling and recent it was. And sadly probably is. The racism anyway.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

Liz, I was watching a music channel doing a compilation of 90's hits and one of them was the Manic Street Preachers, 'If you tolerate this your children will be next'.

I thought. how true that is about so many bad things.