Michael Jackson

A bereaved, maimed 8-year-old boy

There are televised interviews with children who saw their parents or siblings die.  In these interviews, we know who the kids are and whether the family deaths took place in a kibbutz or Gaza City. Also, the interviewer explains how these deaths occurred, e.g., a terrorist shooting or an exploding bomb. If the bereaved, maimed child is of our tribe our hearts swell with sympathy. If the bereaved, maimed child is from the enemy tribe, we may call the death accidental, just collateral damage, blame the other tribe for the incident, or say that this whole war is entirely their responsibility.

Now let us imagine a hypothetical scenario. Suppose the BBC, CBS, or Al Jazeera interview this boy with a bandaged eye, arm in a sling, and amputated legs. The interviewer translates into English but does not identify who the kid is. The adult translator interprets the kid’s feelings and images into English. We watch and listen and try to decide from available clues e.g. location, kid’s clothes, description of family deaths, whether the bereaved, maimed kid is of our tribe or their tribe.  Eventually, we resolve this critical question. Based on this evaluation we determine our emotional reaction to this bereaved, maimed 8-year-old boy who will almost certainly face a horrific future.

A bereaved, maimed 8-year-old is a bereaved, maimed 8-year-old is a bereaved, maimed 8-year-old.

Why does tribal identification determine our emotional reaction?

About the Author
Born in London in 1949. Studied Maths at Warwick University. Came to Israel (WUJS program at Arad) in 1971. I became a citizen and served in the army in 1973. Returned to the UK in 1974. Worked in Information Systems. Married an American Orthodox woman in 1977 and moved to America. For a few years I have led a retiree philosophy class.
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