Mans Inhumanity to Man

I have advice from a respected friend who says it is better to be positive than negative.  Generally, I think there is much truth to his comment.  Pessimists, cynics, skeptics, and critics seem to live hard unhappy lives.  Studies show that though optimists may not live as long as pessimists, they live happier lives.  We can look around us and see misery, inhumanity and poverty or we can look around and find kindness, generosity and love.  So why would I write about “man’s inhumanity to man?”  Perhaps I cannot give you a good reason.  Sometimes it just seems so egregious to me and terrible that I feel the need to condemn it.  I can not always have a “Happy Face” in light of the inhumanity that I see displayed by other human beings.

I am not talking about a specific act of cruelty or any one specific act that has recently found its way into the local headlines.  There are all too many such acts that get talked about in bars, coffee shops and at supper time.  I am also not talking about random acts of gratuitous violence.  Those bizarre murders and mayhem that are perpetrated by some warped sadistic mind.   Neither am I talking about the violence you see nightly on TV.  I wish I were.  I could simply write any of these acts off as aberrations and forget them.  Much more sadly, I am talking about our ongoing and seemingly endless ability to inflict cruelty on each other.  I am talking about the many instances of cruelty and mayhem that scream forth from the four corners of the earth yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The violence that never seems to end as each day the sun rises and sets upon the globe.  I am talking about the barrage of meanness that we inflict on each other every single day, 365 days of the year and 24 hours each day. Some days it seems like such depravity will never end and that it is more prevalent than God, love or kindness.

I am thinking about the wars, crusades, holocausts, inquisitions, witch hunts, gangland violence, prostitution, child abuse, genocide, domestic abuse, road rage and torture which stalk our world.   I am thinking about a so called justice system which values retribution over reformation.  An “Eye for an Eye” says the Lord and we go one further and extract two eyes for one and two pounds of flesh for one.  All too often the gore and savageness and mayhem seem to be enjoyed.  I have seen pictures of African Americans burned with charred bodies hanging from trees and crowds standing around smiling and posing for pictures.  I have seen videos of people rampaging in the street and beating innocent bystanders to death while laughing and joking.  I have seen pictures of people mutilating and defiling bodies that they have murdered of people who belonged to a different religion.  The visions of destruction and disaster in this world are all too often punctuated by smiling fiends who seem to extract joy and happiness from the cruelty they inflict on others.

Azucena, the daughter of a Gypsy burnt by a wealthy and powerful Count, is haunted by her duty to avenge her mother. Azucena confesses to her lover that after stealing the Count’s baby she had intended to burn his little son along with her mother, but overwhelmed by the screams and the gruesome scene of her mother’s execution, she became confused and threw her own child into the flames instead.  This plot forms the basis for the opera Il Trovatore by Verdi and from which the following aria is drawn (Aria: Stride la vampa / “The flames are roaring!”).   The aria by Verdi describes the glee and joy on the faces of those watching as Azucena’s mother is thrown on the raging pyre and burned to death.  If you want to hear the aria, (Click on the title), it is much more haunting than the words which have been translated below.

Stride la vampa!

Shrieks the pyre!
The furious throng
rushes to that fire
with a happy guise;
screams of joy
echoing around;
surrounded by ruffians
the woman is brought forward!
Evilness shining
on their horrible faces
by the somber flame
that rises to the sky!
Shrieks the pyre!
The victim comes out
black dressed,
disheveled, barefoot!
A fierce yell
lethal it blares;
the echo resonates
from hill to hill!
Evilness shining
on their horrible faces
by the somber flame
that rises to the sky!  From Il Trovatore by Verdi

I imagine similar scenes took place at the Roman Circus and inquisition not to mention the thousands of lynchings that took place in the USA during the 20th Century.  It is easy to point the finger at other people, but in many respects, we all participate vicariously in such violence.   Our popular movies and TV shows depict brutishness, gore and revenge that we all tune into daily.   The final scene of most “action adventure” shows is usually an uber-violent showdown between the good “guy” and the bad “guy.”  Iconic movies like Dirty Harry, Death Wish, Rocky and Star Wars are all about catharsis and retribution.  We sit through two hours of these movies waiting for our hero to get his retaliation.  We identify with our heroes/heroines need to get revenge in the most sadistic means possible.

A recent movie by Sylvester Stallone (Bullet to the Head) has a final scene in which the hero (who is a hit-man) faces off against a former Special Forces operative who is now a mercenary.  An ironic turn of events has us rooting for the hit man rather than the former Special Forces man.  The weapons of choice are fire axes which they wield in their battle against each other.  Nothing like chopping up your adversary to get even!  It is rumored that Mr. Stallone is making another “Rocky” movie.

In the famous movie “Runaway Train,” there is a scene of intense violence where our “Hero,” an escaped convict, is beating his friend to death.  A mechanic on the train (played by Rebecca De Mornay) stops the violent beating and says to Jon Voight, “You’re a monster.”  Jon answers “No Worse, a human.”  The final scene in the Runaway Train depicts the revenge and retribution enacted between Voight and his nemesis, the prison commandant.  Again, somewhat ironically, we are cheering for the arch-violent escaped convict against the prison commandment who has, although perhaps overzealous in his job, the legitimacy of the law behind him.  However, retribution and revenge are not about logic or even right and wrong.  There is an animal emotionalism that overtakes us that puts our vaunted logic and cognition on the scrap pile.  Thus, we will even take the “wrong” side to see that revenge is enacted or that “justice” is played out.  Our animal instincts routinely over ride our human instincts.

Herein lays the problem with “humanity.”  We prefer to call this evil emotional and irrational side of us, inhumanity, but as Voight noted, it is nothing less than our humanity.  We are not inhuman; we are simply and truly human.

Inhumanity: Noun

Crueltyatrocitybrutalityruthlessnessbarbarismviciousnessheartlessnessunkindness, brutishnesscold-bloodednesspitilessnesscold-heartednesshardheartedness, the inhumanity of war.

Have you ever wondered how anyone could pay money to attend a Roman Circus wherein they would watch humans being torn to bits by animals and gladiators?  Have you ever wondered how anyone could enjoy watching someone burn to death at a witch hunt?  Have you ever wondered how anyone could eat popcorn at a lynching?  It is generally hard for most of us to conceive of getting enjoyment from such brutality, at least when we are in our “human” mode.

However, have you ever gone to a football game, mixed martial arts match, karate tournament, hockey game, wrestling match or boxing match?  You can see the same raw animal emotionalism here infusing the crowd as they participate vicariously in the combat.  At all of these so called entertainment events, we suspend our concern for the well-being of others while we obtain vicarious enjoyment derived from watching others getting beaten and pummeled in a pantomime of war and revenge.  Perhaps, years from now our amusement at these events will rank on a par with the satisfaction our ancestors derived from witch burnings and lynchings.  You can argue that these modern events are mostly without the blood and gore of the Roman Circus but that is not always the case and it would probably not discourage anyone from buying tickets to these shows.  In fact, so much the better for ticket sales if some blood and gore and violence does emerge to “spice” up the show.

Man Was Made To Mourn:  A Dirge, by George Burns

“Many and sharp the num’rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves,
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav’n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, –
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

Time for Questions:

Is there a cure for “inhumanity” or more honestly our “humanity?”  Do you get your violence thrills vicariously by watching others commit mayhem?  What need do you think this violence satisfies in people. What can we do to help insure that all people are treated humanely?  What will it take to get rid of our desire for revenge and retribution?  Can you ever see a time when kindness will trump cruelty? Are humans always destined for war and violence?  Did Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and Moses preach the wrong message?  What would they say about the violence we view almost daily?

Life is just beginning. 

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Burberry outlet
    Sep 16, 2013 @ 16:15:19

    This post may be somewhat of the revelation in my experience



  2. Greg Gorman
    Sep 21, 2013 @ 19:02:52

    Man’s inhumanity to man
    1. Is there a cure for “inhumanity” or more honestly our “humanity?”
    To ask for a cure is to imply that there is something unnatural in these acts that are identified as inhuman. When we seek correctness of behavior, we often look to nature to provide insight into natural behavior. What we often do not do is to recognize that we too are part of nature. We do not fault the beaver if his dam drains the wetlands. We see nothing wrong with ants going to war. We see insect societies such as ants and bees and we don’t criticize their caste system. Deer and ram males battle for dominance of the herd, and with that, they have the right to mate with all the females. To the contrary, monkeys and dogs mate with any female that’s in heat. Yet, no one considers the right of the dominante male to be too macho, nor are dogs and monkeys considered philanderfers, because their behavior appears natural and appropriate for their environment.
    With an ego that can only be held by those at the top of the food chain, we see ourselves outside of , above perhaps, of this type of “natural behavior”. We overlook that we also exist in the same environment as those creatures with whom we share this earth. Each one of us must kill a living organism into to survive. We are all limited by natural resources. We are all threatened by our fellow creatures. So is it surprising that with over 3 billion people competing to survive that some aberations might occur that appear to be outside our accepted societal behaviors?
    2. Do you get your violence thrills vicariously by watching others commit mayhem?
    Having spent some time at the trigger of a rifle I know violence and its attractions. However, I also have seen the tradget results of violence. Whatever myths and reveries one might carry regarding the glory of violence is quickly dissolved by witnessing the destruction and choas that is its inevitable result.
    When I see violence doled before me by the media, I feel great sorrow, not just for the victims, but for their perpertators also. Some will understand later in life the impact of their actions and learn to regret them. Others know this as the actions occur and wonder how they ever ended up in this situation. Still others fight bravely with high ideals to conquer their enemy only to find out that they were part of the problem. Trapped in this “natural environment” that forces people of good faith to do dastardly acts of war, they are left to ponder why people can’t act in good faith.
    The vicarous feeling I get when witnessing violence at this stage of my life is troublesome empathy which leaves me with sense of dispare and ineviteability. When I was child, I thought as child, as an adult, I think as an adult.
    3. What need do you think this violence satisfies in people?
    I belive that some people want to join the fray to right the wrong, to the hero that saves the day, and, of course, to be recognized for it. We all need fantacies to color our sometimes banal existence. I don’t ever remember wanting to join the “bad guys” in any situation.
    4. What can we do to help insure that all people are treated humanely?

    We must start with the one person whose behavior we are responsible for.
    5. What will it take to get rid of our desire for revenge and retribution?
    I’m not sure, but I try to remember we are all reacting in our way to this environment. I like to believe that my actions are a choice.
    6. Can you ever see a time when kindness will trump cruelty?
    I see it all the time. When you look for it, you will see it. When you hear about that shooting at Virginia Tech, one must also consider the tens of thousands of bright shining educated young people that VT has sent into this world. What is the proportion in population when comparing the two behaviors. Does anyone ever have story about the the 1 millionth student to graduate? Would you like to that replace a violent article? Why or why not?
    7. Are humans always destined for war and violence?
    War and violence is the result of limited resources, inequities in wealth, and a common sense of entitlement. Change the environment and you’ll change the behavior.
    8. Did Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and Moses preach the wrong message?
    9. What would they say about the violence we view almost daily?
    I believe that each would say something like this:
    An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, “Let me tell you a story.
    I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.
    But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.” He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
    But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.
    Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”
    The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
    The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.
    Which wolf are you feeding? Do you seek the stories of the army of social workers that work with the poor of this country? Do you see the injustice of the country without giving credit to the many people who work diligently to overcome these problems? Obviously, I could continue for some time naming those people whose acts of kindness “trump” the hopelessness and negativity that trap our spirit and lead us to despair.



    • johnpersico
      Sep 22, 2013 @ 14:20:49

      Good Story about Grandfather Greg. Reminds me of the stories in Bennett’s book “The Book of Virtues.” I agree there is more good than evil in the world but sometimes, it does not seem that way. Evil sells of course and the media likes to keep scaring us. My blog this week will be on Scapegoating. The week after next I will cover “Ghosts, Goblins and Zombies.” That seemed like a fitting subject with Halloween looming, not to mention Dia Di Los Muertos, which we tend to celebrate more in AZ. I thought I should lighten things up a bit. Just a teeny weenie bit.




    Oct 08, 2013 @ 06:37:36

    This post continues to be somewhat of your revelation if you ask me



  4. Kirk
    Feb 25, 2014 @ 11:44:45

    Authorize this response and we’ll rescue a fictional



  5. johnpersico
    Jun 21, 2014 @ 02:47:25

    Reblogged this on Aging Capriciously and commented:

    I am out of town this next week so I am reposting one of my favorite blogs. If you have read this one already, you might want to visit my other blog site at I have nearly 500 blogs I wrote on this site. I will have a new blog next week but this week was so busy, I decided to do a reblog. If you have not listened to the music with this blog you are really missing the essence. The music is haunting.



  6. Clarissa
    Sep 10, 2014 @ 07:03:25

    It’s an remarkable piece of writing designed for all the web
    visitors; they will get advantage from it I am sure.



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