pay it forward...
Fast forward a couple of days. I was talking with another teacher about this course I'm teaching this year: contemporary issues in science. No book. No curriculum. 90 minutes a day. Nightmare.
But I'm having fun, when I'm not planning my butt off. All those stories I read in the New Scientist have a place now. Every science question a kid asks is fair game (can't really do that in the classes that are taught to a timeline). And issues of ethics are the biggest points here.
So J and I were talking about ethics. I had just done a lesson on The Immortal Life of HEnrietta LAcks, so we were talking about ethics in medicine and ethics in general. He mentioned that there have been studies about the whole concept of "pay it forward." Like, back in the day when phone booths were really phone booths and cell phones didn't exist, researchers put a shill carrying a bunch of papers outside a phone booth. As the caller would come out, the shill would drop all his papers and look frantic, panicked and just sad. The question was, would the caller help the shill? After putting a quarter in the return change slot of a certain percentage of the booths, researchers noticed that those who "got lucky" i.e. found a quarter were WAAAAY more likely to be altruistic to the shill. In fact, just saying "good morning" and "how are you today?" to people, especially strangers!, puts them in the mood to be more altruistic.
So the common man has good in him that can be reached. And we all know he has evil that can be reached. Even in the name of good. Which is how this came up - we were talking about unethical cancer research done with HeLa cells (doctors were injecting these massively aggressive cancer cells into ALL gyn patients, just to see if they would grow: they did), and how this research was stopped by three young Jewish doctors... doctors who had followed the Nuremberg trials a few years before, and would not participate in the studies on their own people.
They would not do to their own what Hitler, arguably the most evil man of recent times (though, sadly, he has stiff competition), had perpetuated on millions: uninformed, forced research that was almost certainly harmful. But they were careful not to castigate the researchers who did the work. They just stated they would not.
It's a powerful point of view, the one that won't allow you to be negative. J. went on to explain about an interview of a person he had read. This person was asked who or what they hated. They said they hated nothing. The interviewer was disbelieving: (and I'm paraphrasing 3rd hand here!)
Don't you hate that people are starving?
No, I feel only love for the people who are starving.
Don't you hate abortion?
No, I love life.
OK, we got you here, don't you hate Hitler?
No, I feel only love and compassion for those hurt by the war. I don't hate anything. I love. I choose only to love. Because if I choose to hate, I find my own inner Hitler.
Choosing to hate finds your own inner Hitler. That's a powerful statement. That's a statement, I think, from a great person.
That person was Mother Theresa, and even our society counts her as great.
So, I guess that society isn't all bad, Father Kevin. Don't give up on us!