"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Darkness of My Heart

Journal entry excerpt from The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley.

"Teacher" was talking to her Kosovar students about the war and about how not all Serbs are bad and it's not good to generalize the whole population as being one way...right?


...Is their bitterness, their fear so great that they could do to Serbs what Serbs did to them?  Could soft-spoken Veton burn a Serb village because his own was burned by Serbs? Would sweet, wide-eyed Enver, who loves basketball and never misses a class, stand by and watch while atrocities were committed?  Could any of these bright, kindhearted young people kill Serbs because they are Serbs?

And if I were in their shoes, what would I be capable of? Have I come to grips with the darkness in my own heart?

Tonight I read the words of Francois Bizot, who was imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge for three months in 1971 and who writes in Le Portail: "Every war needs killers and they can always be found. We always put ourselves in the skin of the victims and not of their killers - we never put ourselves in the skin of a Nazi or Khmer Rouge.  Yet between them and us there is very little difference, no more than between the victim and us."

And the same from Matthew Spender: "In extreme situations only chance divides the role of the torturer from that of his victims."

Are they right? Given the right circumstances, we are all, even the best of us, capable of anything?  There are no easy answers, in Kosovo or anywhere else.
(pg. 188)

I was talking to a friend in Damascus the other day and he was saying how things have changed the last two months. The uprisings that began in Syria back in March have continued yet Friend has noticed a shift. He said people are openly talking of revenge, of siding with the devil if it means toppling the regime. His exact words to me were:

ordinary people are now talking of revenge and very very dark thoughts
  i fear that we will be torn apart there is so much hate now   i never imagined that we would reach this level 
 He said he'd even lost friends because of differing of opinions, there was much sectarian division and he did not like the way things were headed.

Listening to Friend talk and reading this excerpt from Ms. Huntley's journal makes me think the man she quoted is right when he says we often identify with the victims without perhaps realizing we are capable of evil things if circumstances go another way. Maybe the Nazis didn't realize they were doing anything wrong. They were cleansing the world of filth in order to ensure the strongest of the species survived, right?  And for the Syrian regime: why not stop those traitors who are bent on destroying the country?  Even religions OK killing treasonous people, don't they?

It's actually pretty easy to rationalize our favorite evil things. Thankfully most of us won't go the route of rounding up people for gas chambers, or mutilating young boys for the sake of power and control of a country. But...

What do you think of the quotes in this journal entry?


observant observer said...

I dont know if any of what I'm going to say has anything to do with ur post. But this morning I open my internet and read about the comments of Indonesians on Khadafi's death. Most were very very shocked to find out that their Moslems brother could do such a very grave disrespect towards their former leader who was once thought as the Islamic brave voice, one leader who had the guts to spit on America .

For sure as usual, most put the blame on American and Jewish conspiracy that they think have the hands on the Arab movement (they'd rather see as if there was the power behind on dividing the Islamic countries).

From my point of view, these developments in Arab world could trigger some more chaos, seems that people are going to be really divided. The main target has been toppled, but what comes next? How come that they had developed such very hateful mind towards their leader, I couldn't grasp, perhaps they had been through deep deep terror? I just hope it doesn't become a cycle of hate.

Indonesia was once led by a regime, almost called as dictator, Suharto and his clans. He was once told to have made oppositions in silent. But we didn't kill him and celebrate when he was toppled down in a demonstration, in fact his family didn't have to runaway and still manage to have business here.

The question is: is it the Arabian way of living the most tough and wild and uncivilized world? I do sound really bad don't I? But I couldn't help it knowing that many many Indonesians domestic worker there were fell prey to the Arabian thug, killed, maimed, tortured, raped, unpaid, neglected....they don't care, for never once had we heard any report on the master being punished. Yes, our government failed to save them. But I wonder, what kind of world do they live on?

Wafa said...

We all have darkness in our heart, we all have people in our lives that hurt us so badly we wish that they will suffer as badly as we did, we all hate and discriminate, we all think we are the victims and that we wouldn't end up this bad if they didn't hurt us first. Does that justify pain? I honestly don't know.
Does that justify all the hatred we have against each other? Does that mean it's OK to do to those who hurt me the same ?
Very tough to know or answer or even judge. We still can judge the action but not the people.
I remember seeing a Bosnian movie before where until the end you wont know who were the victim ?

P.S: I read observant observer's comment and it sadden me.But I know that something happened first that made people think of Arabs this way, despite sharing the same religion. It's a complicated issue
but you can not not ask people to see you this way and that because you yourself see them in a different way. I remember reading a book that explains how our views to someone affects the way we treat them.

Susanne said...

Observant, nice to see you and thank you for sharing your perspective. I don't have any other Indonesian friends so it's good to hear your point of view.

That's interesting about the reaction of some Indonesians to Gaddafi's death, but I've heard of many throughout the world - Arabs included - who were shocked that they treated him this way in his death. I guess there is killing an evil person and then there is *killing* an evil person in a torturous, showy way. And perhaps many are appalled at the latter.

I wish for good things from the Arab uprisings. I am blessed to know many wonderful and peaceful Arabs (one being Wafa' who commented below you) so I have hope that if people are mostly like Wafa' and the others I know, things will be good. Sadly, it seems often the loudest and most powerful ones are not always tolerant and peaceful. We can pray that good will come and leave it in God's hands that they will be fair and kind to all.

But as is the point of this post, we do have a lot of badness inside of us despite the fact we like to think we are basically good. Perhaps we are, but still we have that little bit of evil in us that can grow if we let it.

Thanks again for chiming in! I hope you are doing well these days. :)

Susanne said...

Wafa', good thoughts! Can you share more about what happened to make people view Arabs that way in spite of sharing the same religion? I watched a TED talk from last year just this morning that dealt with entering other people's worlds in order to empathize with them. A friend shared it with me and I thought it was powerful and thought-provoking. Your comment reminded me of what I'd just seen. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


Wafa said...

From what I have read and heard from people who thinks badly of Arabs, that Arabs mostly behave in arrogant way and have to disrespect to others.
and to be honest I can see it here with the way others are being treated by Arabs who are not Saudis and by Saudis themselves. I try my best to know why this arrogance towards others and why the disrespect? but couldn't have an exact answer. Is it the religion? Islam-like all religions- teaches its people that they are believing in the best, they are going to heaven alone and they are better than others. But then Arabs do discriminate against Muslims from poorer countries, so is it money?
I am thinking of posting a similar question on my blog, but I am afraid i wont get lots of answers, cuz most people don't comment, just read. you have lots of people on your FB, you can ask a similar question-if you wish of course-.
love to know more.

As for the video, i watched it before, and it was amazing but thought maybe american wont like it cuz it probably too much. But his way to make you feel how others feel are amazing.

Susanne said...

Oh, I just saw that you asked this on your blog when I came here to reply! I will try to remember to ask on Facebook one day soon although I'm not sure people will want to admit they hate. But we'll see perhaps.

Thank you for your follow-up reply. I enjoy learning from you! :)

Rebekka @ Becky's Kaleidoscope said...

We all have darkness inside of us, and I honestly don't think many of us could guarantee that we wouldn't be the oppressors, rather than the victims.

When I took psychology, we had a huge theme on the psychology of evil, one of my favourites actually cause it's so fascinating. Of course I would love to think that I would've stood up against the Nazis if I was German and had lived during that time, but fact is, that I probably wouldn't. Like most people.

The majority of the Germans weren't bad people. They were good people, who got put in a very bad situation, who were gradually pushed to accept these changes, and who, mind you, along with most other Europeans, were not especially fond of the Jews at the time. The psychology of mass movements, shows how easy it is to make people go much further when they are in a group setting, than they ever would if they were alone. (You can also look up the Third Wave experiment, and read the novel or watch the movie, to see how easy it is to recreate this sort of atmosphere and actions amongst people).

Also, speaking about Nazis and the every day German, something Americans don't like to think talk about, is the internment of the Japanese during WWII. But really, seen from the point of view of an average person, that's exactly what happened to the Jews, they were gathered up and put into camps. The average German didn't know they were being murdered and abused. The average American, had no idea what was happening to the Japanese at the time. How many people stood up againt the US government and said this is not okay?

Susanne said...

Becky, excellent points. Thank you! This is exactly why I balk when people say humans are naturally good. No, we really aren't, as much as we hate to admit it.