We should also think of the many thousands who have gone to help– neighbors, countrymen, and people from all over the world. That is what being human is about. When something bad happens, we work together to help one another. If only we could retain that spirit the rest of the time, the problems of greed, fear, prejudice and war would be greatly reduced.
A natural disaster can be even more devastating than man-made ones, yet there is no one to blame; no one to hate. The one thing that can be done is to work together; help and be helped. We don’t need disasters to happen, but they do sometimes serve the purpose of reminding us how to be human.
Sometimes they show us how far we’ve strayed from being human.
The most basic of human values is cooperation. It predates religion, philosophy, government and law. It is the reason we know it is right to help and protect one another, and why we know it is wrong to harm one another. Cooperation for the good of all is the critical factor that enabled mankind to survive and prosper, from primitive times until today.
Religions and governments have somewhat reinforced this essential value. Indeed it is the basis for forming governments, to organize the cooperation when the group becomes too large to rely on spontaneous efficiency. However, once religions and political entities take the power to make the rules, exceptions and excuses begin to be inserted to benefit particular interests.
The exceptions, allowing some kinds of harm by some against others, set the stage for an ideology that opposes and dilutes the principle of cooperation. Capitalism itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It is an economic mechanism that works well for many goals, if adequately regulated, and not for others. It is when it is made into an ideology by its most aggressive practitioners in order to discourage regulation that it begins to alter basic human values. In a democratic system, the moneyed interests have to sell their ideology to the public as well as use their wealth to influence government directly.
And so, America failed to protect and adequately help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, despite the fact that our nation has the wealth, resources and ability to be the best and fastest in the world at large-scale emergency response, and at providing protective infrastructure in the first place. Katrina inflicted serious damage, but it pales in comparison to the recent disasters in Asia. If such an event happened in the US, would we handle it as effectively as China has?
What we in the US need to be concerned about most is not our military power, not our economic power, but the greatest of all strengths: our willingness to be cooperative members of the human species, both within our own borders and outside of them.
Recently I was chatting with my friend in China, and we spoke of the overwhelming sadness at loss of lives and homes, but also of the willingness of so many to come to help and rescue the survivors.
‘I see the hope in that.
Before this, a point of view here is : now people are more and more focus in money, career, family and self.
But after that, we found we are still Chinese, the traditional virtues such as respecting, caring, obliging, accommodating…we never lost them.’
I hope they never lose them. I don’t think we Americans have lost our values entirely, but we need to pay attention lest they be diluted by the preachers of selfishness or distorted by religious dogma.
The willingness to cooperate– to extend respect, concern, mutual assistance, and tolerance, is more important now than ever, as the need to extend them beyond borders becomes increasingly vital to the cause of peace and in protecting the environment of the entire planet.