My son recently overwhelmed me with one of those dreaded questions that we enlightened
parents are supposed to be able to answer but cannot because there is no logical response
that will make sense to a young, innocent mind.
ďFrom out of the mouths of babesĒ as they
say, came the question that has stymied the most learned of philosophers, psychologists and
parents. Dad, why is there so much violence in the world? he asked, signifying the end of
innocence, a final farewell to Bert and Ernie and an entrance into this sometimes unforgiving
world we live in.
I told my son that there really is no rational explanation for violence or for hurting another,
but there are many possible reasons why these things occur. In all honesty, I had no idea
whatsoever how to frame a response that would make sense to both father and son.
If my son were older I might have told him that there are about six billion distinct individuals in
our world from extremely diverse backgrounds. Each one of these individuals is fighting for
his fair share of an economic, ideological, religious and political pie that is simply too small to
satisfy the needs of all. By dint of birth, chance, perseverance or hard work some have
prospered, many have failed and most of us have managed to survive by meeting each dayís
challenges head on. We are all pawns in a grand chess game and somewhere, far beyond
comprehension there is a Grand Master moving us across the chessboard of life. None of us
asked to be here yet we are forced to compete against one another to survive.
In thinking about my sonís question I found myself wondering about why all of the violence
occurs, how it all began and whether it will ever end or just keep spiraling out of control. Each
dawn brings news of an even more senseless, horrifying act of savagery than the day before.
Open up the newspaper, turn on the radio or tune into any television station and you will find
instances of manís inhumanity toward his fellow man. We fight, kill and sometimes go to war
over religion, possessions, ideologies, misunderstandings, for pleasure or to earn our fifteen
minutes of fame. Unconscionable acts of violence are committed out of jealousy, love,
hatred, contempt or because we are too mentally incapacitated to know the consequences of
When an act of violence occurs we thank god that it didnít happen to us, we shake our heads
and grieve for the victims and then go about the business of living our lives until news of the
next dayís madness reaches us. Stronger locks, more powerful weapons, brighter lights,
harder punches and firmer resolves are developed in order to survive and avoid being
victimized by others.
Any parent who tells his children about the evilness within our society is morally bound to
similarly remind them about all of the goodness, love, charity, generosity and compassion
that also exists. The late Mother Theresa and her lifelong dedication and love for the poor
and the infirm immediately comes to mind as a ready example of the kindness and goodness
that abides within us.
You should tell your children about the woman who unselfishly offers her precious bone
marrow to help a dying stranger half a world away or the philanthropist who anonymously
donates millions to charity. Remind them also of the couple who opens up their hearts and
home and adopts an unwanted, unloved child giving him their unconditional love and a
decent shot at life.
Talk to your kids about the volunteer and charitable organizations such as Big Brothers-Big
Sisters, the Salvation Army, and countless others who work tirelessly to
help those less fortunate. Please donít neglect to tell them about the Samaritan who stops
along a desolate highway at 3:00am to help a stranded motorist or the woman who
volunteers in hospitals or homeless shelters to help make life a bit more bearable for those in
These selfless acts of kindness and love provide ample evidence that despite our
diversity and urge to survive, manís innate goodness thrives and far surpasses the evilness
that sometimes threatens to consume us. To my sons David and Evan and their friends I
would suggest that while there is indeed evilness in our world, it pales in comparison to the
beauty and goodness that may be found all around them.
Read more articles by David Flanagan or search for articles on the same topic or others.