Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Caretaker or Destroyer

Do you ever wonder how some people can do such horrible things to others? Do you try to understand human nature and what makes some work to stop atrocities and others turn away? How do you explain to yourself something like-- Hell comes to Chad?

It is in the nature of animals, human and otherwise, to divide ourselves into groups as we try to stay safe, find comfort zones, and understand life. Our human groupings tend to have a variety of reasons for existing. Menses types want everybody to know how smart they are. Beauty contests label the fairest of them all. Religions divide people into saved and unsaved. Sometimes human divisions are on the basis of birth and can't be changed no matter how someone tries. Sometimes they are a series of choices made to belong to what seems to be the 'right' group.

A long while ago, I looked at such groupings and didn't see it as working for me. I saw that there were similarities between people that went beyond the usual labels. I simplified my division-- Caretakers and Destroyers.

Sometimes, in the beginning, it can be hard to discern where someone fits, but eventually it becomes obvious. Very few people would want to see themselves nor do they want you to see them as destroyers. Most justify their actions-- no matter what they do, they claim it's the right thing. Even less want to think their acceptance of certain things might make them destroyers not by their direct action but by their acceptance of destruction as the price they must pay for their personal security or prosperity.

The Constant Gardner is, in its essence, a film about caretakers and destroyers. Based on the book by John LeCarre, it is the story of a man who wants to live a peaceful life but is pulled into an alternate universe. It is one he might have suspected existed but preferred not to acknowledge.

The film illustrates well how all the destroyers are not firing guns. Some do it through choices they make that lead others to die and they don't care because all that really matters is their own benefit. In The Constant Gardner, the bad guys are on the ground, terrorizing, shooting, enslaving, starving others, but they are also in government offices, in corporate boardrooms where they make decisions to test drugs on unsuspecting Africans as well as give them free medicines that are out of date and sometimes of no use-- except for their own tax write-off. (Read, Pharmaceuticals and Africa, in case the idea of such things actually happening is beyond your imagination.)

Most of us don't know enough about what is going on in the world. We cling to our secure zone and try to tell ourselves the evil being done is not our responsibility. But when we don't do whatever we can to stop such atrocities, are we being silent partners to the destroyers?

Kind of going along with this, the most recent Tony Hillerman mystery, The Shape Shifter, has a character who also divides people, but he does according to prey or predator. That fits fine with my definitions and extends the meaning of caretaker. Caretakers don't have to be weak or prey. They can fight for what is right. Just as destroyers don't have to be strong. Sometimes to be a caretaker requires making the hard choices; but in the end, caretakers work to build life, make it stronger. They are the ones who solve problems, who create worlds that last. Destroyers destroy or enable destruction.

Where all this matters most is when it comes time to vote, but it can be about where we donate and what we purchase, the friends we make or choose not to make. Being aware has always been important but maybe never more so than today.

Years ago, we had a beautiful example of a caretaker personality here on the farm. It was an Appaloosa horse named Kitty Dawn. When lamb or calf would be born, if the mother was not right there to take care of it, Kitty would forcefully guard that baby from all that might endanger it. She would stay by it until we saw the situation and took over. It wasn't part of her herd-- except in the broadest sense of the word. Too bad more of us don't see our herd in the broadest sense of the word.

3 comments:

Parapluie said...

Rain your post is well researched and creative. It is important to have a cosmic view of the world to know what to do. I think it is a great start to have a simple explanation of what process we are all experiencing. But do you recall another important way inwhich you use to divide people into the thinkers and the doers? Doers are caretakers as are thinkers?

Terri said...

Rain, this was a thought-provoking and well-written entry. Your thoughts mirror mine. I've also felt that "omission" can be just as damaging as being blatant about the "destruction" one harbors.
And I always think of Nazi Germany. The silence of many brought about devastation of an entire society.
I guess that's why, the older I get the more I embrace my mantra, "Speak up and speak out" because, in my opinion, to do otherwise is simply a state of apathy. And apathy gets us nowhere.

robin andrea said...

This is so well written and thought-provoking. I have never thought of dividing people into caretakers and destroyers, but that really works so well. And you are so right about being silent partners to destroyers. It is part of the whole picture that we are so busy, stressed, and overwhelmed to see how the world is being destroyed. We don't think of ourselves as complicit, but by our silence we are.