“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John16.33
It’s been a depressing week. All my English professors seem to have conspired together to create a week of reading that has left me questioning humanity. First there was Medea who kills her own children just to make her husband, who has left her for another woman, suffer. The most chilling part of class had to be when my professor said, “You always think your mother is the one person who loves you unconditionally, but does she really? When you were young and helpless, what if she had just killed you?” She certainly would have had lots of opportunity to do so. What if one of those nights when you would not stop crying, she had just smothered you with a pillow? And I know that Medea is just a story, but these things happen and they are happening now.
Then there was William Blake and his chimney sweepers. The poems are heart-breaking, especially when the little child happily tells you about how all his friends are in Heaven now, but there’s also the chilling realization that Britain’s Industrialization was fuelled by child labour. For my short story class we read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, and Bharati Mukherjee’s “The Management of Grief”, a story about a woman dealing with the loss of her entire family in a plane crash.
And of course, no week of dark reading would be complete without something about the Holocaust. Tadeusz Borowski’s “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” was inspired by the author’s own experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. The whole time we were in class, calmly dissecting the story and appreciating its literary merits, I kept thinking about how all of this really happened. These people were systematically slaughtered because someone believed they were no better than vermin .What does it say about us as people that such evil can exist in the world? We all blame Hitler, but he didn’t do it on his own. Other people believed in him. Borowski entered the concentration camp just three weeks after it had been decided that Aryans would no longer be sent to the gas chambers, so he was lucky in that respect, but he helped sort out luggage and clear dead bodies from the trains, when Jews were shipped in to be gassed. How lucky was he really? His survival depended on his willingness to bring others to their death.
Then Oscar Pistorius went and shot his girlfriend. There are many theories out there about what happened, but three seem to be the most circulated. Some say he mistook her for an intruder after she tried to surprise him for Valentine’s Day. There are those who believe that in the heat of the moment he shot her in anger during an argument. Then the most chilling thought that he might have actually planned to kill her. Whichever it is, this story is just so tragic. Reeva Steenkamp is dead because her boyfriend shot her. How many stories do we here about women dying during domestic disputes? It’s only been two months since the NFL player, Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend during an argument. It all makes a girl wonder if it’s safe to enter a relationship? Maybe I’m better off single!
What kind of world are we living in?! How do we keep believing in humanity despite all the evil we see? Sometimes I almost feel too afraid to walk out the door because there is so much danger out there. Then I remind myself of a Mahatma Gandhi quote:
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
I have to believe in humanity because if I didn’t, there would be nothing worth getting up in the morning for, nothing stopping me from just crawling into a corner, screaming “Oh my God”. This world is full of evil, but it also filled with good people.