Saturday, June 18, 2011

Do you remember yourself?

Do you remember yourself?

I do not stand back and watch. I do not simply conform without reason. I do not passively follow.

Why can a man die on the street with no one noticing for hours? How can a man stab a woman to death in plain sight of thirty people? Why do people commit genocide?

Normal people do terrible things everyday, sometimes by doing nothing at all. All of the questions above are based off of actual real life events. And the thing is, the people who do these things are not bad people. These people are the ones who say everyday that they would do something in those situations. But these are the people who follow. These are the people who do not make decisions. These are the people who do not even realize they are lying.

Sociologists and psychologists have proven, through some extremely unethical experiments, that the majority of people do these following things:

1) People do acts of passive torture when authority figures claim to take the responsibility. (Abu Ghraib U.S. soldiers, German citizens during the Holocaust, Milgram Study).

2) People who are more or less the same can and do divide themselves into sociologically constructed groups. Dominant groups can, do, and have harmed minority groups. (Concepts of race, privilege, Stanford Prison Experiment, Jane Elliot's blue eyed brown eyed test)

3) People will feel less obligated to do something to help others when in a group. (Kitty Genovese, Epileptic seizure: bystander effect experiment)

"Go with the flow," as if the flow is where we want to go. I say to go against the flow.

The Greeks once valued reason above all else. Human beings, to them, had three parts:
Spirit (this was represented in the household)
Passion (this was represented in labor)
Reason (this was represented in the public realm)

Reason was what set humans apart from animals. The Greeks wanted to be remembered, and they wanted to be remembered for the great things they did in the public sphere.

And then the Dark Ages came along and suddenly the public sphere no longer mattered. Suddenly it was all about the passion and the spirit. It became only about the labor and the household values. But remember, there is a reason why this was called the "Dark" Age.

Religion became dominant in all walks of study. Disease was rampant, and labor became an end only. The idea was, if you did well in life then you were blessed by God. This is where the old theory of divine kingship came from. "If God made me king, God must want me to be king, thus I have the right to be king." In a sense, it became a race to "buy" your way into heaven.  (Do you see any resemblance to today? There are some.)

The standard of living fell like a stone, but it was only like that because "God thought those in poverty weren't working hard enough, or were sinful." Therefore, the problems of those in pain were blamed on those in pain. The passion (work ethic) was blamed, the spirit (household values) was blamed, the celestial afterlife replaced the public realm, and reason was all but forgotten.

And then science started taking a greater role. It was useful and undeniable, so those in power had no choice but to eventually give into its unstoppable force. Some would argue that with the advancement of science reason returned. The public sphere was revived in the enlightenment, but it has sense largely vanished. But, what type of reason does science bring to the public realm? It brings an inhuman system, it brings the machine.

We have norms and institutions all built to last forever. But times change, things built to last forever do not. World society is reaching a polarization point, and things are going to have to change. That means we must change the system, but the system will still be the machine unless we give it a heart.

Think, with all of our technology advances, should not people be liberated from their work? Shouldn't there be more time for reason? But no, we are stuck in an old machine that is based on only profit. It is based on work, but our "work" is destroying the world. There is no heart, no reason.

In the machine no one is remembered. One person takes the role, and another takes that role, and because the system "works" the role survives. But the man, the woman, the living, breathing, loving human being in that role dies and is forgotten.

Look at your own life. Can you remember yesterday? Can you remember last week? If not you are stuck in the box. If you do not find a day in your own life worth living then why should I? I do not want to forget you, but more than that I do not want you to be forgotten.

In the box you are a follower of the system. The system is the opinion leader. The box is what lets you look on and do nothing when you stand in a group with others as people die, as they are tortured, and humiliated around you.

You have faith in the system because it works. You think about its flaws and then you step back and you think to yourself "but overall, it works." Now I want you to step even farther back. I want you to look at the whole world, every society, every system and I want you to think, "but what are we really doing?"

We are watching passively as we let the world consume itself, divide itself, remake itself into a harder, less complicated, less human, less loving existence. We are always just watching and never doing.

You are in the Milgram Study, you are a participant in the Stanford Prison Experiment. You are watching as Kitty Genovese is stabbed eight times in the back. You are the bystander, but what you do not realize is that you are also the victim, because you are a supporter of the box, you are the cogs of the machine.

In college we are sheltered from the box in a way; secure in our knowledge that we are not yet required to enter fully into the system. But it is coming and this note is less than a drop of water to a flame so big it is like the sun up close. We need the sun to live, but it burns, and the box burns me too.

I will do everything in my power to transcend the box. I will enter it but I will not just be a cog in the machine. I will try to be the heart.

 All around me there are those who cannot remember what they did yesterday. But they will remember me. I am daring enough to change the world. Now help me remember you.

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