By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Narrow Anger

The main building of the National Library of G...Image via Wikipedia
Ultimately, the attraction of history for many of us is the study of human nature and the kindling of reflection about our own situation in history. Here is some food for thought. The author is speaking about the decline of classical Athens as reflected in the works of the comic playwright Menander:

On an Egyptian tomb when the first dynasty was falling into ruins someone inscribed the words, "And no one is angry enough to speak out."  None of Menander's stage people and none of his audience ever felt that kind of anger, white-hot at corruption and injustice. Only what touched them personally made them angry. A sudden breaking out of the spirit of Marathon is inconceivable in them. Ahead of them in history lay the Roman conquest and they were predestined to be its victims. As far as we can tell, Athens retired contentedly to the position of a university town. Her light of genius flickered up waveringly a few times and then died forever.

Edith Hamilton, The Echo of Greece, Ch. VII, p. 154 (Norton, 1957) (emphasis added).

"Only what touched them personally made them angry."  It used to be that "personally" included one's family. In some cases, the range of concern does not even go that far--I have seen parents indifferent to the corruption of their offspring and older siblings indifferent to the corruption of  younger siblings. This narrow range of concern reflects a dysfunctional individualism marked by preoccupation with one's selfish needs. Seriously damaged people do not have a wide range of concern for others.