When does suffering benefit those who suffer?
In preparation for study abroad this summer, my class has been studying the book "Russia and Soul," by Dale Pesmen, examining what it means to be Russian. One of the main topics Pesmen focuses on is suffering and its connection to group solidarity. Suffering not as individuals, but as a group. Through individual experiences and interviews, Pesmen constructed a picture of what life was like in Russia in the post-revolution 90's--a time when most of Russia was closed to foreigners and journalists.
During the Revolution, life became very heard for the people of Russia. Many blamed the government, foreigners and the times; but through their suffering, gained a greater ideal of what it means to be human. Suffering brought the people together, uniting them in their struggle and creating the idea of dusha, or Russian soul, we have come to associate with them as a people.
In Western society, we lack this level of solidarity. Too often we see ourselves only as individuals. Individual greed over the consideration of others has continually spawned the evils of times, and while a solution to this problem seems all but impossible, it is clear we need something more. Something to bring people together, uniting interests and dissolving personal struggle.
Perhaps this is why we can not unite as a country at war. While many people have suffered as a result of the Iraq War, it is not universal, and therefore cannot be addressed by the people in a unified way. No one wants the suffering and sacrifice already invested to go to waist; however, the shady atmosphere that brought war and the investigations that followed cause many to question our reasoning. Americans have trouble deciding why we are at war in the first place. For security? To aid others? For oil? Opinions proliferate as growing disillusionment seems to form the crest of sweeping government change--or so we hope.
I place my hope in the idea of change. Change that we can rally around as a nation. Change as a symbol of a more united people and an end to the stagnating ideals of preserving the status quo. However, change is only a symbol. My generation must determine how to use it.
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