Friday, April 20, 2007

I don't want to sound insensitve here

This post is a pipe-dream, as I know it's not going to mean anything at all to anyone, but I just feel like I need to say it.

Today's the 8th anniversary of Columbine and it's been 5 days since the incident at Virginia Tech, and I think there's an important lesson to be learned that people just aren't mentioning, and it's a simple. It's also a biblical one, to. Basically, it's the old "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" thing, or as I like to boil it down to, "don't treat people like crap."

In both cases, we're dealing with individuals who believed, rightly or wrongly, that they were being mistreated by society, and acted out in the only way that they felt they could. I'm not going to even remotely condone their actions, but I completely understand the motivations.

People just seem to like to treat others like crap. It seems to be human nature, and to an extent, we're all guilty of it. Most of us go through life with emotional support networks, and we all assume that the other person can take it as well as we can. Thing is, this is delusion and borderline sociopathic, when you boil it down. It's as if we're unaware that people are different than us, that we assume the things we do and say will be interpreted exactly as we mean them, and that people have exactly the same reaction to things that we do.

It also assumes that we're 'normal', and than 'normal' is an objective state of being.

The reality is that we're as much special snowflakes as we are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. We've all said things that were meant to be innocuous, but turned out to be insidious and harmful, and we've all been hurt by things that meant nothing to others. We all have stories, and I'm not alone.

There's a woman I was involved with in my senior year of high school who still hates me for the things I said when I split up with her. She utterly despises the ground I walk on 18 years later. I'm not going to say either way whether or not there's any justification for this, but I'm just pointing out that something I thought was simple has haunted someone else for half her life. For the record, I'm not particularly proud of it, but there were extenuating circumstances involved. (At least I hear that she's happily married, and I'm glad of that.)

As a race, we need to learn to treat each other better, and we need this to evolve. We need to get over ourselves, and learn to get along with each other. We need to learn to stop needlessly antagonizing people. We need to understand that we can only control how we're perceived by acting in the best interests of those around us. I'm not saying that we shouldn't do things for ourselves, but we shouldn't to things for ourselves that screw over those around us.


Firstly, because it's the right thing to do.

Secondly, because you never know when they're going to come after you with a gun.

While the first reason is the most altruistic one, the second one is the cynically realistic one. Many people are just not getting the help and support that they need, and these people are being released into the general populace. Some of these people are obviously troubled, but the majority of them are not. The ones that don't seem to be troubled are often ostracised by those around them, and then harassed by those self-righteous enough to believe that they're right. They're made fun of for being different, quiet, and strange. We all know someone like this, and we all know someone on the other side of things.

The question is: what do we do about it?

While you would think that there's a simple answer, there isn't really. At what point does trying to help becomes patronization, or worse, bullying? It's a difficult line to determine, and we'll often cross it accidentally. That said, as long as we're even aware that the line is there, we're already ahead of the folks who just harass and bully.

There's this kid named Steven who comes into our store on an annoyingly regular basis. He gets in the way, is frequently disruptive, and usually stinks to high heaven. He never leaves when we want him to, and has even taken a swing at one of our managers in the past. To get him to leave, we've taken to playing pranks on him, like switching off computers and video games while he's playing with them. The catch here is that we assume he has asperger's, or some other form of high functioning autism, which explains the disruptive behaviour. We have been mean to him, but at the same time, it had gotten to the point where we had no choice. The fact that we started to enjoy being mean to him is troublesome, but he's a smart kid and we needed to find ways to outsmart him. It became a challenge to get rid of him, and we enjoyed the challenge. It's been months now, and we no longer need to be mean any more. The reason for this is that our bully tactics have forced him to respect us, and he now leaves the store when we tell him too. Once again, I'm not particularly proud of the bullying (although some of it was truly amusing), but it paid off in way that no longer requires it. This, of course, is the exception to the rule.

In most cases, bullying just leads to emotional scarring, and I should now, I was bullied for the better part of my childhood until my mid teens. It crippled my social life for the longest time, and the fact that I'm referring to it shows that it still has some life to it. Those of us with healthy support networks can shuck most of it off, but those without, can't. It just builds and builds and builds until they can't take it anymore, and things take a tragic turn that depends on whether depression or rage is their emotional path. The examples at the beginning show what the latter leads to, and the former leads to Canada's suicide rate* of 11.9 per 100,000 people. (Of which males lead females 3 to 1.) While that sounds low, it's still 12 people per year who feel as though their life isn't worth living anymore, and it's usually due to humanity acting like humanity.

I can't remember who said it, but there's the saying that civilization is just a different form of barbarism, and I'd have to concur. Back in the day, if people didn't like others, they'd hit them with something big, heavy and usually deadly. Today, they just undermine their their will to live. It's far more insidious, when you think of it. It's like slowly poisoning someone's coffee over years, instead of just smacking them with a big rock. At least, with the big rock, you can see it coming.

To draw this to a close, it all still boils down to not treating other people like crap. It's unnecessary, and it's just our inability to evolve into a species worthy of being at the top of the food chain. At the same time, I'm not sure if we're even capable of it. It's been with us since the dawn of time, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

Is being a dick what it means to be human?

Some days, it really just seems like it. Doesn't it?

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