Dr. Von Mayrhauser
Reading Response III
The readings for Part III have something in common with the readings from parts one & two; they were all dense and bountiful. There were so many interesting topics to explore it was difficult choosing two or three on which to focus and address in the reading response. The first one I chose has to do with a personal matter. As an undergrad, I was a student assistant for a man by the name of Samuel P. Oliner who had the unique distinction of being the most published professor at Humboldt State University. He was the founder of “The Altruistic Personality Project” but before I get into describing that, it would make sense to first explain a little bit about his background. Samuel Oliner was a fair skinned Polish Jew who was just a boy at about the same time that Hitler came to power. He is alive today because of the generosity of strangers who took him in, treated him like their own son and successfully passed him off as a Polish boy. Later in life, he became fascinated with answering the question, “why would strangers at great personal risk to themselves save a others from the death camps?” The Altruistic Personality Project morphed into The Altruistic Personality and Pro-social Behavior Institute at HSU. When I was his assistant, he was compiling a rather long list of people who had survived the holocaust under similar circumstances. He wanted their stories and was eager to find out about what motivated those people who acted as sort of surrogate guardian angels. Naturally, the Kidron article entitled Embracing the lived memory of genocide” was of particular interest to me after having that background of working for Dr. Oliner. He looked at two aspects of human behavior. One he called “the nature of evil” and subsumed under that were things like racism, anti-Semitism, genocide and homophobia. The other side of that were people who demonstrated pro-social behavior with altruism being an extreme example of it. It was really easy to tie his research and work in with the work Carol Kidron did at the House of Being. Just as Dr. Oliner noted the two sides of human nature, the people at the House of Being recognized the sort of yin yang by allowing both the life words and the death words to exist simultaneously. Obviously this topic has great depth; however; it’s necessary to move onto the next matter.
Regarding the Patnaik piece about the central area of Korwa India, in the mid 80s there was a revision of government policy that allowed displaced groups to return to their homeland. It mentioned that the people were locating the pain and suffering in their own bodies. Pain is actually physically felt. One of the questions is: What about his thorny issue of colonialism and the good life? One of the themes that has come up in class and in some of the readings is when we consider the good life, how much of our good life is at the expense of someone else? In class we talked about the British and their ideology that they were superior to everyone else (some Brits are still like that) and saw what they were doing as improving the lives of the natives—not exploiting them. In retrospect it is easy to see that wasn’t the case and today, as a nation, we have our own issues of exploitation going on with the American Empire. The Farquhar article addresses some of the history of China and no doubt the revolution was partially brought about as a rebellion against a small minority who were able to live the good life at the expense of the majority.
Social responsibility was an underlying theme of Part III and that is that part of living the good life involves giving back which is why it is important to do some type of charitable or community service. I would love to elaborate further but unfortunately am out of time (and space).