Fear and ignorance make a powerful cocktail for evil. Add personal ambition to the mix and what emerges is a concoction so dark, angels weep. When I hear talk about building walls between nations and separating children from their parents by enforcing immigration laws, I whiff the putrid air of the human nature at its worst. As Phillip Zimbardo discovered about himself in his infamous Stanford Experiment (Blog 8/31/15) under the certain circumstances, a decent person can be seduced by a moral righteousness that too easily becomes corrupted. How else are we to explain the atrocities of the Inquisition, Hitler’s Germany, the genocides of Cambodia and the Congo, My Lai and the current brutalities of Isis, a list not inclusive but representative.
Even so, after all my years on this planet, I remain surprised when the darkest impulses within us dare to disguises themselves as noble intention. On September 29 of this year, newspapers reported that Olga Gutierrez Machorro a member of the local government in Tecamachaico, Mexico proposed giving homeless people lethal injections to be rid of them. They weren’t bad people, she admitted in her role as the councilor responsible for the Vulnerable Groups Commission. They’re harmless but killing them would be a kindness. (Click)
In 1993, a similar wickedness occurred when 8 homeless children in Rio de Janeiro, sleeping near a church that provided them food, were slaughtered by police who blamed them for petty theft In the area. Others would have died if they hadn’t awakened in time to run to safety. (Click) Such extra-judicial killings aren’t rare in Brazil. During the World-Cup-football competition in 2014, Brazilian police were unleashed upon the homeless near the Copacabana Beach in an effort to sanitize the area for tourist who were attending the sporting event. (Click)
In 1729, Jonathan Swift, tired of listening to the rich complain about the poor, published, “A Modest Proposal.” In it, he suggested poverty could be turned to profit if infants born to the poor were butchered and their carcasses sold as a delicacy for the tables of the rich. Once published, a hue and outcry arose in England. Outraged, some demanded Swift’s head. The author wasn’t serious, of course. He was dramatizing the wanton class slaughter taking place already. The horror is that serious people took him seriously, failing to grasp as satire that which they could envision as possible. How wicked is that? On the other hand, someone might send a copy of Swift’s work to Olga Gutierrez Machorro. She’d probably find Swift’s suggestion palatable.