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by David N Johnson

August 29, 2023

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Brutality. It’s a word that resonates, echoing through the annals of time. No race, ethnicity, class, or era holds a singular claim to it. Like a shadow, it has lingered by humanity’s side, ever-present, waiting for the opportune moment to darken the brightest of days.

In every corner of our shared history, from the icy tundras to the vast deserts, brutality has left its mark. It knows not of boundaries or distinctions. It simply exists, a testament to the unpredictable nature of humanity. But as we go deeper into this narrative, let us not forget: where there is darkness, light is not far behind. And in the dance of human experience, these two forces continually intertwine.

Historical Perspective on Brutality

From the ancient empires that stretched across vast terrains to the smallest tribal communities nestled within dense forests, brutality’s presence has been undeniable. In the grand halls of Egypt’s pharaohs, whispers told of slaves bearing the weight of colossal pyramids. Across the seas, the Roman Colosseum roared with the cries of gladiators, where life and death were but a spectacle for the masses.

The Mongol conquests, swift and relentless, scorched the earth with a fierceness that legends are made of. In more recent times, the trenches of World War I and the haunting silence of concentration camps during World War II bear witness to the extremes of human cruelty. Even in opulent palaces and the gilded age’s mansions, tales of treachery and cruelty often lurked behind velvet curtains.

Yet, these instances aren’t mere footnotes of yesteryears. They serve as poignant reminders that brutality is not the dominion of any single group. It has, unfortunately, been a part of the fabric of every civilization, irrespective of its glory or obscurity. But as we recount these tales, let us also remember that they are but one side of the story. For within these same civilizations, seeds of kindness, love, and hope have also sprouted.

Brutality as a Part of Human Nature

Peeling back the layers of human psyche reveals a complex interplay of emotions, instincts, and drives. At our core, the primal need for survival often pushes us into the realms of aggression and dominance. In the earliest days, brutality could have been a tool, a means to fend off threats, secure resources, and ensure the continuation of one’s lineage. Evolution might have favored those who wielded this tool effectively, ingraining certain aggressive tendencies into the very fabric of our being.

Sociologically, group dynamics further compound this behavior. The need to belong, to identify with a tribe or a community, often magnifies our basest instincts. Outsiders become threats; differences become reasons for conflict. Societies, in their quest for order and dominance, have at times sanctioned brutality, masking it as justice or even as a rite of passage.

Yet, it’s essential to ponder: if brutality has evolutionary roots, so does cooperation. Humans, as much as they’ve fought, have also banded together, shared resources, and protected one another. It’s this duality, this balance between aggression and unity, that has truly shaped our journey through the ages. Our narrative is not just one of brutality; it’s also a tale of community, collaboration, and collective growth.

The Other Side of the Coin: Human Capacity for Beauty and Love

In the vast expanse of human emotion, brutality stands starkly contrasted by our immense capacity for beauty and love. Just as we’ve witnessed moments of stark cruelty, our history is also punctuated with bursts of brilliance, compassion, and profound creation. It’s as if the same heart that harbors the potential for harm also holds an inexhaustible wellspring of kindness.

Consider the marvels of art: the serene beauty of Monet’s water lilies, the enigmatic allure of the Mona Lisa, or the profound depths of Van Gogh’s starry nights. These masterpieces, born from human hands, speak to a soul that yearns for expression and connection. In literature, the poetic verses of Rumi, the intricate narratives of Shakespeare, and the visionary prose of Woolf all illuminate the vast spectrum of human experience, from love’s sweetest highs to its most tragic lows.

Science, too, showcases our drive to understand and improve. From penicillin’s life-saving discovery to the vastness explored by telescopes peering into the universe’s edges, human curiosity has continually pushed boundaries.

Every invention, every eureka moment stands as a testament to our ability to transcend challenges and seek the greater good.

Yet, perhaps the most moving are the everyday acts of kindness, often unsung and unnoticed. A stranger sharing food with another, communities rallying to support a grieving family, or the simple act of a child consoling a friend. These moments, though fleeting, anchor humanity in hope.

And in the face of overwhelming crisis, whether it’s natural disasters or man-made calamities, societies have shown a remarkable ability to unite. Barriers dissolve as people come together, driven by empathy and a shared sense of purpose. It’s as if adversity reminds us of our shared vulnerabilities, urging us to set aside differences and embrace our collective strength.

In this dance of contrasts, while brutality casts a long shadow, the light of love, compassion, and creation shines just as brightly, reminding us of the multifaceted nature of humanity.

The Choice We All Have

At the crossroads of our existence lies a profound truth: we are beings of choice. Beyond the constraints of biology, beyond the influences of society, we possess a freedom that’s both powerful and humbling. It’s the freedom to choose our actions, to chart our course, to be the architects of our destiny.

While instincts might tug at our strings, and while our nature may provide a backdrop, it’s our choices that truly paint the canvas of our lives. A momentary impulse, a flash of anger, or a surge of passion may arise unbidden, but it’s our conscious decision that determines how we act upon these feelings.

Each dawn presents a new set of choices. With every interaction, with every challenge, we decide. Do we respond with anger or understanding? Do we act out of spite or out of love? Do we perpetuate cycles of hurt or break them with compassion? In these choices, the dichotomy of brutality and beauty, of hate and love, is laid bare.

To say that we’re merely products of our environment or slaves to our instincts is to diminish our potential. For within us lies the capacity to rise above, to redefine our narrative, to steer our story towards light or darkness. And in this daily dance, it’s our choices, more than anything else, that truly define who we are and the legacy we leave behind.

Steps Toward Choosing Love Over Brutality

The journey toward choosing love and beauty over brutality is not a solitary trek; it’s a collective endeavor that necessitates intentional steps. And the path forward is paved with choices, each one a brick that builds a society more inclined toward compassion than cruelty.

Education and awareness stand as the foundational pillars. Ignorance often fuels brutality, casting a veil of misunderstanding that blurs the lines between friend and foe, right and wrong. A well-rounded education, rich in history, ethics, and critical thinking, can be the beacon that guides us through the fog. It teaches us to question, to seek understanding, and to be acutely aware of the implications of our actions.

Building empathy and understanding takes us a step further. It’s easy to label, to categorize, to put up walls that divide ‘us’ from ‘them.’ But empathy breaks these barriers. It allows us to see the world through another’s eyes, to feel their joys and sorrows as if they were our own. This emotional connection is a potent deterrent against brutality; it’s much harder to harm when we recognize the humanity in others.

Communication and dialogue serve as the bridges between disparate worlds.

Too often, brutality arises from a lack of understanding, from misconceptions that could easily be dispelled through open conversation.

Whether it’s community forums, peace talks, or simple one-on-one conversations, dialogue brings issues into the light, offering a stage for reconciliation and growth.

And let us not underestimate the power of celebrating acts of kindness and love. Recognition acts as reinforcement, a societal nod that says, “This is good, do more of this.” When we celebrate these actions, we not only inspire the doer but also set a precedent for others to follow. It creates a positive feedback loop, encouraging more and more people to choose the path of love over brutality.

In sum, the choice before us isn’t merely a personal one; it’s a choice that resonates through the very fabric of society. And as we consciously opt for love and beauty, we not only elevate ourselves but also uplift our fellow man.

Final Thoughts

Human existence is woven with threads, both dark and luminous. It’s this duality, this interplay of brutality and beauty, that has sculpted the contours of our shared history. We’ve scaled the peaks of love and plummeted into the abyss of cruelty. Yet, at every juncture, the power of choice has shone through, revealing that we are not mere products of our instincts but active participants in the crafting of our narrative.

As you journey forward, take a moment to introspect. Reflect upon the choices you’ve made and the paths you’ve trodden. Ask yourself, “What legacy do I wish to leave? What echoes of my existence will reverberate through time?” For it’s in these reflections that we find clarity and purpose.

Let this be our collective clarion call: to choose love, to embrace beauty, and to champion kindness. Let us lay down the weapons of hate and, hand in hand, journey towards a brighter horizon. For in this choice, we don’t just honor ourselves but also pay tribute to the better angels of our nature, beckoning a world that thrives in harmony and hope.

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David N Johnson

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David N Johnson

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