Basis of Humanity

September 7, 2010
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Everyday there is a situation, one that makes the world cringe and wonder if humanity had finally cracked. There is a problem, a race discriminated against, a religion, an age maybe, but society acts the same way. When things go wrong, we panic. We fight to save our lives and it becomes not a “we”, but an “I”. All other emotions are set aside and we rely on our instincts. We leave everything we have ever loved behind and fight for our own survival. Humanity comes with sanity, and if all sanity is lost, so is everything else. People become more or less humane depending on the society they live in.

Children fight for their lives everyday in Africa. Whether it is to quiet their growling tummies or to battle in war for their country, they are struggling day to day just to survive. When the Mozambicans first learned the benefits of having child soldiers, they realized how much of an advantage they would have. Children are “easily manipulated, intensely loyal, fearless and, most important, in endless supply” (Gettleman). This harsh society makes the people involved act out in peculiar ways, ways we are not accustom to.
As more countries consider the possibility of something so wrong, so completely unheard of, they start to admire the amount of strength that comes with these child soldiers. Sergeants steal children out of their homes at very young ages and take them to serve their country in war. “Those in control don’t care about hearts and minds. They see the local population as prey” (Gettleman). The story of one child is truly remarkable and you would never believe such events could be true. A little boy named Paul Makwek at age 14 lived in a barrack in South Sudan. He was suddenly told by his commanding officer that he was no longer needed and he may return home to his family. “’I couldn’t believe it,’ he said ‘it was too good to be true.’ So he ran out into the bush, took a knife and carved the date into his arm. ‘I was so happy I had to do something,’…‘but I didn’t feel pain. I knew this was it. The day I could begin feeling normal again’” (McFerran). But as the man interviewing Paul hears the story he is telling, he thought of only hatred for the person who cause this child so much pain. “What does it say about the horror of a child’s experience if his response to the news of his impending release is an act of self-mutilation?” (McFerran). Paul’s actions were caused by a lack of knowledge on how to deal with such joy. His first instinct was to cause himself pain because that’s all he has ever known to do.
The need of soldiers in this poor town is so overwhelming that they risk children’s lives to save their own. As a result of being taught to kill at such a young age, these kids have become inhumanly lethal in every act that they encounter. David tells the interviewer, “’I’ll never forget this woman who I helped to kill. She was told she’d be beaten if she didn’t get water for us soldiers. When she wouldn’t, we were all made to beat her. I didn’t want to but I knew that if I refused I’d be killed myself. Soon the woman was beaten so much she was screaming and panting. Then she was unconscious and later she died.” As humans become blind by money, greed, land, or even their survival, they act in uncivilized ways to get what they need.
“Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it” (Bülow) says George Santayana. The holocaust was one event in history that no one ever wants to relive, even though some doubt it ever happened. How could events so unholy, so horrible ever happen to someone? The true definition of the Holocaust is the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. But in shorter terms its ruthless monsters killing innocent people because of their choice of religion. One survivor of this infamous event, Abel Herzberg, stated: “’There were not six million Jews murdered; there was one murder, six million times’” (Bülow). During the Holocaust, the Dictator Adolf Hitler rounded up all of the Jewish citizens and sent them to go live in concentration camps. There, they were brutally beat and starved to death while they worked for close to nothing every day. Many died of starvation, weather conditions, beatings, and many also turned on each other for just one more ration of food. Some of the ways Hitler got rid of the Jews was Gas Chambers, Crematories, and huge trenches in the ground that men and women were to dig and stand above. Then they would be shot, killed, buried, and left with no proper burial and no remembrance at all of their existence. Elie Wiesel wrote in his novel Night “’Do you see that chimney over there? See it? Do you see those flames? (Yes, we did see the flames.) Over there—that’s where you’re going to be taken. That’s your grave, over there. You still don’t understand... Don’t you understand anything? You will be burned! Burned to a cinder! Turned into ashes!’” (Wiesel 30-31) The way they disposed of the Jews was cruel and satanic. These were horrendous acts that should never be inflicted on another human being.
While they lived in the camps, they became very inhumane and only protected themselves. Family, friends, neighbors, all were forgotten for the many years that this occasion took place. Many people lost faith in things they believed in before. How could their God let so many people die? How could He let them suffer like this? Elie recalls when he lost all faith in the lord. “Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God himself. Never,” (Wiesel 34). But as they lived suffocating in the concentration camps with no freedom and no liberty, they realized that they soon became numb. “We were masters of nature, masters of the world. We had transcended everything—death, fatigue, our natural needs. Stronger than cold and hunger, stronger than the guns and the desire to die, doomed and rootless, nothing but numbers, we were the only men on Earth.” (Wiesel 87) They no longer felt pain, sadness, nothing.
They fought for food, for survival, for just one last shot at life, but most came up short. That is why Elie Wiesel wants no one to forget his experience. He stated “’for the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witnesses for the dead and the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time. The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children who will be born tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future.’" (Bülow) Elie is trying to protect his children and the children of the world from his family and friend’s fate.
Humans who are put in certain societies acts in accordance with the environment around them. We act out of instinct and fend for ourselves. When we need food, we get food. When we need water, we go to extreme lengths to satisfy our thirst. People tend to become less civilized when death is knocking. Their humanity often becomes secondary.

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