Vanity And Atrocity: 'How Could They Let This Happen?'

Vanity And Atrocity: 'How Could They Let This Happen?'

"First comes the atrocity, then came the vanity."


"First comes the atrocity, then came the vanity."

This week, I'm writing a meditation on David Brooks's "Let's All Feel Superior," a 2011 NYTimes column about the vanity of commentators following the news of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The vanity Brooks describes is a sort of indignation and outcry in which people make assumptions of how they would have intervened or done a lot better if they were involved in the situation. With regards to Sandusky, many commentators put themselves in head coach Joe Paterno's shoes, and have a general attitude that "they would have taken action and stopped any sexual assaults."

But most people don't intervene, especially during the worst mankind has seen. The Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide are two examples noted by Brooks. The lack of intervention in the face of atrocity may happen for a variety of reasons. When horror happens, many suffer from the normalcy bias, in which when people find themselves in a horrifyingly unsettling situation, "they shut down and pretend everything is normal." People also suffer from motivated blindness, a subconscious effort for people to not see things in their best interest to see. For example, machines tracked the eye movements of people shown pictures of sexual imagery, and subjects who were more uncomfortable with sex skipped over looking at uncomfortable sexual imagery.

Brooks even cites one psychological study at Penn State itself about people's tendency to not intervene when they consciously know something is offensive. A 1999 study asked students whether they would say something if someone else made sexist comments around them. Half of the participants said they would, but when the researchers arranged for someone to say a sexist comment in their presence, only 16% of people said something. In psychology, this is the bystander effect, and is amplified if more and more people are around. In the most egregious and well-known case of the bystander effect, Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in Queens, New York, with 38 witnesses watching who did nothing.

What lies behind this, however, is self-deception. "We attend to the facts we like and suppress the ones we don't. We inflate our own virtues and predict we will behave more nobly than we actually do," a universal blind spot in the human condition.

Moral systems are built to acknowledge this lapse in hypocrisy. Christianity, for example, believes that each person is a sinner, and that none are righteous. "Life was seen as an inner struggle against the selfish forces inside." These moral systems, from religions to philosophies, "gave people categories with which to process savagery and scripts to follow when they confronted it."

Now, however, Brooks argues that our society today has changed drastically from the days of the Puritans. "We live in a society oriented around our inner wonderfulness. So when something atrocious happens, people look for some artificial, outside force that must have caused it." In the case of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, the culture of college football was often that target. People often look for change, whether in law or in culture, to prevent anything as atrocious from happening again, yet history often repeats itself over and over. Commentators constantly cast blame on everyone involved in the Jerry Sandusky scandal "from the island of their own innocence."

"Everyone gets to proudly ask: 'How could they have let this happen?'"

At the very end of the article, Brooks redirects the question inwards to "how can we ourselves overcome our natural tendency to evade and self-deceive?" I'm relatively certain that a few years from today, we may look back at atrocities happening in Yemen or in Myanmar today and ask "how did we let this happen?" We asked the question after many scandals in our own country, especially with regards to the events that led up to the Great Recession. However, we have trouble asking it an always do, because "the most seductive evasion is the one that leads us to deny the underside of our own nature."

Scrolling through the comments, the majority were of scathing nature towards Brooks for what was perceived as excusing coaches like Paterno or Mike McQueary, who could have stopped sexual assaults with a single 911 call. These very comments and mindset prove Brooks's point. We love to be on a moral high horse because it soothes our vanity and distracts us from our own moral and ethical failings in our own lives.

I rarely agree with David Brooks and his politics, but in this case, I do. He may be wrong and I may be very wrong about the human condition, but look no further than a column published the same day by Joe Nocera, titled "Penn State's Long Road Back." Nocera details five steps Penn State had to take to reckon with their moral road back, and ends the article saying "the path to restoring [Penn State's] values is clear. The question is whether Penn State has the moral spine to choose it."

Similarly, Nocera was condemned in the comments section of this article for sitting on his moral high ground and vanity. Even if Nocera were right and his ideas were the best course of actions, the holier-than-thou superiority complex exhibited in the piece is condescending to a fault. In an ideal world, we can condemn and do our best to act on the atrocity without the vanity.

Personally, I have taken a huge step back from the villifying high horse I used to be on. I have learned that the human condition means everyone is capable of anything, no matter how good or how bad. I choose, in my articles, to build people up instead of condemning them for their mistakes. Frankly, a large part of this is because I can see myself being in the same situation as people I used to condemn for inaction or poor decision making. I am not in their arena. None of us are, and in the meantime, just reserving our condemnation and judgment is imperative.

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Customer Service Expert, Gary Brewster of Oneida Provides Tips for Displaying Appreciation to Your Customers

By taking a more direct and proactive approach to managing your customers, you can open up a new avenue of success for your business.


Customer relationships are a core part of your business success. Many businesses that outperform their competitors are just more responsive in this area. By taking a more direct and proactive approach to managing your customers, you can open up a new avenue of success for your business. How can you display genuine appreciation to them? Here are tips and practices from customer service expert and accomplished entrepreneur, Gary Brewster in Oneida, Tennessee that you can adopt.

Event Sponsorship

There are many small signs of appreciation you can show to customers, but hosting an event provides significant evidence to customers that your business genuinely acknowledges and cares for their support. With these events, you can treat customers as guests - which can be a great way to elevate your relationship with them. After these events, you can follow-up with your customers, build upon that relationship, and gain additional insights into their expectations.

Customized Products and Services

Customers will be pleasantly surprised to see products specifically catered to their preferences. This shows that you do respond to their feedback and are appreciative of the information they provide. Also, you are reinforcing the fact that your business firmly puts a priority on their needs and is committed to elevating their experience. You can personalize your products through a couple of means, including offering them in certain colors, modifications, labels, and more.

Use Handwritten Notes

A handwritten note is one of the best ways to convey authenticity in your messages. When you use this medium for sending messages of appreciation to your customers, it generates a more positive response. In a world saturated with emails, social media messages, and mobile text, a handwritten letter can stand out. You can work with your team in organizing a schedule where customers are sent handwritten notes. These can especially work great for the holiday season as customers are more receptive to goodwill messages during this time.

Develop a Loyalty Program

While your business benefits form loyalty programs, they also make the customer feel more appreciated. For your most consistent customers, you are sending the message to them that their loyalty has not gone unnoticed and that you are truly grateful. When repeat business is rewarded, the long-term benefits will be valuable. Instead of merely creating a loyalty program from scratch, consider doing research and recognize specific purchasing patterns within your customer base. You can then highlight certain products they favor and make that the focal point of your loyalty program.

When it comes to maintaining a high standard of customer service, communication and goodwill are valuable. Showing appreciation to your customers is more than simply communicating with them, but also conveying a general sense of commitment to their needs. Your business stands to gain immensely by developing this unique approach to customer service. Consider adding more of these elements as you build your customer service strategy with your team.

About Gary Brewster:

Gary Brewster in Oneida, Tennessee is an entrepreneur and commercial roofing expert. Driven by building excellent relationships, he takes pride in providing the best customer service possible. As a business owner, his goals include delivering exceptional service, solving complex problems, and giving back to the community. Outside of the office, Gary enjoys spending time on his family farm with his wife, children, and grandchildren.

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To The Generation That Might Not Care, A Green New Deal Is Crucial

Take care of our planet and our future.


The reality of climate change and method to address the issue has been a source of contention in the United States for far too long. While Republicans trail behind Democrats a great deal in the percentage who believe long-term, irreversible climate change is a real problem, an equally if not more important gap to acknowledge is that between generations.

A universally taught science concept in elementary school is the difference between weather and climate. Weather is the day-to-day condition of the atmosphere — rainy, sunny, etc. Climate is the weather of a particular geographic location over a long period of time. The weather in an area may be snowy on a particular January day but might overall have a warm climate (Trump has yet to learn this concept).

The gap between generational support for not only believing in the reality of climate change but if the government should take steps to prevent further harm on our planet is apparent. A few reasons that older generations may not support aggressive climate change policies are that many are not going to see the lasting impact of their harmful actions, may not want to acknowledge that their way of life for a majority of their life was detrimental to the environment, or that they simply do not think it is the government's role to further regulate current practices and lifestyles in the name of the environment (an argument supported by many conservatives).

Data For Progress

The "Green New Deal," proposed earlier this month by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey is mainly a list of ideas and goals rather than a carefully laid-out plan, though aims to eliminate greenhouse emissions through the creation of millions of jobs in the renewable energy industry, moving toward public ownership (a major source of disagreement among Republicans and Democrats), and much more. This plan is a comprehensive overview of many sources of environmental degradation that our nation has not addressed, despite the majority of the nation believing the climate change is a real issue.

There will undoubtedly be a major shift in the operations of many companies due to aggressive climate change policies, which could have been avoided at a drastic level if our nation had chosen to make climate change prevention a priority. Unfortunately, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global temperatures will rise to an irreversible level in 12 years if the United States and other countries that greatly contribute to rising temperatures do not take action. A sense of urgency has been lacking for far too long is crucial.

Written into the recently proposed Green New Deal is a section detailing how it will attempt to remedy the inequality of those most directly impacted by climate change. Vulnerable communities, particularly communities of color, are not seeing an equitable distribution in disaster funding to prevent damage inflicted by the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters that have resulted as an increase in rising global temperatures — Which, regardless of your age, should be a glaring flaw in our current system.

I personally doubt that the entirety of the recently proposed Green New Deal will be enacted, however, I believe that anyone who values the quality of human life, clean air, clean water, food sources, for not just those in the United States, but around the world, should be supportive of a Green New Deal.

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