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Voice: What have we done to make the world better?

April 14, 2001

In his "A Reader Writes" position piece published recently, erudite Carlos Acuña makes a case for institutional points of view quashing those of the individual — and defends the individual with the bumper sticker cliché, "your karma ran over his dogma."

Mr. Acuña references Jacob Bronowoski's video, "The Ascent of Man," and its correct focus upon human evolution requiring objective inquiry of institutions. Left out of the column was Bronowski's underpinning of human success to the evolution of the opposable thumb — allowing tools to be held in the hand — and the Eastern European cultivation of field crops, specifically wheat, as the starting point for western, i.e., Caucasian civilization. And with the wheat came the "have-nots": those on horses, marauding and pillaging the "haves." The horse revolutionized warfare; wheat was the prize.

Cited by Mr. Acuña was "A Clockwork Orange," the futuristic tale of total dedication to the self and personal gratification no matter what the cost to society's individuals collectively making institutions. The main protagonist was a cunning narcissist, murderer and rapist. When asked to study Scripture, he fantasized himself — not as contrite, but — as the cruel Roman flogging a perfectly innocent messenger of good news and doer of good works through love and self sacrifice.


Mr. Acuña states this criminal was "the supreme Darwinian adaptation" to society's rejection and treatment of those needing "neglecting, condemning and abandoning," by institutions. Actually, he enjoyed inflicting mayhem and terror; social Darwinism would have flour-sifted him out like a weevil.

Violence given the euphemism "unintended consequences?" My examination of a prison inmate happened to elicit his statement, "Children hit by drive-by shootings are casualties. Just casualties." Placing a finger on the trigger infers intent.

Mr. Acuña believes that "defenders of the institutional view rose as one in their dogmatic fervor" when they spit "venom and rock-throwing letters" at a young critic. Overlooked by the young critic, the writers and Mr. Acuña is their erroneous conclusion that what a priest says is official pontification from the Vatican; they confuse the messenger, the priest, with the message center in Rome. Produce an official document from a diocese and prove me wrong.

"The moment that the individual discovers his ‘self,' " according to Mr. Acuña, "is when he makes the greatest contribution to society, the group."

Perchance the greatest contributions to society are made through acts of charity and self-sacrifice by answering the simplest of questions, "What have I done, contributed or constructed to make the world better?"


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