Rhinoceritis

24 Oct

Watching the evening news it is easy to become immune to the noise, violence, inhumanity and injustice, and to act as if there is nothing that can be done.  Specifically, not a thing that I can do to resolve the issues in the world.
We are bombarded with the noisy chatter of negative to such an extent that we too can become as negative as those around us and become just like them.  The constant belittling and personal attacks of politics, reality shows like Big Brother and the numerous so-called talent shows, the senseless violence of movies, language and sport leaves us numb to what is happening all around us. 
It is interesting to hear the students response to the drugs in cycling fiasco.  Almost all see little wrong with it because everyone was doing it, and if you wanted to win then it was ok to do the same.  When quizzed about Tiger Woods ‘cheating’, that too seemed to be ok because it was his personal life and didn’t affect his professional capabilities. This was reflected across years 7 -10 and, although not unanimous, it was the majority view.
Eugene Ionesco, a playwright from the theatre of the absurd wrote a play called Rhinoceros in 1959. Over the course of three acts, the inhabitants of a small, provincial French town turn into rhinoceroses; ultimately the only human who does not succumb to this mass metamorphosis is the central character, Bérenger, a flustered everyman figure who is often criticized throughout the play for his drinking and tardiness. The play is often read as a response and criticism to the sudden upsurge of Communism, Fascism and Nazism during the events preceding World War II, and explores the themes of conformity, culture, mass movements, philosophy and morality.
Thomas Merton coined the word, ‘rhinoceritis’ in ‘Rain and the Rhinoceros’  to describe what he say happening in the world of the 1960’s, a world of the threat of a nuclear war, the Vietnam war, civil rights violence in America and the rise of technology which was dehumanising  people.  He saw that it had become so easy for people to live as individuals inside the dehumanising collective mass of people who simply gave up and followed.  He challenge society to move a way from individualism as a an option and to move towards community and responsibility for self and others.
The collective mass, in his view, was easily lead by the promises of advertising, technology and security, because it simply was to hard to take a stand.  Comfort and safety and security came from not making a decision. Like the protagonists in Ionesco’s play, people were simply following the herd.
Has anything changed?  Have we heard the call to step out of the crowd and to take a stand?
What do you think?  Love to to hear you thoughts.  Comments welcome.

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