Our Lose/Lose Society

We’re all familiar with the concept of win/win. I buy a dress that fits my needs in exchange for money that fits the needs of the storeowner. Mike washes the supper dishes and Tali dries them so that they can both get outside and play before it gets dark.

Our society is steadily creeping towards basing itself on a lose/lose philosophy. The sad incident at the Cincinnati Zoo is just one example. Here are the bare facts: a three-year-old toddler entered the moat surrounding the gorilla enclosure and was dragged through the water by a gorilla. 

What if the zoo had not shot the animal? The child might have been rescued safely or might have been harmed. There certainly was a threat of greater damage. How much time do you think would have passed before Black LIves Matter activists began questioning whether the zoo might have acted more quickly and shot the gorilla had the child been white? How long before President Obama picked up the opportunity to agitate for hatred between Americans, a specialty of his, by suggesting that racist America revealed itself once again? How long before someone posted a despicable, stupid comment under the article on a news website making a comparison between the Black child and the gorilla? How long until a daring reporter found out that the bigoted comment-writer once walked on a New York City street that Donald Trump frequently strode, proving that all Trump supporters are Ku Klux Klan wanna-bees? 

I give that scenario two days to play out. 

Meanwhile, the twitter-sphere is out for blood. Someone has to pay! The zoo, the parents, the owner of the trucking company that transported the gorilla to the zoo—surely someone has to suffer because of the deeply sad occurrence. 

Perhaps not. Maybe zoos and other public areas can reassess their safety features and make some changes after being emotionally shaken by this incident. Maybe all parents will be reminded of the speed with which a child can get into trouble. They can hug their children a bit tighter and commit to greater care while at the same time being reminded that as humans they cannot guarantee their children’s safety. Maybe the parents of the toddler who fell into the moat will feel a greater responsibility to raise their children to be givers to their community and country so that their presence is a blessing to the world. Maybe those who believe like PETA that an animal’s life is worth more than a human one will question deep inside themselves whether they truly would have rather seen the gorilla alive and the child dead. Maybe we can, as a society, accept that tragedies can occur without needing to demonize a scapegoat. 

Obviously, if the scenario had played out on a movie screen, a different script could have been written. Instead, it was real life. Everyone on the spot did the best they could within the limitations of human frailty, time and place. That is called reality. The gorilla lost its life, the zoo lost its gorilla and its reputation, the parents lost equanimity and anonymity. As a society we have become less comfortable saying, “There but for the grace of God, go I,” and quicker to condemn and vilify. At what point do we say that there was enough loss and simply accept that bad things sometimes just do happen?


I was sent the following video by a friend and found it surprising and shocking. Especially when our cell phones constantly seduce us to look at them instead of around us, I urge you to take the time and see this before heading to the water with kids (or adults).


And…while you’re packing summer reading for when the kids are out of the water, don’t forget our 3 Thought Tool books. Light enough for summer; deep enough for growth. 

Available in a money-saving set or separately

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8 thoughts on “Our Lose/Lose Society”

  1. I completely understand, and thank you for posting today. Please know that I am very sorry to hear about your father and I sympathize with you and your family. I lost my grandfather, who was my guardian, before I had children; and I still happily remember him often. I admittedly worried about you and your health or your family’s. I reassured myself that you had very good reasons why you were absent from your blog. As I’ve mentioned before, I have been reading your blog for a long while. I recalled reading with tears about your mother (and even about your old closet.) Much of your writing has been very good for me, and comforting to me. And I am grateful for your wisdom, and friendship through it. I also recently wrote an email to you and figured that you might not have been able to see it, but not to worry about it. You have many important priorities now. I hope you will take good care and be well. Again, thank you for your thoughfulness.

  2. Sorry for taking so long to post this. My dad passed away unexpectedly on Saturday night, June 4th and the mourning week led straight into the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost) so I am just getting back to the computer today (June 14)

  3. For two of the many years that I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I kept a membership at a downtown aquarium on the coast. I quit the membership to it after the aquarium decided that they would put a mirror on the wall at the exit with a sign above which read something like this, ‘You’re looking at the greatest threat to our oceans.’ It was a sickening display of ignorance, primarily because these institutions gather specimens to keep for research and for humans to walk through and view (or gawk at). I did the rational and thinking thing to do, I pulled my funding from this program. (One may think that this is precisely what they were trying to get me to do with the mirror display!)
    Our society has a problem with a lack of collective reasoning skills. We must help others LEARN to think for themselves. Until we can get this basic idea or message to many others, we might just lose/lose each time we try to speak rationally. And then there will be more bad situations where a split second decision hangs in the balance of a good lesson to be learned by all observers of it.
    I certainly value the boy’s life much more than the gorrilla’s and it should have been a no-brainer for everyone reading this story. However, our society seems a little schizophrenic about the the value of human lives compared to the value of animals’ lives.
    The human has abundant potential to impact the world positively, but an animal needs human influence to have any positive impact upon human beings. Many animals are downright scary creatures, like sharks, that we shouldn’t even mess with!
    The public funds zoo operations by visits, memberships and endowments (as in my story above). The zoo officials in Cincinnati did do the right thing, and shame on those who are incensed by the outcome of it.
    Regardless of the feelings many share in the Cincinnati Zoo incident that the parents are to blame, Susan is correct that we must be encouraged to think about our own families and the precious time we have to live here with them. And make this a win/win learning experience for all humankind! Be well 🙂

  4. The internet gives everyone a voice and it’s important not to confuse the hate-filled and strident with being representative of way more than they actually are. I’ve read a number of reasonable and measured pieces on this as on many topics.

  5. I thank God for every comment of reason I have seen about this particular incident with the gorilla. I have seen several, too, so I take hope from that. All I can really say here is I thank God for you and your voice. I think you are right about the many layers to an incident like this, and that there are actually deeper problems than the loss of a beautiful gorilla.

  6. I find your idea still more frightening, when I apply it to the Inquisitions and waves of sporadic witch burnings all over Europe in 16th-17th centuries. A scathing indictment to lay at the feet of Christianity as it once was falsely practiced: recant or burn! Interestingly enough, there are now states that would silence and prosecute deniers of Holy Global Warming. Woo-loo-hullaballoo!

  7. It depends what the ‘going wrong’ is, of course, re your comment on Israel. As for your final sentence, what do you think of the idea that it isn’t a minority with a diabolical agenda as much as a too large proportion of the populace who’ve abandoned God leaving them open to false agendas and trying to make sense of a world through their own minds even when it contradicts the way we were created?

  8. A very apt and prophetic musing! Your conclusion quite harmonizes with something the late Eppie Lederer (Ann Landers) told us years ago. (1) There are societies ridden with blame and guilt. Two examples are Germany and Japan. When something goes badly wrong, it’s all YOUR fault! There seems to be a sociologically expressed need to identify a scapegoat and to excoriate or sacrifice it. The worst example is perhaps the Japanese hara-kiri, the culmination of shame-ridden self-destruction.
    (2) But in Israel, she told us, when something bad happens, guess what? People merely smile grimly and shrug their shoulders with the attitude “something bad was bound to happen sooner or later” and magnanimously excuse the perpetrator from persecution.
    I will leave you with a frightening thought. The Puritans established this nation in a series of ‘permanent settlements.’ Then sooner or later there were the ghastly Salem Witch Trials. This is America. Am I wrong to see this pattern recurring throughout our history? Things go well for a while, and then some Americans, flogged into mania by a minority with a diabolical agenda, go on a witch hunt

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