the goodness of man

as a student of history, i am sometimes surprised i continue to have such a positive view of people. i always try to see the good in others and always give them the benefit of the doubt. i believe that human beings are essentially good. is that naive?

whilst capable of amazing acts of kindness, charity and courage in the face of adversity, i know human beings are equally capable of heinous and unimaginable crimes toward their fellow men. 

i have seen with my own eyes the concentration camps of Auschwitz (Poland) and Dachau (Germany). I have seen with my own eyes the ‘shower rooms’ where women, children and the infirm were gassed and the furnaces where the bodies were thereafter burnt to ashes, three bodies at a time. I have seen with my own eyes the firing wall where prisoners were lead out to be shot. The bullet marks on the wall still remain. I have seen with my own eyes, the glasses, bags, shoes and clothes, and other remains of the largely jewish victims who were transported by train from all regions under the Third Reich with the ironic promise of a better life. each and everyone who perished had a name and a history – the suitcases they carried had their names and addressed carved on it.

I have also read moving first hand accounts of the suffering endured by the Cambodian people during the Khmer Rouge regime. Families were torn apart and children were forced to work in the fields with little to eat. A mother watched in helplessness as one by one, her malnourished children succumb to illness and starvation.  In Sierra Leone, the RUF rebels raped, pillaged, and amputated the limbs of villagers in their fight for power. Young boys were kidnapped, drugged and then indoctrinated into the group. They were stripped of their identity and taught to rape and kill without a conscience. Now that the country is at peace again, these young boys and their victimes face untold psychological trauma even as schools try to educate and rehabilitate them.

Yet, during my time in Calcutta where I volunteered at Mother Teresa’s orphanage, I saw the kindness of the Sisters of Missionaries of Charity in caring for the poor, dying, diseased and mentally unsound. Donations poured in from individuals and corporations to sustain the efforts of this organisation which reaches out to the underpriviledged in 133 countries in the world. In fact, whilst raising funds for my solo trip to India, finances came from the church, generous friends and family. The family I met there welcomed me into their heartily into their home even though they did not have much – the entire family lived in a single room. There are so many other tales of human kindness that I can’t write them all.

Even during the worst attrocities commited during the wars of this century and the last, Oskar Schindlers and Corrie ten Booms have risen to denounce the evil and save others at the risk of their lives. This to me is evidence that there remains inherent goodness in men even during the darkest moments in the annals of history.

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