April 19, 2010

The Color of Money

Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, c.1937

When I was younger and more naive, I used to question how my grandparents' generation (and those who came before them) could allow such horrific world events to happen (think intolerance, discrimination, dominance, World Wars, poverty and corruption). Time moved on and I shifted to thinking about my parents' generation - its own failures and disappointments. 

Of course it's easy to look at the world through rose-colored glasses when you're young and say "Not on my watch!" or "Not my generation ... we're going to change the world!"  But this is it ... it's our time, and what do I see but more intolerance, discrimination, dominance, wars, poverty and corruption?!? Does it sadly all trace back to the almighty dollar? Is the act of fighting reason tooth and nail or pitting one group against another simply a diversion from dealing with the real issues at hand? Here's the truth: It is said that in the United States alone, the top 5 percent of the wealthy controls nearly 50 percent of the nation's wealth. Globally, the race for natural resources, material possessions, and personal gain means the world will once again face turmoil and conflict.

From a Time article written by Maia Szalavitz titled School Bullying Prevention: Teach Empathy at Young Age:

"Increasingly, neuroscientists, psychologists and educators believe that bullying and other kinds of violence can indeed be reduced by encouraging empathy at an early age. Over the past decade, research in empathy - the ability to put ourselves in another person's shoes - has suggested that it is key, if not the key, to all human social interaction and morality.

Without empathy, we would have no cohesive society, no trust and no reason not to murder, cheat, steal or lie. At best, we would act only out of self-interest; at worst, we would be a collection of sociopaths.

Although human nature has historically been seen as essentially selfish, recent science suggests that it is not. The capacity for empathy is believed to be innate in most humans, as well as some other species - chimps, for instance, will protest the unfair treatment of others, refusing to accept a treat they have rightfully earned if another chimp doing the same work fails to get the same reward."

Seen outside the School of Visual Arts 
on East 23rd Street in NYC

Empathy. It's a powerful word meaning "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." But is that what our parents and educators teach our youth daily? Is that what our political and church leaders stand for? Does empathy give the necessary buzz to radio and cable news personalities to sell enough advertisements so they don't have to calculatedly stoke the unintelligible anger of their misguided flock? 

Let's see now ... these talking heads get rich while the Average Joe's socioeconomic status remains the same or gets worse no matter how many walls he has built ... or how many guns he owns ... or how many battle fatigues he wears out ... or how much hate they've built up inside of him. Hey Joe ... when in doubt, follow the money back to the source! Who's profiting from your allegiance while they pretend to be just like you?    

While I don't have any problems with my fellow brothers and sisters, be they white, black, yellow, brown, red, green or purple ... I do have a problem with stupidity. Some so-called intellectuals and "supremacists" in our country are making it harder and harder to remain civil and not call a spade a spade. Is this really where this great nation is headed? It's the 21st century folks ... we've all learned from history and wouldn't want to see the same errors repeated. The challenge is for all of us to break out of our mental shackles and follow only that which we know is right in our heads and in our hearts.    

Do you have the strength to join us and stand against that which is wrong? Let's not wait for another generation. - PS

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