Sunday’s Wisdom #360: Cruelty and Kindness

“The human race is poisonous and corrupt and should be wiped off the world.”

“And yet yesterday, a man gave you a gift and made a joke. But all you really remember is the port authority trying to run you and your beasties out of town.”

“Do you deny our species is cruel, Captain?”

“No. I’ve been cruel. It’s a cruel world. Maybe we do all deserve to die. But maybe we could be better, too. If you kill us all, you end human cruelty, yes. But you end human kindness, too. No more jokes. No more gifts. No more surprises. Why would a man with all your fantastic knowledge not use it to teach people how to be kind?”

– Isaac & The Captain, Castlevania
Season 3, Episode 3, “Investigators”

This snippet of conversation may be one of my most favorite snippets of dialogue ever.

Isaac is a wizard of skill, knowledge, and terrible drive. Meanwhile, the Captain is a sea-faring wanderer of particular wit who took on his terrifying passengers mostly out of boredom. Yet the latter is now schooling the former about humanity’s merits.

Like most people, Isaac sees the world, and the people in it, with a very narrow, one-sided view. He has seen cruelty so much that it has become all he ever sees. The Captain has a wider view and uses Isaac’s own most recent experiences to make his argument. He does not deny what is wrong with humanity, as he is no naive idealist, but humans have their good points, too. And those good and bad points exist side by side within the same cities, the same families, often within the same individuals.

You cannot simply destroy what is bad about humanity without also destroying what is good. Indeed, the very act of trying to forcefully remove the bad from the world will probably just sow more evil than good.

It occurs to me how significant this is today, in at least two ways.

There are people who truly believe only the worst about all of humanity, as Isaac does. They believe the world would be better off without us. And they believe this goal is worth pursuing at any cost. I believe they are wrong. And that’s all I really have to say about that.

But the second way I see this is in the addition of nuance. Rather than the nothing that all humans need to go, they believe only that other humans need to be wiped out.

The “other” has always been a dangerous idea, a distinction between “us” and “them” that has led to great suffering time and time again. The line between the two sides has always been subjective, based on class, creed, religion, race, nationality, and more. Any difference that can be found is used, because somehow everything would always just be better if not for those other people, so low that they don’t even qualify as people, mucking things up!

It’s for the greater good.

Are there any words more terrifying?

Whether it be the world conquest sought by various groups through the total genocide of other groups, or the political strife which currently ravages my homeland, or any of the many persecutions which have raged throughout history, or even things as small and petty as personal grudges and feuds, the outcome is always the same: death, slaughter, and the end of every kind thing someone might do, and any funny thing they might say.

I have often felt the yearning for enough power with which to smack down all the great evils and tyrants of the world. I am glad that I do not have any such power, as I am clearly not ready to use it wisely and well. I, too, have a cruelty in my heart that wants to break free by way of my self-righteous pride. Perhaps it would be harder to restrain if I were powerful, or maybe it is harder now, while I can imagine its release without every running the hazard of it.

Either way, my choice, in my humble sphere, is to subscribe to something better, wiser, and kinder.

The Captain asks Isaac why one so great, with such advantages of knowledge, would not try to teach people to be kind, rather than cruel.

The greatest one ever to set foot on this Earth did precisely that.

Imagine if every one of us chose to do that, to be kind. To look after the impoverished, the outcast, the elderly, the widowed, the orphaned, the infirm, the abandoned, and all others who are in pain. To work hard and share freely even when we have very little. To help the downtrodden stand up, to shelter victims, to protect each other, to build each other up instead of tear each other down. To offer shelter, kind words, and quiet conversation to those who have nowhere else to go. To give our word and always keep it, to never lie, never betray. To offer respect and dignity instead of offense.

Would the world not be a better place? Would humanity not be better, if we just learned to be kind?

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