Where Is Queen Esther when we need her?
“Where do these people COME from?” millions of decent folk ask when a pharmaceutical company executive raises prices of a life-saving drug by 5,000 percent, or when a clergyman sweeps a widespread child molestation scandal under the rug or when a dictator executes a general for dozing during a meeting.
Of course the answer is that the world’s most outrageous greedheads, tyrants, bullies, swindlers and self-serving politicians come from among us. They are our children, our neighbors, our co-workers. And too often when we first see them veering in an antisocial direction, we fail to strike a Barney Fife “Nip it in the bud” stance.
Most offenders do not — out of the blue — launch a Ponzi scheme, sexually harass subordinates, make million-dollar meth transactions or shred incriminating quality control results. They find themselves in those situations after getting promoted or climbing roughshod over others or patiently refining their nefarious plots — with few or no fellow citizens using either positive or negative reinforcement to nudge them in the right direction.
Granted, there is a limited amount of determent one can achieve if an insulated individual has been groomed from birth to head an organized crime family or despotic regime. But in most circumstances, innumerable individuals have either a long-term or once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to influence the potential sociopaths for good — before they reach a position of power, influence and invulnerability, without a trace of a conscience.
Sometimes you just have to tell someone “No!” or oppose a committee appointment or employ “tough love” to let individuals suffer the consequences of their actions. Conversely, sometimes you can change a life with a simple “I love you” or “I’m here to listen.”
What stops us from helping? Sometimes we’re too busy to notice the warning signs. Sometimes we just want it to be “someone else’s problem.” Some of us take perverse pride in saying of a cutthroat, “He may be a crooked so and so, but at least he’s OUR crooked so and so.”
Yes, I’m sure some people are hesitant to implement a challenge such as mine because they believe that the world NEEDS a certain percentage of…JERKS (I’ve cleaned it up for a family newspaper) in order to get the products manufactured, the treaties negotiated and the wars fought. But there will never be a shortage of jerks, and we’ve never really given honesty, integrity, compassion and self-control a fair test, have we?
In the Old Testament, Queen Esther was at first hesitant to risk her own neck to save her fellow Jews from genocide. Her cousin/guardian Mordecai guilted her into action in part by asking her, “And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Call it providence or fate or dumb luck, but there are reasons we find ourselves in positions to change lives for the better.
Perhaps you will find yourself with the resources and opportunity to make grand gestures, such as taking in a foster child, testifying against a two-bit hood or blowing the whistle on low-level corporate/bureaucratic abuses. You can also accomplish wonders with just the small gestures: uttering a kind word, inviting the homeless to Christmas dinner, giving an inmate a motivational book or sincerely telling someone, “You’re better than that.”
The world is only as nasty and brutish as we let it be. Let’s change lives.