On Saturday night, we make the "havdallah" ceremony, and with a whiff of fragrant spices we usher in a new week. "Have a good week!" we wish each other, as one son dashes out to his pizza delivery job, and my husband heads to the kitchen to do the pile of dishes that has built up over Shabbas (Saturday). I call a mildly protesting Ricki to come do some homework, and study for Monday's science test. Later in the evening I will turn on the computer, wondering (as I always do on Saturday night) if the globe managed to stay relatively sane over Shabbas.
Maybe this half-expectation that it is nigh-miraculous if there were no calamities over the last 25 hours (whether natural or man-made) is a post- 9/11 state of thinking. I know that for me this feeling that the world is a bit fragile has intensified since then.
However, is you know any history, than you know that man's cruelty to man has not increased over time, but rather the ability of a small group to wreck damage far out of proportion to their number. Man, since Cain and Abel, has used violence towards others as a tool. (Anyone who thinks that we have more of this today, should pursue Barbara Tuchman's book, A Distant Mirror, on the fourteenth century.)
Today, we have so many movements to stop violence. We teach non-bullying in schools, have peace rallies, etc., yet it is questionable how much any of this is helping. Perhaps it seems that we have an overly violent world because (as I mentioned above), even small miniscule minorities can terrorize large groups of people. But I think that even those of us who think of ourselves as "decent" people, are often only "decent" if it is convenient.
For example, in the very interesting book Choosing Naia, the opinion of certain therapists is that Down syndrome is a preventable disability (i.e., one can abort), and is a drain on the economy. I recently talked to a mother who was told by her daughter's therapists basically the same line, and that her daughter anyway won't "amount to much". Is it any wonder that she stopped taking her child to therapy? (Which of course is not a good way for her daughter to "amount to anything" either.)
The bottom line is, how much are we willing to go beyond our comfort zone, to help others ? To finance programs? Two months after today's headlines about the treatment of the mentally disabled in Serbia, how many of us will have done even one little thing about it? Or about guaranteeing the rights of the mentally challenged in our area? Or will we just shake our head at how dreadful it is, as we go back to our regular pursuits without a second thought?