When You Can Feel The Pain Of Others, Society Has A Chance
….. a very short fiction by Janr Ssor
I turned my Yamaha Silverado, off the main road, where Florida dust was covering my helmet and pants and left the crowd of bikers now caught up in the growing traffic jam. My dog, Mitzsy, recognizing the neighborhood, had jumped out of my open saddle bag and run across the highway. I was concerned she might get hit by a car.
Shortly down the road I came to a small one level Florida home with a nearly flat roof. The lawn was badly kept and the shrubs around the small 800 foot home were growing askance. It was my daughter’s home and so my dog had headed there. It was a poor but serviceable residence. I thought I might hang out and take a rest from the long bike ride so I went around the back where she always left the door open. I noted that some of her laundry was sitting there awaiting her free time, which was too precious now for its attendance. So, I tossed it in the laundry machine and started the job for her.
I then realized how hungry I was and went to the kitchen to find a cookie. Before beginning my search, I realized it wasn’t my home and I should not look around when she was not there. Hearing a car drive up, I walked to the front door and discovered it was my ex-wife. We had been divorced now over 35 years but I still had good feelings for her.
I was surprised to discover that she was again more slender as she had been when I had fallen in love with her in high school. She had apparently overcome the years of being overweight and finally got control of her diet and lifestyle. Even in your 60’s it was not too late to care of yourself and I was pleased to see she loved herself enough to make the effort. I walked out the front door and greeted her but she was hesitant to turn and look at me. When she finally did, she fumbled with a pair of dark rimmed glasses that she place on her aging face. The right side of her simple black frame held a horribly thick magnifying lens, the left was normal. Her magnified right eye had no iris and looked like an empty glass marble had been used to replace her eye. I realized someone had botched her cataract surgery badly. The skin on her face was pale and it showed and pain of suffering of the sleepless nights I thought this disfiguration had caused her.
I tried to find some positive words of comfort to recognize how positively she had regained her figure but they seemed empty, next to the pain on her face. We went inside to escape the heat of the Florida noonday sun and sat on the small couch where more laundry lay, crowding us into too close a sitting position.
I felt her pain and suddenly remembered what it had been like long ago. I was a different person then, and blossoming sympathy in my heart resurrected the youth from his death during that divorce. I felt anger that this person, I had loved, could be so abused again after all the injustice I knew her childhood had wrought upon her. How could God let this happen! She took off her glasses so that she could face me with less misery and it did help hide her injury. It made me think how easy it was to be human and live in our daily intellect, forgetting the emotions that made us more special than computers. By taking off her glasses she could not see my face, if it reflected her pain, and it helped her detach from the closeness of our bodies on the crowded couch. Disregarding this attempt, I reached around and hugged her unresisting body, and she began to cry.
I felt again like the 21 year old who early on in his marriage had learned about her childhood. We had been so very ignorant and naive. I wondered if nearly 40 years had taught us anything. I recalled all I knew about her incredibly painful childhood experiences. She had been raped and tortured at the hands of heroin addicts. She had told me that her parents never knew about it or cared but I did not recall which. They were frequently drunk or fighting and that had made her life even more miserable, if that was possible, until they divorced and left her in poverty. She had finally regained memories of this tragedy, years later, during our marriage. By comparison, I had been happy to believe that my life as a child was pretty near perfect, until I recalled the truth 40 years later. Such is the miracle of repression that it sweeps pain under the rug like so much dust for a lazy housekeeper.
I wished I could help her but I had been a writer for many years, not an ocular surgeon. The guy who ruined her eye must have been as pathetic as they one who ended my mom’s sex life, destroying her marriage and my childhood. I had little respect for egotistic medical doctors. I felt that their brush with power, that they interpreted as godliness, cause more pain and suffering than they would ever choose to recognized. Then I thought of God again. From my fiction writer’s perspective, I had recently decided that he spoke in binary code. Computers knew of two bits, On and Off. God seemed to use two also, pain and pleasure. Having written code for a few years, I often saw us a subroutines in a program that God had written. Each of us had a part to play in the world’s ongoing creation and I envisioned us being steered towards that goal by the only two things that mattered to human beings and that was pain or pleasure. I knew there was no end to this, other than maybe death. I recalled in the bible how Abraham, God’s most perfect man, had lived through 10 trials supposedly culminating in the near sacrifice of Isaac. He had then pleaded with God to “test” him no more! However, when Abraham came home, he discovered that his beloved wife Sarah, worrying about what might happen to Isaac, had died of a heart attack while he had been away. There was no end to the trials in this life.
Traumatic experiences of childhood, were hard to recall. The pain of our experience was so conveniently buried by other memories in our middle age that they vanished like brown leaves under freshly fallen snow. If they were really traumatic, they were repressed to a place we could not recall without great difficulty and often age. So most of us went through life functioning on an ‘intellectual’ level, ignoring the rich past of our pain and pleasure as if it was someone elses history. What would it be like if we could always remember the feelings? How different would life be?
In the late 60’s when the Hippie’s dreamed of the Age Of Aquarius, it was prophesied to be the age of love, peace and harmony that we all dreamed of. Perhaps it was even the biblical prophecy of coming of the Messiah and world peace. However that dream had not come to be. The misery of the Viet Nam era had blossomed into the era of terrorism heralded by a pathetic attempt of the British to restore the Israeli homeland. In this “effort” greed had triumphed when England returned some of the lost Jewish homeland to the remnant of Hitler’s cannibalized Jewish nation, a land too small to be defensible and too barren to be desirable. It had only revived the Islamic hatred for the nation they and others had banished from its homeland, many years earlier.
The history of America then began its slow decline from the glory that earned our harbour the Statue of Liberty, to a nation of junk food, a poisoned environments and greed that transcends all the love our fathers gave in fighting the injustice of World war II. I had drifted off into the reverie that was my way of hiding from pain.
By this time my ex had stopped sobbing and went to her car to bring in some groceries she had brought to surprise our daughter. I helped her unpack the bags and put things away. She saw me eying the box of low carb healthier cookies and handed me one. I had almost forgotten my hunger. I sat down to enjoy my cookie and my mind drifted back to my day dream.
I began to wonder, If humans could bury their emotions and live in what they thought was logic, could corporations and governments be only reflections of this disease? There is a test for psychopathy. It is called the Hare PCLR, or psychopathy checklist revised. Simplistically defined, It is an interesting tool for understanding how human beings can be so divorced from all compassion (emotional memories) as to kill and torture others without remorse. It made me think, what if we applied this to corporations, their board of directors and empowering investors? In this era we have defined corporations as people. Why not test their sanity?
I flashed back for just a moment to Bill McGuire, the past CEO of United Health Care. During his “leadership” of 5 years, he managed to abscond with nearly 2 billion dollars in stock value and earnings. He did this, in my opinion, by denying healthcare to millions of men and women who were sick and dying. This is how “managed care companies” make profits in America. When Bill left, he gave himself a bonus by taking with him nearly 2 billion dollars. I believe he would have fit in just fine with the Nazi surgeons, like Josef Mengele, who tortured the children in the death camps of Germany. Mengele had no remorse and neither does Bill who claims he earned this money doing good. Oh yes, UHC became much larger and more profitable; but, not paying for the health care people thought they were purchasing is very profitable. Of course we all know how self delusion is self serving. Look at Al Capone, who when finally sentenced to jail, said, “I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.” Here is a man who would surely test positive for Psychopathy unless his delusional depth of heroism can fool the 20 questions.
So what about testing corporations and their leadership? I suspect we would find that the intellectuals who lead them are often divorced from their emotions. Killing others for profit means nothing to them. They are psychopathic and it is quite possible they should be imprisoned for the safety of mankind. In his best selling book ‘In Defense Of Food,” Michael Pollan tells us that “we should shake the hand of the man who feeds us.” Here is trying to create a connection between buyer and seller that in old times assured us of the safety of the produce we purchased. It is a good idea. However, the problems with corporate greed run deeper than lack of memories and connections with other human beings. The psychopathy of corporations who poison people and destroy the environment will not be solved by psychotherapy; indeed I believe it requires the imprisonment of the criminals who run them. In addition we would all benefit by the reconnection of people and corporations with a new tool, perhaps the internet, that can ruin or raise a corporation, much as a man’s reputation could do this to his business in our communities of early America. Online communities may one day serve us more than the banal entertainment of knowing what Suzy did on her date with Mike, that they foolishly published on Facebook.
For now I will dream of this community where corporations live and die not by Wall Street but by the communication of nation size communities that know what the corporations are doing, much as you read about Mike and Suzy.