An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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Good or Evil?

“Do you think mankind is basically good or evil?”  I asked the man sitting next to me. He paused to think…his answer surprised me. It was a topic discussed amongst friends months earlier; the conversation was of the broader idealism vs. “reality”. The man sitting next to me worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He was a Senior Officer with plans of retiring soon and was returning to a Sudanese refugee camp.

After an inspiring time in Malawi, I was headed to Dar Es Salam, Tanzania, which, if direct, should be just over an hour flight. However, things work a little differently in Africa, so rather than flying direct, as my ticket indicated, I would fly to North Malawi, then Kenya, then finally to Dar Es Salam. Needless to say, I had a little time on my hands, and when I learned my neighbor worked for the UN Refugee department, I figured I’d jump right in.

He paused when I asked. Then to lessen the pregnancy, I joked, “Maybe more of a philosophical question…” He smiled and returned to reflection. This is a man who sees mankind at its lowest; when their country and people have turned on them; when disaster, natural or mankind, has stripped of them of every comfort they have ever known, and in the final hope of survival, they are forced to leave the only thing they do know-home.

‘Tis better to give than to receive. Yet when it comes to giving your family a meal to survive, the temptation to take what you have not received becomes awfully real. When people are in desperate situations, they become aggressive…” he replied. He began to speak about the tendencies of mankind when pushed to their limits. We talked about the effects that has on neighboring country(ies). The strain-economically, and socially. Desperate times bring out desperate reactions.

I believe in life, nearly everything is self- perpetuating. When you do an act of good, especially underserved, it stirs something in the receiving party who then wants to do something good to someone else. Likewise, if you over react in anger or frustration, the receiving party is stirred by injustice and reacts in kind. Therefore, it’s better to do good. Yet in the drive of self-preservation, these golden ideals break down. If my daughter is starving to death and my neighbor has two days worth of food, I would be terribly tempted to take, which in turn places my neighbor in the same position the next day, forcing him to take what is not his, to preserve what is. And so the cycle of aggression begins. It’s hard to think of tomorrow, when you’re not sure you’ll make it through today.

I’m not sure Mr. Miselini ever answered my question before he left half-way through my trip, although with an empty seat, he did leave my head full of thoughts. I arrived Zanzibar with more questions and less answers.

On the turquoise shores of a small beautiful island, I met another random person. However, this conversation was not quite as stirring as the rasta and I talked about how great Italians are, while he smoked a joint and tried to sell me on a 1/2 day snorkeling trip. No, can’t say that for sure… I wasn’t as stirred, but my rasta friend sure seemed inspired.


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