Am I My Brother’s Keeper?



A saying from the Bible’s story of Cain and Abel. After Cain had murdered his brother Abel, God asked him where his brother was. Cain answered, “I know not; am I my brother’s keeper?”

Note : Cain’s words have come to symbolize people’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for the welfare of their fellows — their “brothers” in the extended sense of the term. The tradition of Judaism and Christianity is that people do have this responsibility. ( See GoodSamaritan, Love thy neighbor as thyself, and Love your enemies.) – From Brother’s keeper, am i my –

I read a true account of a husband and a wife living in a conflict zone and their community (village) was very poor. Due to lack of resources and lacks of jobs, they were emaciated and almost starving to death.

Yet the couple decided to have a child. So the coming child’s father would shove half of his meager portion of food over to his wife each day due to her pregnancy.

The child was born. Yet due to lack of nourishment before birth, he was born with physical anomalies, including brain damage. For example, he could not talk, nor learn to talk.

All the same, the husband and wife decided to try again to have a normal healthy child. Indeed, they tried three times more and wound up with three more children having the same multitudinous afflictions.

Then the husband was killed. After all, it was a resource conflict zone and she left their village with the foursome trailing behind her like semi-mindless ducklings. Her aim was to find a refugee camp, which she eventually did through the assistance and kindness of a human rights worker, whose own life was on the line in such a war torn area.

Whether a Christian or not, the worker, obviously felt that she was her brother’s (or sister’s) keeper. So she acted accordingly.

I read about another conflict zone. It was Rwanda.

It’s amazing that simple machetes and knives can kill so many people. It’s amazing that they butchered whole villages from the other tribe’s clan.

Yet they also killed whole families from their own tribes. Why?

It was because they wanted their homes and land. Indeed, I learned of one family that killed another family from their tribe to take over their house and half acre of bean crop.

Obviously, people can carry out awful and tragic actions when there is not enough food, drink, land, jobs and resources for a population size for a given region. … They will have many babies, who will sometimes be abnormal in development. and they will kill to gain an advantage, too.

The fight or flight response is strong in our and other species. We will either stand our ground or try to flee to another safer region … just as many conflict zone immigrants are trying to to do today whether from Myanmar, Central America (through Mexico to USA and Canada), Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen … and the list goes on and on of these countries in demise.

Much of the world is turning into a desert for a variety of combined reasons. This happening has been well researched and documented by many diverse groups.

Now humanity killed off a large number of entire species and members of others in significant number to be able to dedicate a land mass the size of South America to agriculture and another land mass the size of Africa for animal husbandry. Yet look at the image above and you tell me, if you can do so, the way that people are to feed a population that could reach 15.8 billion people by century’s end? How?

… How can we be a brother’s keeper when we have nothing to give? How can people keep choosing to have children in collapsing and collapsed regions wherein starvation, resource conflict, lack of medical care, lack of housing and clothes, and water deficits are prevalent?

I can’t wrap my mind around this urge to have five, ten or fifteen children under the circumstances. To me it seems irresponsible and mean to raise slews of children so that they can suffer and die from lack, or end up brain damaged from the lacks while in uteri.

My mother died a decade ago. Puzzled, I asked her the reason that people in collapsed areas of the world keep having children. She certainly knew that I only had one child in part because I was concerned about the ever increasing human population, which is decimation of the natural world, much of Earth and other species at an ever ramped up clip.

She replied that she suspected that they were used to the standard and the deaths. They were accustomed to their having their children die off due to the parents’ decisions to have them without means to adequately care for them since they hoped against reasonable hope of success.

The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children. – From  William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

OSWALD. He said, “The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children.” (2.270)

This is a very classical idea explored in the Bible, Euripides, and Shakespeare. The notion of a guilt passing through generations helps give the play its epic scope. – From Ghosts Family Quotes Page 4 – Shmoop


That is a cold comfort, indeed … the thought that children have to pay for their forebearers’ mistakes.

My mother’s other thought on the matter was that they have religious beliefs of the variety that they imagine their children are happy and alive in some place like Heaven with no want or privation after they are dead. Meanwhile the parents can still communicate with them through prayer. So there is comfort provided.

In retrospect, I think of something else when I review my mother’s views that do not mimic mine. It is about a sewage/water treatment plant that was built almost a decade ago.

Waste from people and animals were going directly and indirectly into a town’s water supply. It was fouling their sub-villages and making them sick (obviously) due to pathogens.

So it was decided by government and/or private investors (concerning which I forget the exact funding details) to develop a plant to treat the waste before throwing it back into streams and other drinking water supply sources. So it was decided to build it to handle 5,000 people since the current population was around 2,500.

Everyone in this barely developed region was ecstatic. Who wouldn’t be when so many people and their animals were getting sick and with some dying from foul water?

The problem was that the plant was slow to be constructed since it was hard getting its parts transported to and built in an undeveloped region without massive construction equipment. So by the time that the plant was finished being built, the population in the region had risen to around 10,000 due to primarily a high birth rate amongst the population and a small amount of immigration.

The implications are clear. The population unable to be treated by the plant was now double what it was when the plant was planned. 2,500 vs 5,000. In other words, twice as much raw sewage than then was to be put into the drinking and agricultural water supply subsequently existed after the plant was finished being built.

Put another way, it is hard to do development in some regions. It’s hard to to provide for basic needs, especially when each generation of parents have five, ten fifteen or so children.

It’s even hard to provide food for them (let alone clean water) when much of the world is turning to a desert and our soil is degrading. It is happening at a rapid pace.

I feel as if I should be my brother’s (and sister’s) keeper, but I don’t know the way to do it. I do try to do whatever I can to help others in need, but I do not have the power, the resources, nor the wealth to manage on a very large scale — the actual scale needed.

Others are capable, of course. I know of one US Senator who is very good at fighting for social justice, but she also disappoints me. The reason is that I learned that she has amassed for herself eleven million USD — $$$.

Why in the heck does she need that much money? How could she possibly use it in that amount? Why does she ask for constituents to donate to her reelection campaign three dollars to a thousand or more when she can help herself and when many of them live on around ten thousand USD $ a year?

Is she ignorant in the whole matter? Is she ignorant, too, about from where her money derives?

I know. So do workers in many parts of the world. So does Michael Parenti. So we all need to educate some more people on the matter … and I absolutely aim to let this Senator know so that she can reflect and pray (if she prays) on the issue.

Mystery: How Wealth Creates Poverty In The World By Michael Parenti

Mystery: How Wealth Creates Poverty In The World. By Michael Parenti. 24 April, 2007. There is a “mystery” we must explain: How is it that as corporate investments and foreign aid and international loans to poor countries have increased dramatically throughout the world over the last half century, …

Michael Parenti – Wealth Creates Poverty – YouTube

▶ 2:22

May 5, 2010 – Uploaded by MakeItEmphatic

From a Michael Parenti Talk Affluence Creates Poverty – Marshall McLuhan.

She, in my opinion, needs to learn better about the source of her wealth. She needs to learn better that with such wealth, she can better be her brother’s and sister’s keeper rather than hoard and be greedy in my opinion despite being infected by the craziness of wealth exhibited in Washington, DC. She needs to better learn (as do so many others) about our collective sources of wealth.

It is by grabbing up the resources left in the world, bombing others to get them, using workers at often poverty wages to obtain them and reaping the benefits for the ultra-wealthy, the ones who invest in top corporations, which have no loyalty to any particular nation.

What is the nature of this system? First of all, it’s a system of enormously concentrated economic and political power where we have 1% of the population [actually far more like 0.0001%] pretty much dominating politics and the political agenda and much of our social and economic life. – From Charles Derber’s Universalizing Resistance: To Fight Trump, Fight the System

Is there an answer to the disparity and the dilemma? No, there is not in my opinion. That is, there isn’t until we convince people to stop breeding past resource limits for their regions to the point that their children die off from lacks while they are desperate for other circumstances in other lands and we convince people sucking up wealth like vacuum cleaners for themselves  so as to stop that totally deplorable behavior. Both changes are, obviously, in the extreme tall order to exact  to take place.

This is especially the case when so few members of our 7.5 billion people on this planet foist to enact change, those of us who see the dire necessity to do so. So, what choice have we? Are we our brother’s and sister’s keepers or not? … and beyond the people, are we going to choose to be keepers of the planet and as many species as we can salvage for future generations despite that the human element and the rest are often and increasingly dialectically opposed to this end?

We do, in my opinion, have a moral obligation to life around us and to future generations. How are we going to subsume this task? Is it by breeding generation after generation of ever more children in the hopes that some of them live forward? Is it by amassing wealth for ourselves and our own families at the expense of others to assure success in another way forward for our own? Surely, there is a better way to go ahead in life than both of either of these ways to bring our own genes past ourselves.

I know about what is coming down the pike. I look at maps of desertification, water depletion, overpopulation, climate change, resource deficits, soil degradation and so on. The horror is almost not able to be subsumed if one cares!

I don’t think that I can move the wealthy people and not the ones breeding to smithereens, nor can any of us since they love their power, money and control and foisting their lives forward by any ways possible. Yet we can set up a parallel system and, so, let’s do it! What other way forward is there than to select alternatives? Resist!

Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA.


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