Last summer I spent my time reading about China and the rise of Mao. This summer I have been reading about Hitler and his rise to power. One thing that has been really bothering me is how the regular citizens of both countries turned on one another. People who should have been neighbors helping one another, instead turned into spies and informants. Some did it for the power (being promoted within the "party") and others for the money (often stolen from the people they turned in). It has made me wonder - how well do I really know my neighbors? Would they help me in troubled times or would they "sell me out" for personal gain? I have one neighbor that I know would easily turn in others. And that makes me wonder - what can I do help them?
From the few times I have tried to talk with this neighbor I can see that they are very unhappy. And in reading the stories of those in China and Germany, I know that those who are unhappy are the first to be targeted by tyrants. Tyrants know these people often feel like "victims" - that the world is out to get them. So tyrants give them power over others, knowing that they are likely to seek "revenge". As Mao said, "I never killed anyone. I just gave people power and they took care of my enemies."
It is unbelievable to me what some of these "common" people did. They would take little children and swing them over their heads and smash them into brick walls...they would torture their former friends and neighbors in order to gain more power or favors from the government...they would humiliate family members, or disown them to protect themselves (one son saw his mother lying the street after being tortured and walked past her as if she didn't exist!). They became selfish, mean and evil.
Knowing this pattern, what can I do to prevent this in my own neighborhood? How can I help my neighbors avoid this tragic cycle? I think the key is helping each of my neighbors feel loved and needed. Help them feel empowered in good and positive ways so that they will not be the targets of tyrants or evil men. I have to love them and hopefully they will learn to love in return.