"But the child IS being tortured, Lynda.
What are you doing about it?"
- Stewart Resnick to Lynda Resnick / Meet the California Couple
Stewart Resnick's comment, "But the child is being tortured, Lynda. What are you doing about it?", to his wife Lynda is in response to a story the couple was told at a dinner party. The account as offered in 'Meet the California couple..' goes like this:
"Harvard professor Michael Sandel, the ethicist known for his provocative questions, asked the assembled guests if they would be happy living in a town that was perfect in every possible way except for one terrible secret: 'Everyone in the town knew that somewhere in that village, in a dank basement, there was a small six-year-old child who was being tortured,' he said, as Resnick later recalled. 'And you couldn't say anything about the torture because if you did you had to leave the town.' "
The Resnicks have since significantly increased their philanthropic practice. And, they have received judgment for not giving enough, or not giving in the right way, or giving too late.
I find this a terribly sad scenario that is, one day, someone tells you a story that helps you see through a blindspot as if you've stepped into a valley you've walked your entire life and thought you knew. But now you see the valley as if from a mountain peak and the vision is utterly overwhelming. Because most of the valley is dried up and most of the men, numb from the drugs they use to quench the thirst and hunger of indecency that breaks pride, are molesting their own children and then selling them off in a sex trade.
You are overwhelmed by the horror. And more because you control the means for accessing water and everything that is necessary and desirable to these men and their families. You want to help somehow and feel clueless about how to begin. So, you begin helping where you are most connected in a way that you can.
You're still in the game of winners and losers, yet you've begun to play differently only to find that those who've been asking you to see the valley, among them survivors of the child sex trade, are so burned out by the overwhelm and their own disenfranchisement, that they are, toward you, the most unwelcoming people you've ever encountered.
This is Hell's Valley. Both winners and losers in the game are victims of insecurity. No less and no more than human - highly social animals - with fundamental need for intimacy and strong social bonds. Fear of losing relationships that form the identity and provide security subconsciously ensure the perpetuation of even the most toxic relationships and harmful actions toward oneself and others, contradicting morals.
Anything to avoid being socially outcast, includes gravitating to anyone with open arms. I fell prey, if ever briefly, to this temptation when feeling socially abandoned fall 2014.
There is truth to the story Michael Sandel told. It's not as easy as it might seem to devote oneself to liberating the child being tortured.
The child I see in the basement is the 6 year old narcissist, who was and is yet the 6 year old compassionate child, being tortured in the basement. The 6 year old who, born as close to saintliness as any, has been tortured out for generations by those who had also been tortured until blind to themselves. The legacy is long.
The 6 year old narcissist is the child who did not receive the affection she needed when she needed it, and, so, grew up supremely self-centered and fundamentally starved.
Today, Ringling Bros. performs for the last time. The end of using other animals for entertainment much celebrated, yet the shaming of the industry a shame.
In every sick behavior and judgment thereof, there sickness shrouding truth. Some denial that the social norms children are reared in tend to determine what children consider to be OK - normal. Compassion is with those who today are exploited, shamed for exploiting, raped, shamed for raping, killed senselessly, shamed for killing senselessly, abused by narcissists, and shamed for their narcissism.
Every human is influenced by ego's role in ensuring survival. And when the ego is cultured in a hyper-competitive punitive social system rather than a sharing, forgiving social system, the compassionate child is lost to ego's battle for survival.
While battling for survival has been normalized for some, battling is no more normal than is sharing. The difference is a matter of mothering.
The dark side of human nature is simply one of our highest traits - loyalty - turned against our highest capacity - universal compassion.
Hell's Valley becomes Paradise as soon as the universally compassionate child is liberated.
Today, the socially outcast include the wild ones, those financially very rich and very poor, and those ostracized for poor behavior. Social rejection fuels basic fear and encourages one to fight for survival.
To shame, distance, and punish perpetrators, who are themselves victims, risks greater harm. The resolution is not to further shame and distance, but to empathize, embrace, protect and heal.
All at once now...godspeed.