Is your world cruel or is it loving? If the former, do we “deserve” to live so we be taught kindness or, once defiled, are we doomed to repeat the abuse and pass it from one generation to the next?
Back when I was a working stiff — nine and a half months ago — I would watch movies on “pad” devices, iPad at first then Android later, during long airplane flights. Depending on the pad’s capacity, I could carry a dozen movies and a couple of seasons of “Rumpole of the Bailey”, one of my favorite British TV series. Most of these movies and TV episodes were “ripped” (copied) from DVDs we own. In many cases, the purchased media contained extras. These include trailers, behind the scenes segments and, on occasion, a version of the movie narrated by the director, cinematographer, producer and other insiders. Those are fun!
But I’m getting off track. Back to “TDTESS” and what it provokes.
On my computer and pad devices, I store each movie and its extras in its own directory (folder). This keeps things together and makes it easier to find specific items if I’m searching for something like the special effects insider look at Blade Runner. And as you may know, on most computers, directory and file names with blanks (spaces) are problematic — they’re difficult to deal with. So long ago, I developed the habit of abbreviating to avoid blanks. To the case in point, in the movie area of my computer, there’s a folder named “TDTESS” — my abbreviation for “The Day The Earth Stood Still”.
In that folder, I have the original version with Michael Rennie as Klaatu which I prefer because, compared to the more recent version with Keanu Reeves, the older one is much less fatalistic. In the original, Klaatu warns Earth’s leaders that we’re headed down a dangerous road and, if we don’t mend our ways, Gort and other robot warriors like him, will destroy our planet.
In the newer, Keanu Reeves edition set in contemporary times, I guess things have gotten worse because, after Klaatu collects his observers and leaves, Gort is to carry out that very destruction. Indeed, he commences it in the final scenes of the newer movie.
In the newer version, it’s too late. Our fate has been decided and Klaatu is here to finish collecting the non-human species who are to re-populate the Earth — without us — and to then commence the “wipe and restart” of the planet.
This morning while reading the news and scrolling through Facebook, one of the elements common to both versions is the statement that while the human species is flawed and commits terrible atrocities, we are also capable of extraordinary beauty and deep, abiding, self-sacrificing love.
I saw both in today’s news and in the Facebook posts from my friends.
One of them was a video. (Here is the link but be warned, it is abusive and unpleasant to watch: LINK.)
The video shows young, elementary-aged children in an Islamic environment who are lined up and, one by one with inexorable predictability, slapped, switched, abused and treated with what I can only describe as unfeeling and deep-rooted cruelty.
And watching them reach the front of that line one by one and seeing in their behavior the recognition, the expectation, of what is about to happen, I understood where their hatred of authority had started. I understood what, in older children, has provoked them into unreasoning hatred of authority. And for the United States, the ultimate symbol of authority and power in the world, I understand why they carry AK-47s, build IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and drive cars and trucks laden with explosives into populated areas and blow everyone, including themselves, to bits.
The world they know is cruel and inexorable. No matter what they do, they will suffer while on this Earth.
The “authority” they know is cruel.
The world they know is mean, unfeeling, uncaring.
They know that when they reach the head of the line, they will be struck down.
So, they learn to strike first.
That is their world.
But I don’t know that world.
What they see and feel and live is totally unknown to me.
I know kindness. I know sensitive caring. I know reason and logic and forgiveness.
My world is as unknown to them as theirs is to me.
We might as well be on different planets.
And for lots of reasons, most of us don’t go to their planet and most of them don’t come to ours.
Or, on those rare occasions when a visit does occur, I go in with my prejudices of love and forgiveness, and they come to mine with their expectations of cruelty and pain.
Not finding that cruelty in, say, Einstein’s Bagels in Phoenix Arizona, do they reverse a lifetime of experience, or do they just hold back in expectation that they haven’t yet reached the front of the line?
It is hard to unlearn a lifetime. I’ve struggled to unlearn some “lessons” from my childhood and I suspect most adults could say the same.
The kids in that abusive video have it in spades.
And it’s worse.
Because for at least for some who are brought up in that “the world is out to kill you” mindset, the AK-47 they have taken up to protect themselves against such cruelty will be pointed and fired long before reasoned words can convince otherwise.
The children in the video I watched this morning who tried to stand straight and give respectful attention were all slapped and switched. Listening to reasoned authority did them no good. They were struck down regardless.
Why listen? Why wait? If you’re going to be hurt no matter what your behavior, you don’t wait. You strike first.
One would hope that disarmed and benefitted with careful therapy, these hardened kids who will soon be adults would eventually see the light. One hopes they could be rehabilitated and brought to an easier, gentler life.
But it must be acknowledged that, while that therapy is on-going, these individuals cannot be left to run free. Until the cure is complete, they are a danger to gentle society.
In particularly hardened cases, therapy might take years that, in some cases, might be more years than they have left on this Earth.
In other words, they cannot be rehabilitated. It’s not possible.
So, they must be disarmed, locked up and treated. And it must be realized that, at least for some, therapy will take longer than they will live. For those, they will die hating the authority that restricts them. And because it has been their life-long life style, they will be always looking for opportunities to hurt those in authority, those they see as responsible for the hurt and pain they have always suffered on this Earth.
Humans have extraordinary potential, for good and for evil.
When a child is raised in abuse, he learns that is how the world, his world, works.
And once set on that path, it is very difficult — impossible in some cases — to convince them that the world, their world, does not have to be that way.
I learned otherwise.
Some of them did not.