Comment Of The Day
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Tuesday, June 30, 1998

Thugs & Oafs vs. Rabbits & Deer

"People who think of themselves as tough-minded and realistic tend to take it for granted that human nature is selfish and that life is a struggle in which only the fittest may survive. According to that philosophy, the basic law by which people must live, in spite of their surface veneer of civilization, is the struggle of the jungle. The "fittest" are those who can bring to the struggle superior force, superior cunning, and superior ruthlessness.

"The wide currency of this philosophy of the "survival of the fittest" enables people who act ruthlessly and selfishly, whether in personal rivalries, business competition, or international relations, to assuage their consciences by telling themselves that they are only obeying a law of nature. But a disinterested observer is entitled to ask whether the ruthlessness of the tiger, the cunning of the fox, and obedience to the law of the jungle are, in their human applications, actually evidence of human fitness to survive. If human beings are to pick up pointers on behavior from the lower animals, are there not animals other than beasts of prey from which we might learn lessons in survival?" -- S. I Hayakawa

The writer goes on to suggest the speed of the rabbit and deer in running away from trouble, the earthworm or the mole in keeping out of sight and away from trouble, the oyster and the housefly in propagating faster than their enemies can eat them or kill them, ants for their team work and diligence against overwhelming odds, or almost any animal that has survived: lobsters, dogs, sparrows, parakeets, giraffes, or skunks, offer equally interesting lessons in survival, according to Hayakawa.

But, the final question of this section of "Language In Thought and Action" (5th Edition) is, "Does not human survival revolve around a different kind of fitness from that of the lower animals?" Or as Ben Franklin put it, "If we don't hang together, we will all hang separately."

To me, this "Bully Model" of interaction, government, business, evaluation and child-rearing is an anachronism that is fading out way too slowly because of its popularity among the thugs and oafs of the human race: thugs and oafs: people who don't get the fact that we are all in this together.

The weakest link in our chain defines our strength, not the strongest, or the loudest, or the most threatening. The sensitivity to find those in need, the weak, the helpless, the unselected, and unincluded is leadership today.

When populations respond to the Bully Model with the revulsion today reserved for rancid crimes against society, we will begin to make progress. Only when we listen to intelligence, compassion, and, yes, to the callings of unselfish love of others, can we truly call ourselves progressive. The first step is recognition and then forgiveness.


Mutual forgiveness of each vice,
Such are the Gates of Paradise.
-- William Blake

His heart was as great as the world, but there was no room in it to hold the memory of a wrong.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

To err is human and it must be held to be equally human to forgive if we, though being fallible,
would rather be forgiven than punished and reminded of our deeds. -- Mahatma Gandhi

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Little, vicious minds abound with anger and revenge, and are incapable of feeling the pleasure of forgiving their enemies. -- Lord Chesterfield (Philip Dormer Stanhope)

They who forgive most shall be most forgiven. -- Josiah Bailey

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. -- Paul Boese

He who cannot forgive others, breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven. -- George Herbert

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Forgiveness is the scent that the rose leaves on the heel that crushes it. -- Source Unknown

If I wished to punish my enemy, I should make him hate somebody. -- Hannah More

The urgent question today is, "Cooperation or what?" But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said so eloquently and showing the way to the former question: "Life's most persistent and most urgent questions is... "What are we doing for others?" See you next time.