Perspectives: People aren’t things, the sick need to control others

OPINION – If an outside observer wanted to draw conclusions about what appears to matter most to the American public, they could start by scanning our news headlines.

In the process, they might reasonably conclude that we’re becoming a bunch of fearful, childish control freaks.

This June 20, 2015 file photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden shows Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, who was fatally shot Saturday, May 28, 2016, to protect a 3-year-old boy who had entered its exhibit. In some parts of Africa, tourists and researchers routinely trek into the undergrowth to see gorillas in their natural habitat where there are no barriers or enclosures. | Photo by Jeff McCurry/Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden via The Cincinatti Enquirer via AP, File; St. George News
This June 20, 2015 file photo provided by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden shows Harambe, a western lowland gorilla, who was fatally shot Saturday, May 28, 2016, to protect a 3-year-old boy who had entered its exhibit. In some parts of Africa, tourists and researchers routinely trek into the undergrowth to see gorillas in their natural habitat where there are no barriers or enclosures. | Photo by Jeff McCurry/Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden via The Cincinatti Enquirer via AP, File; St. George News

It’s not just the intensifying political tantrums that contribute to this unflattering image. It’s the petty things that get blown out of proportion by people with a pathological need to be in control.

For instance, last week’s gorilla-based outrage was so intense that it finally got the public to stop talking about bathrooms for a few minutes.

Anger and vitriol erupted when a western lowland gorilla had to be destroyed after a small child found his way into the animal’s enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. The histrionics were disproportionate, to put it mildly.

Within hours, news and social media were awash with newly minted parenting and primate experts trying desperately to find a scapegoat for the gorilla’s death.

They were part of a predictable blame-seeking movement that arises any time something tragic or unpleasant occurs. To such black and white thinking, nothing is an accident.

There is always someone to blame and a new law or policy to implement in the misguided belief that if we’d just give them enough control, they could stop anything bad from ever happening.

Reality, of course, is a much different story.

Even when we make the best possible decisions for the circumstances, some things will still remain beyond our control. That can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield offers a much healthier approach:

If we could just blame this on a lax parent, or a failed fence which could have been noticed, or a million other things in human control, many people would be comforted by the notion that full safety is really just a matter of taking all the proper precautions.

But life is full of unknowns, and we can’t control all the infinite variables which shape our lives. That is no excuse for taking stupid risks, or living otherwise irresponsible lives. It simply means that we should do our best to focus on what we can directly influence, and try hard to stop worrying about the rest.

Instead of focusing on exerting control on the things which are external to us, we’d all be better off to learn to control how we choose to react instead.

A good example of this can be found in the story of 90-year-old widow Marie Sikorski, who lives in Sarasota, Florida.

Sikorski has lived in her home for nearly 70 years. Her closest family members live on the other side of the country.

Recently, one of her neighbors called the city of Sarasota to complain that the widow’s home was falling into disrepair.

Code enforcement officers quickly sprang into action to help Sikorski by levying $500 a day fines that have since swelled to nearly $150,000.

When a concerned neighbor stepped in and volunteered his own time and effort to make the necessary repairs, the city’s functionaries declared that his work cannot be accepted since he’s not a licensed contractor.

The city says there are codes that must be enforced and that what they’re doing does not constitute harassment. Remember, in their minds, they’re only “helping” to solve a problem.

The fact that an aged widow who lives on a mere $1,000 a month cannot possibly pay the exorbitant fines is not their concern. They only wish to maintain control by enforcing the letter of the regulation.

As unreasonable as a municipal bureaucracy can become, the real moral deficiency in this story is found in the first contemptible neighbor who brought the authorities into the situation rather than working directly with Sikorski.

The lesson for those who still possess a molecule of conscience is that sometimes, in the real world, we encounter things that displease us.

In this case, a widow’s aging home was enough to unleash her neighbor’s inner control freak with zero thought as to what it could do to Mrs. Sikorski. The only thing that mattered was that someone’s sense of aesthetics was offended, and they wanted their way at any cost.

Instead of stubbornly trying to bend others to our will by whatever means necessary, we should be more like Sikorski’s young neighbor who cut her some slack, rolled up his sleeves and set about solving the problem.

A callous city bureaucracy may not recognize her unlicensed neighbor’s work, but good-hearted people who believe in a Higher Authority most certainly will.

We all need to be more like the latter and less like the former in such matters.

If there’s such a thing as karma, we should all be well-practiced in showing empathy for the inevitable day when we’re the one in need of it.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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8 Comments

  • BIG GUY June 6, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Right on target, Bryan. The country is awash in too many laws, too many regulations, and too many “programs” put in place by those who want government to “solve” every problem they see, real or imagined. We need to accept the fact that not every perceived injustice and not every flaw can be solved by our government without creating unintended consequences–often worse than the original problem–leaving us at the mercy of a bureaucracy too often run amok.

  • BIG GUY June 6, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Got a call from an Eritrean friend this week asking how Americans could hyperventilate about a gorilla’s death when hundreds of refugees from his country and other places in Africa are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. Values of the few seem to get a disproportionate share of media and often government attention.

    • Anejo June 6, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      Watching some of the global media we’re bombarded with death, destruction. As Big Guy points out, there are boat loads of people drowning in the Mediterranean. Graphic images of dismemberment in multiple war zones. Throw up a segment about the gorilla we get the disclaimer “This footage contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing”

      As Mark Twain was fondly quoted as saying, and myself agreeing, “The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.”

      I always loved a bit of irony.

    • Bob June 6, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      well, it’s something about how gorillas are nearly completely killed off in the wild, but the human population of africa is nearly unlimited/infinite. On another note, I can’t figure out why europe wants to take on africa’s problems. Why now? Africa has always been the most desperate impoverished continent. Europe could have thrown open their borders to african migrants at any time in history, but why now?

      Anyways BG, gorillas will soon just be a thing to tell the kids about in picture books–either poached to death or their old habitats taken over by slums…

      • Anejo June 6, 2016 at 3:27 pm

        The cute and cuddly always seems to take precedence over the painfully human. People were being shot dead live on TV when the Ukraine has it’s European membership referendum, and no one batted an eyelid, now everyone is a zoo keeper?!

        I don’t think Europe does want to take on Africa’s problems, but centuries of pillaging the continent are certainly coming back to haunt them. Saying that when you look at the numbers of refugees the majority are Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi asylum seekers. Why would they possibly want to go to Europe?

        Maybe bullets and bombs everyday for a couple of decades, is enough to make you want to get your kids away to somewhere a little safer. It’s easy for us to sit in our air conditioned houses, and play Risk, but the reality is that if we weren’t carpet bombing them they wouldn’t be trying to swim across the sea in the first place.

        • Bob June 7, 2016 at 1:43 pm

          “we” are not bombing anyone. The Israeli Jews and our israeli owned US military are doing the bombing. no one asked me..

          • Bob June 7, 2016 at 1:44 pm

            use the term “our” loosely. in the end ‘our’ military is israel’s

  • Anejo June 7, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    We are Bob! We spent trillions on it. We’ve even found ways to do it like video games! If it’s Israel’s fault, who’s sending them the money?

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