A tremendous amount of preventable suffering exists because people are not kind enough. People who grow up in the public school system are often subjected to bullying perpetrated by fellow students, starting at the age of five, or sometimes even younger. I remember being beaten up in school at age five.
And it never seems to stop. Throughout elementary school and into middle school, in high school, and beyond, people target their fellow human beings for abuse, as I know from first-hand experience. In some instances, it was in the form of physical intimidation or assault; and in some instances, it was verbal.
These forms of abuse undermine people’s efforts to survive in society.
People are shocked and dismayed about all of the shootings that are endemic in the nation. Of course, the United States badly needs increased gun control.
However, the violence that breaks out periodically is also because of the fact that cruel and harsh treatment is the accepted norm. People do all manner of mean and nasty things to one another, including but not limited to overt physical violence, and much of this is within the bounds of lawful and accepted behavior. Does this seem like a radical assertion? It is not.
Bullying seems to exist everywhere, even to the extent that people have learned to barely notice it. In some instances, the violence occurs when criminals assault or otherwise harm people, thinking they can elude legal punishment.
On the other hand, the punishment that prisoners receive is cruel and unusual, and causes good people to lose their lives, their minds, and/or their souls.
People are under the mistaken impression that when someone breaks our laws, it is okay to subject them to the violence and rape of prison, not to mention physical restraint by handcuffs and by the steel and concrete structures of imprisonment and solitary confinement.
Also, the message that is rammed into the prisoner’s mind on a daily basis says, “You are worthless.”
Imprisoning mentally ill people, for actions taken while mentally unwell, is inappropriate. It is inappropriate to take a person who is essentially innocent, and subject them to this mistreatment.
When prisoners are released, they go into a society that is often hostile and intolerant of former prisoners. You could be fired from some jobs, while others will not have you in the first place.
Your ability to find housing is restricted, because many property managers will not give a chance to a person who has been in trouble in the past.
Unfathomable Cruelty of War
Another category of inhumanity created by human beings is the unfathomable cruelty of war. Despite the barbaric cruelty and massive death toll of modern wars, warfare is an accepted norm because it is ordered and approved by the officials of “legitimate” governments who declare that murder and massive bombing raids on civilians are lawful.
I have never been a soldier and I do not know what that is like. However, I can see, in my mind’s eye, how grotesque and horrible it is to shoot and kill a person. The person who is killed loses her or his life.
The person who is made to shoot is following the orders of some politician surrounded by layers of security forces. The politician giving the orders is disconnected from what soldiers have to undergo.
The soldier made to shoot other people in the course of warfare may physically survive, but there is inevitably psychological and spiritual damage, because they have killed. It is wrong for governments to do this to people. Yet, this is accepted as normal and lawful.
The public should realize that we are not in a war against Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini any more. While the United States does have “enemies,” we must not revert to the consciousness that was responsible for the world wars.
Because of advanced weaponry, a difficult choice is thrust on us: discover nonviolent means of fending off the aggression of other countries, or face certain, worldwide destruction.
Albert Einstein foresaw the dilemma we now face, with the world forever poised on the brink of unimaginably destructive wars. When Einstein was warned by his fellow physicists that atomic weapons were possible, he and physicist Leo Szilard delivered an urgent warning to the United States that Nazi Germany was attempting to develop such horrible weapons.
That was the point at which Einstein and Szilard sent a letter warning President Franklin D. Roosevelt of this terrible threat. President Roosevelt then initiated the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic weapons that the United States used against Japan.
When the U.S. dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, heavily populated cities in Japan, hundreds of thousands of human beings were killed instantly, and many more had horrible radiation sickness. This event taught us of the catastrophic destructiveness of atomic weapons.
At that point, the world had entered the Nuclear Age. And Albert Einstein became an outspoken voice for peace, a voice of conscience against nuclear weapons and warfare.
Einstein said, “I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.”
Social and economic cruelty
Almost any day of the week in which I get into my car and drive across town, I spot at least a few people who appear to be homeless. To say that homelessness is a choice dodges our obligation to our fellow human beings, blames the victims for their predicament, and perpetuates the myth that homeless people are not valid individuals with feelings.
On television news, I’ve witnessed a newscaster refer to “the homeless problem.” This is akin to people talking of “the Jewish problem,” or “the problem of black people.” We must no longer tolerate comments that vilify homeless people.
Disabled people are victims of economic cruelty as well, because we are forced by the system to live in poverty.
Architects of society want to save money and resources that require taxpayer dollars. This is fine, but let’s add an important element to this equation: namely, that disabled people should be helped to have successful and meaningful lives.
I don’t see this happening. Instead I see a whole bunch of people who are stuck in lifelong poverty, who have very little in the way of income or decent housing, who receive too little help from society in trying to improve their circumstances, and who have short, unhappy lives.
Trump’s Mistreatment of Immigrants
We currently see families being torn apart by the mass deportations of immigrants. We hear reports of people put in cages who have done nothing wrong, and who are in a cage because of the circumstances in which they were born. This is something they could never control. We see people defined as “Illegals” or as “Spanish-speaking.”
These categorizations are arbitrary, and are intrinsically meaningless. There is no connection between country of birth, as well as skin color or lineage, and someone’s validity and virtue as a person. This is the ultimate of bullshit: to lock someone up, to send them away, or even to do physical harm, because they or their parents weren’t born in what we’re calling the United States. This, by the way, is a commonly shared intangible entity that has no origin in physical facts.
Biological and physical science says that every human being is made of the same basic stuff: a lot of water, and biological matter, consisting of chemicals that you could purchase for about a hundred dollars. There is no biochemist or physical scientist who could write a paper proving that a country is an actual thing.
Inhumanity is a threat to human existence. It creates massive, unnecessary misery. It also wastes time and money, it harms the ecosystem, it results in countless people being locked up as insane, or impoverished, or as illegal.
Inhumanity leads to senseless shootings at the local level and senseless wars on the global level. People must learn to be kinder and more humane. And I, too, am trying to learn just that lesson — better and with greater depth.
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by Joanna Freeman Bragen
Don’t tell me who I am
Don’t tell me who to be
Don’t tell me how to act
Don’t tell me you know me
I don’t want your opinion
I don’t want your advice
Unless you have been
In my shoes
Don’t waste your time
Stop chipping at my Sacred Skull
My headspace is not your property
You may delude yourself that you are “helping”
But you are merely trying to invade me
I know just who I am
I may get lost along the way
Confused and overwhelmed
But I always come back
Beautifully frayed and marred
Some scrapes and some bruises
A little dusty, sometimes tired
Falling down and getting up
But going far
Good and bad memories
Successes and failures
Sweet and bittersweet
Strong family values
Challenging inherited genes
Faith and hope
Love and hate
Anger and frustration
The perfect vessel I have built
Allows only space for me
So don’t tell me who I am
I’m not listening anymore
Only I define myself
And that’s just fine
Jack Bragen is author of “Revising Behaviors that Don’t Work,” “Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia,” and “Jack Bragen’s 2021 Fiction Collection,” and lives in Martinez.