Kindness, A Time of Gifts (Stephen Jay Gould)
On Sat, 29 Sep 2001, Nancy Melucci wrote:
By STEPHEN JAY GOULD
September 26, 2001
The patterns of human history mix decency and
depravity in equal measure...
Another example of SJG's wishful approach to reality ...
unless he reads different newspapers than I do
- On Sun, 30 Sep 2001 Inwmd5@... wrote:
>Irving (and Paul, who wrote a similar reply)
> In a message dated 9/30/01 5:14:13 PM, isilv@... writes:
> The patterns of human history mix decency and
> depravity in equal measure...
> Another example of SJG's wishful approach to reality ...
> unless he reads different newspapers than I do
> Irwin, I do not understand your objection to SJG's remark.
I suppose my reply was prompted more by an article I read
that the price of gas masks had increased from $30 to $300 than Gould's
To my mind, a more realistic characterization of the patterns
of human history is a mix of depravity and the absence of depravity in
equal measure. Decency, in the sense of mutual respect, tolerance,
compassion, concern, etc., is a much rarer commodity, emerging briefly,
as now, in response to a particularly devastating depravity. That is why
we venerate the Albert Schweitzers and Mother Theresas - they are so
unlike the rest of us.
I take solace also in the love-ins, and I still choke up when
that pile of rubble and body parts flashes on my TV screen - after all,
that is my home town - but I have a problem right now with academic
platitudes about essential human kindness or the like. Perhaps it is
because I believe that a lot more people, on both sides of the world, are
going to slaughter each other before this thing is over.
And gas masks will probably go up to $600.