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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Letters to Ukraine – 18

7 August, 2012 - 00:00

How do these people arrive at what they are? That man idly kicking a dog in the street. The woman you bump into, who scowls at your genuine apology. The teenager slumped in an alleyway clutching a near-empty bottle. At such times, I contemplate history. Not History with a capital H, but the lower-case history of the individual. What formed these histories? Lax parenting, bad education? Nature, or nurture? Herd behaviour, conformity, peer pressure, TV lifestyles? Was it free will: a wilful rejection of wisdom? Or is our current social trajectory simply something in the air – Zeitgeist – a modern, technological, urban, celebrity-obsessed drive towards an antisocial rootlessness that’s hard to resist, an individual decay pressed upon us by collective norms? The poet Rilke said: “What is your most pressing injunction, if not for transformation?” Perhaps, if we all could ask such questions, something might shift – or is Zeitgeist unstoppable? It may even be that ‘society’ cannot help us towards what is right, for what begins as good philanthropy can quickly tip into poor ideology. But I can be sure of this: no one except myself can ever stop me asking the most fruitful question of all: How do I arrive at what I am?

© Mario Petrucci, 2012

By Mario PETRUCCI, an award-winning poet, ecologist, physicist and avant-garde essayist