Cruel World : An Analysis of “From Cruelty to Goodness” by Philip Hallie

“From Cruelty to Goodness” is an article by Philip Hallie and defines what cruelty means and also identifies institutional cruelty. He begins by analyzing the different possible definitions of cruelty and comes across some that would make sense but still are not concrete. Once cruelty is shown, the victim will have emotional pain, physical, and their dignity and self-respect are crushed. Additionally, they will feel embarrassed and helpless to defend themselves from the cruelty. He goes into describing all these characteristics as being part of what is known as institutional cruelty. Cruelty can be seen throughout many institutions such as the political system, religion, and economics. In this case, some people become oblivious to the cruelty that goes on in their society, ignore it, and wait until there’s some kind of solution. One criterion of cruelty is the power imbalance and how the powerful do anything and by any means necessary to get what they want from the powerless. This is evident with institutional cruelty where a dominant group controls and inflicts fear, and violence towards their victims. The power imbalance between the two cannot be removed but could help put cruelty to a halt, but there are still repercussions that still exist. The victims still maintain their dignity, but cruelty would still be inflicted and remain. On the other hand, many would agree that kindness is the opposite of cruelty or the solution, but can be a problem on its own. First off, it can come across as the “ultimate cruelty” and if the kindness is being shown that doesn’t compensate for the fact that cruelty is still going to happen. This is called “Gilded the chain” and Fredrick Douglas compared it to the experience between slaves and their master. Hallie believes the opposite of cruelty is hospitality, and he describes that as showing unconditional love and affection. Hospitality can be effective because it can temporarily eliminate the power imbalance and help restore the victim’s dignity and self-respect. He gave an example about how the villagers’ o Le Chambon accepted and welcomed the Jews who escaped Germany after World War 2? In contrast, other nations didn’t accept them and turned them away. Once the Jewish families came to Le Chambon the villagers provided them with everything they needed and treated them as their equals. The Jews went from being dehumanized to feeling wanted and cared for, and that helped their terrified hearts. Hallie would tell this story while in the U.S. and felt glad that a French woman thanked him for telling the story and the village that saved three children. Le Chambon was the rainbow in the perspective of the refugee Jews and the institutional cruelty they faced was the storm. This article followed a pluralistic principle and those would be “be your brother’s keeper”. In this story, the villagers were helping the weak and afraid. Also staying true to not killing or betraying, but showing love and gratification should be learned by the villagers of Le Chambon. 

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