Friday, 30 August 2013

A Time for Heroism

There’s a recording, played this week on the Today programme, of an extraordinary woman in an extraordinary situation.   Last week a young man walked into a school in Georgia, USA, with 500 rounds of ammunition and an assault rifle.   He took as hostage Antoinette Tuff, the school bookkeeper.   You expect ‘another of those horrors’ but, simultaneously on the phone to a 911 dispatcher, Tuff talks the shooter into surrender.   No-one is harmed.   What struck me so powerfully listening to the recording – literally, I had to pull over – was that this heroine overpowered a man seemingly set on violence with nothing more than empathy.   She empathises with how tough it must be for him, she shares tales of her own loss, she calls him ‘sweetie’ and tells him to ‘go through something in life’.   The first thing that strikes me is that love is powerful.
Watching an interview with Ms Tuff, several days later, now in a CNN studio, having just received a phone call from President Obama, it clear that she had been prepared for this extraordinary moment by her faith.   She’s a woman of faith, clearly, and she’s spent time developing this power of empathy.   She knows how to offer hope to others, because she’s found hope for herself.   Richard Blumenthal, author of The Banality of Good and Evil:  Moral Lessons from the Shoah and Jewish Tradition, talks about inculcating ‘prosocial behaviour’ in people deliberately.   Teach how to be good, teach altruism, teach the power of empathy.   He believes that just as people can be prepared to drift into evil, they can be prepared to drift into acts of heroism, decency and kindness.   Religion is good at doing this.   Rosh Hashanah is the time we do this, as Jews.

You can listen to the tape at 2:22:27 in
The CNN interview is at

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...