Follow the Leader?

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Life begins in a womb, or in a room, depending on your view, I suppose. But without a doubt, we all exist as the result of a big bang; the merging of two completely separate things; an egg and a sperm, and then lo and behold, out of this unification pops a brand new energetic being. Unlike baby lizards, which hatch from an egg and are completely independent at birth, eating ants, flies and small worms, brand new people are utterly incapable of doing anything except crying, flailing and losing their poop. And some people continue this type of behaviour well into adulthood, which isn’t to say those people won’t ever change, because they can. Humans are capable of advancing their position in life through self-determination, unlike a lizard, which will always be a lizard.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit unnerving comparing people to lizards, it puts me at risk of having a raging reptile or a pissy progenitor on my doorstep. I’ll put a pee-pad on the landing. Now, back to my weird, and over-simplified comparison, the most obvious difference between a human and a lizard is that people have a desire to determine their own path in life and can actively plan towards attaining that goal. In essence, we try, we fail, we try, we fail, we try, we succeed and we grow—remove the pee-pad. Whereas, lizards simply live in the moment fulfilling their own needs; eating, drinking and fornicating.

Furthermore, as a non-lizard species, we have the unique ability to use introspection to hone our personal progress and develop compassion for our fellow human beings. If we cut beneath the superficial mask we wear for appearances sake, each individual soon comes face to face with their own inner workings, including their deepest fears and most vile inclinations, in doing this time and time again, everyone eventually discovers we are all capable of doing dark deeds in difficult circumstances. This revelation leads us to find empathy for those who struggle. The idea of compassion doesn’t exist for lizards, they simply view the smaller lizards, the less powerful lizards as a source of food to fill an empty need.

The progression of any society is intricately linked to the empathy the people display for their own fellow man. I came across these paragraphs in a book, the words buried themselves inside my heart and mind, irretrievable shrapnel from an explosive idea.

Hammer cocked, a round in the chamber, finger resting lightly on the trigger, I drew a bead on whoever walked by—women pushing strollers, children, garbage collectors laughing and calling to each other, anyone—and as they passed under my window I sometimes had to bite my lip to keep from laughing in the ecstasy of my power over them, and at their absurd and innocent belief that they were safe.

But over time the innocence I laughed at began to irritate me. It was a peculiar kind of irritation. I saw it years later in men I served with, and felt it myself, when unarmed Vietnamese civilians talked back to us while we herded them around. Power can only be enjoyed when it is recognized and feared. Fearlessness in those without power is maddening to those that have it.” .

This Boys Life: By Tobias Wolff

This scenario gnaws at the reality of our time. Do you think the leaders of today promote self-determination, fearlessness in the face of adversity and compassion for others, or do they actively participate in shaming, name-calling and enjoy the predatory feeling of having their finger on the trigger? Will the babies born today be encouraged to live their lives to their highest capacity as a human or will they be limited to the barest minimum like a lizard?

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