Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Parable of the Samaritan

We read in chapter 10 of Luke:

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
 31And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
 32And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
 33But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
 34And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
 35And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

Or not:


Viewing that chilling video, certain features recall the classic poem of A.E. Houseman, a meditation on the medieval painting "The Fall of Icarus":

"De val van Icarus", long attributed to Pieter Brueghel

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

For -- the scene, as it unfolded -- and it  unfolded slowly -- was not at all what I had conjured up in imagination, reading the brief press account.  I had pictured a thronged urban street, pedestrians bicycles rickshaws cages of pigeons  cheek by wing by jowl, not an inch to squeeze by, vehicles speeding; and somewhere -- spot Waldo -- in the general crush, a tiny figure, little more than a shadow, accidentally jostled -- she falls -- is struck by a bumper -;  while the truck, oblivious in the general hullaballo, speeds on; and the passersby  either cannot make out the crumpled form half-hidden by vegetable crates, or, noticing, with visible bad conscience  avert their gaze and hurry on -- fearing, perhaps, involvement in some affair of the Tongs.

But not a bit of it.  An almost deserted Utrillo street;  the silhouette of a girl, quite unmistakable.  No traffic, no distractions;  the truck implacably bears down on her,  though there is even room to go around; crushes her like a bug. 
The truck pauses, you expect the driver to tumble out wailing -- or at least to loot her pinafore;  but no.  He has not crushed her quite enough, for her still partially solid body is peskily blocking his back wheel.  He backs up a bit, for greater traction, puts ‘er in gear; the mighty juggernaut strains -- visibly rises, and finally makes it over the defeated meat-mound.
Again, the way is clear.  The girl lies, not to the side out of sight, but right in the thoroughfare, in plain view.  Then strolling, quite leisurely, a certain ploughman of the modern day, as though licking an ice-cream cone…   Then a bicycle, going slowly, casually maneuvering around that thing in the road.  And another pedestrian -- none of these either staring in fascinated horror, or averting their gaze;  what lies bleeding there is only mildly interesting.  And then another juggernaut, expensive but not so delicate:  it too had somewhere to get to and, squushing what was left of her, rolled calmly on.

~     ~     ~

A thoughtful article that puts things into an unexpected perspective
(basically, it's even worse than it looks):

Good lord, it just gets worse and worse:
" A fallen man pleads in vain for help in Hefei”

And China's  the future?  Lord preserve us.
~     ~     ~

Driving home from work the other day, I happened upon quite a different scene.
It was in the warehouse district  near where I live.  A small flock of Canada geese was venturing slowly across the road.   And all the guys in trucks were just … waiting for them, patiently.   There weren’t even any goslings to cuten up the scene:  just the awkward dignity of the adults, who seem uncomfortable as land-animals, and quite out of their element on asphalt.  Nobody honked; no-one inched forwards to hasten their hesitant gait.  We all just sat there and watched, and counted our blessings.   For yes, we each had somewhere to get to:  but so did the geese.  They needed to get to the other side.

~     ~     ~

Note:  If you benefitted from this post, you might wish to contemplate this video:

[Update 24 July 2012]

A walk, down to the dock: en route to which, amid the lower pond,  a tragedy  involving a duck.  Some subaqueous creature (presumably a turtle) had got hold of the leg of one, which was frantically ‘flying’, as though migrating to Canada, minute after minute, not budging an inch.  This could only end badly.
Its fellow ducks kept their distance, but seemingly unconcerned.  None of the passers-by  paused to take in the spectacle, nor were they curious, what we were staring at, my wife and I.

[Update 10 October 2012]
"What happened to Mr. Li, 51, was the ugliest known episode among anti-Japanese protests that convulsed cities in China last month after a longstanding dispute over an island chain erupted into fury. Mr. Li’s only offense, apparently, was driving a Japanese car. He ended up the victim of a mob..."

[Update 26 Dec 2012]  The denizens of the Middle Kingdom can be rather  casual when handling little kids:

In announcing the rescue of 89 abducted Chinese children on Christmas Eve, a senior police official said baby boys could now be purchased in China’s interior for less than $5,000 — and then resold for three times that amount in the wealthier coastal provinces.
The nationwide scourge of child abductions and baby selling in China first came prominently to light 10 years ago, when the police in Guangxi Province discovered 28 baby girls in the back of a long-distance bus.  The babies, all younger than 3 months, had been drugged to keep them quiet. News reports said they had been stuffed into tote bags. One baby died of suffocation.

[Update 4 Jan 2013] Likewise on the subcontinent, life is cheap:

The man who was beaten alongside the New Delhi gang rape victim said the two lay naked and bleeding while people idly passed by and police debated which police station was responsible, with more than two hours elapsing before they arrived at a hospital.
The young woman later died of severe internal injuries.

[Update 5 Jan]  A quite interesting "Freakonomics"-style contribution, from Erika Christakis:
Predicably, the readers' comments reflect a refusal to even consider the relevance of such factors.
(Homework assignment:  Consider the effects on either gender, of Mormon polygamy.  [Hint:  It is not what you will read in the P.C. press.])

[Pour davantage sur l’Inde et les viols, dans le contexte-comparaison des flingueries américaines, consultez ceci:  ]


Pour d’autres friandises
de la confiserie 
du docteur Justice,

[Update 27 April 2013]
The people of New Delhi have become increasingly better at street protests, even though it is a new experience for most of them. The Indian government, on the other hand, continues to bumble about with no talent for cooling down enraged citizens.
Over the past few days, faced with public outrage yet again, the government was unable to produce officials who were articulate or knew how to employ the language of tactical humility or could at least say the right things in the right manner. Nor was it able to ensure that the minister of home affairs did not doze off in Parliament as a female legislator was talking about yet another rape that has been at the heart of protests in the capital.
Last week, news broke that a 5-year-old girl had been raped and left to die, held captive in a small room for two days with no food or water. A doctor who treated her said that she had several injuries and that pieces of candle and a bottle had been inserted into her. The girl’s father told the news media that the police had offered him 2,000 rupees, or about $37, to keep quiet about the affair, and that he must be grateful she was alive.
Enraged crowds began to gather in various parts of New Delhi including outside the police headquarters. They demanded the resignation of the minister of home affairs and the police commissioner. Women waved cash at the faces of police officers to taunt them for having offered money to the child’s father. Meanwhile, a senior police officer was caught on camera slapping a young female protester.
There is nothing about the appearance of the New Delhi police, the most visible face of authority in the capital, that commands respect. Most of the young police officers look impoverished and undernourished. Many of the older ones are obese. They often stand in a languid way in their cheap, ill-fitting uniforms, and face angry protesters with chuckles or rustic curiosity. It is not unusual to see female officers amble through a demonstration, holding hands and chatting. A majority of those who are posted to control the crowds do not wear any protective gear. In fact, it is a wonder that it is not the police who flee during street protests.

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