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Posts Tagged ‘magnificent’

From the Magnificent – to the Malevolent; Human Nature at it’s best/worst.

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In  the 3 December 2007 edition of  ‘Time’, Jeffrey Kluger, made this observation,

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We’re a species that is capable of almost dumbfounding kindness. We nurse one another, romance one another, weep for one another. Ever since science taught us how, we willingly tear the very organs from our bodies and give them to one another. And at the same time, we slaughter one another. The past 15 years of human history are the temporal equivalent of those subatomic particles that are created in accelerators and vanish in a trillionth of a second, but in that fleeting instant, we’ve visited untold horrors on ourselves—in Mogadishu, Rwanda, Chechnya, Darfur, Beslan, Baghdad, Pakistan, London, Madrid, Lebanon, Israel, New York City, Abu Ghraib, Oklahoma City, an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania—all of the crimes committed by the highest, wisest, most principled species the planet has produced. That we’re also the lowest, cruelest, most blood-drenched species is our shame—and our paradox.”

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As most of us acknowledge, Kluger is quite right. Human beings are capable of the most heart-rending cruelty – and the most compassionate acts of love and selflessness. It’s hard to credit that we all belong to the same species, Homo Sapiens-Sapiens.

Today, I found two perfect examples of the incredible human capacity for cruelty and caring – not to ourselves – but to other species that co-habit this little blue-green planet.

Firstly, the Malevolent.

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“A man has been banned from owning an animal for 10 years for keeping an elderly dog in such poor condition it died within minutes of SPCA intervention.

It is one of two cases of Aucklanders being brought to justice for abusing pets this week.

Harley Love appeared in the Waitakere District Court yesterday charged with keeping an “animal alive when it is in such a condition that it is suffering unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress”.

The 21-year-old was charged after an SPCA Auckland inspector was called to his Glen Eden home in January and found a 17-year-old German shepherd-type dog collapsed on the back deck.

The SPCA said the dog, named “Troy”, was very thin, covered in patches of live fleas and maggots and was lying in its own excrement.” 

Full Story

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And then this, the Magnificent,

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“The video shows dolphins appearing out of nowhere and suddenly beaching en masse on the Rio de Janeiro state coastline. They were apparently caught in a strong ocean current.

Stunned beachgoers in swimming trunks at first look on as the dolphins high-pitched squeals are heard. But within seconds, people quickly race into the surf to help the dolphins.

Dozens of people are seen swimming into the ocean and dragging the mammals by their tails in an effort to get them back into deeper waters.

And the effort this past Monday was successful. After all the dolphins were rescued, the crowd of dolphin-savers and onlookers broke into cheers.”

Source

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But perhaps the most significant event of heroism was this story, back in 1982. I first heard it thirty years ago, and the thought of the man in the river has stayed with me ever since,

On 13 January, 1982, an Air Florida Boeing 727 plunges into the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., killing 78 people. The crash, caused by bad weather, took place only two miles from the White House.

The Air Florida flight took off from Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, with 74 passengers and 5 crew members on board. The plane had flown into Washington from Miami in the early afternoon and was supposed to return to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, after a short stop. However, snow in Washington temporarily closed the airport. When it reopened, the plane was de-iced with chemical anti-freeze, but the plane still had difficulty moving away from the gate due to the ice. When it eventually made it to the airport’s only usable runway, it was forced to wait 45 minutes for clearance to take off.

Not wanting to further delay the flight, the pilot, Larry Wheaton, did not return for more de-icing, and worse, failed to turn on the plane’s own de-icing system. In fact, the pilot and co-pilot discussed the situation, and the co-pilot said “It’s a losing battle trying to de-ice these things. It gives you a false sense of security, that’s all it does.” During the delay, however, ice was accumulating on the wings, and by the time the plane reached the end of the runway, it was able to achieve only a few hundred feet of altitude.

Thirty seconds later, the plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River, less than a mile away from the runway. Seven vehicles traveling on the bridge were struck by the 727 and the plane fell into the freezing water. It was later determined that 73 of the people on board the plane died from the impact, leaving only six survivors in the river. In addition, four motorists died in the crash.

Terrible traffic in Washington that day made it difficult for rescue workers to reach the scene. Witnesses didn’t know what to do to assist the survivors who were stuck in the freezing river. Finally, a police helicopter arrived and began assisting the survivors in a very risky operation.

Two people in particular emerged as heroes during the rescue: Arland Williams and Lenny Skutnik. Known as the “sixth passenger,” Williams survived the crash, and passed lifelines on to others rather than take one for himself. He ended up being the only plane passenger to die from drowning. When one of the survivors to whom Williams had passed a lifeline was unable to hold on to it, Skutnik, who was watching the unfolding tragedy, jumped into the water and swam to rescue her. Both Skutnik and Williams (along with bystander Roger Olian) received the Coast Guard Gold Lifesaving Medal. The bridge was later renamed the Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge.”

Source

Human beings… with  our minds and hearts,  we are capable of such magnificent acts of goodness.

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