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Excerpt from A Language Older Than Words

Two Human Races (p. 198)

From chapter "Violence"

Viktor Frankl died yesterday. Although most famous for his book Man’s Search For Meaning, in which he described his experiences as a prisoner at Auschwitz, and articulated his understanding that those who found meaning in their lives and in their suffering were better able to survive the horrors of the camp, I mention him because of something he said toward the end of his life: “There are only two human races—the race of the decent and the race of the indecent people.”

He is right, of course. To restate this in terms of this book’s exploration: there are those who listen and those who do not; those who value life and those who do not; those who do not destroy and those who do. The indigenous author Jack Forbes describes those who would destroy as suffering from a literal illness, a virulent and contagious disease he calls wétiko, or cannibal sickness, because those so afflicted consume the lives of others—human and nonhuman—for private purpose or profit, and do so with no giving back of their own lives.

There are those who are well, and those who are sick. The distinction really is that stark. Attending to this distinction leads again to the central question of our time, restated: How can those of us who are well learn to respond effectively to those who are not? How can the decent respond to the indecent? If we fail to appreciate and answer this question, those who destroy will in the end cause the cessation of life on this planet, or at least as much of it as they can. The finitude of the planet guarantees that running away is no longer a sufficient response. Those who destroy must be stopped. The question: How?