This blog entry came about after watching God Bless America a couple weeks ago (which if you haven’t seen it, use the link to take a quick read and then watch it on Netflix- it’s brilliant!). Beyond that some recent interactions I’ve had with some close friends that led me to thinking about my own (less than)
Moreover, it’s a quick glimpse at the negative behavior people force onto others, and our reactions to it, and quite frankly something I’ve needed to get off my chest.
The Antagonist Approach (Being Human)
I’ll first take a look at how we as humans dole out this behavior, which oddly enough also encompasses perpetuating the negative behavior on others:
“People have no regard for the damage they do to other people.” - God Bless America (A.K.A. The Every Self Serving Sonavbitch you’ve ever met Approach.) In what is perhaps the oldest example of “Do unto others as they have done unto you.” in history, people that take this approach are usually the ones that irk you in some regard. And while the vast majority of the population is guilty of this, I will say it’s a matter of degrees.
For instance, you let someone borrow a pen, which they never return. For illustration sake, let’s call this a “Level 1” offense. A lot of times we can justify these slights easily. We’ll that co-worker of mine took my pen, so I’ll take the one from the cable guy.
An example of a “Level 3” offense might be, the oaf that doesn’t pick up his dog’s shit after it craps on your front yard, slightly more aggravating then our first example. However, still reasonably justifiable by most standards. I ALWAYS pick up after MY dog, so leaving this turd here on this schlub’s lawn won’t hurt, just this once.
You can then go all the way up to true abuse be it; mental, physical or emotional.
If we say this list represents “Level 10” offenses. And as absurd as it might sound, a smaller portion of those diagnosed with the human condition can justify even these reprehensible actions, whether through conscious recognition or subconscious understanding. Don’t get me wrong- when I say that these too represent actions that can be justified, I am not talking about by those with mental fallacies, or other peculiar conditions. I mean people like you, me and yes even your grandmother. I can put it in perspective easily by saying; Spouse A cheats on Spouse B. Spouse B may feel compelled to do the same out of retaliation, or vindication. See, with that example it’s not such an obtuse point of view any longer…but my point is, Spouse B’s circumstances don’t make their actions appropriate. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” said your grandpa after he caught your grandmother revenge cheating.
Life is full of people who commit innocuous versions of these transgressions. They are so commonplace that we almost expect one or two of them to occur in a day, chalking them up as inconveniences of dealing with our fellow man (or woman). Have a string of these dealings in one day; you may even refer to it as a bad day. Largely, you are unaffected by these setbacks, and you either go about your day barely noticing them, or shrugging them off as part of the rat race, like the asshole that was hell bent on not letting you merge onto the freeway this morning- he clearly saw you!
Where these infractions begin to mount is not typically those committed anonymously by strangers, those repeatedly carried out by loved ones, friends and others that are close to you. This turns an ignorant, selfish act into a seemingly targeted attack.
REACTIONS (Trying to be More Human than Human)
The Robert Neville Approach
“I can fix this.” - I Am Legend. Some of us that feel we are enlightened, intelligent, and all around reasonable may first try to make various concessions in dealing with the people that commit these errors (regardless of level) or the offenses themselves.
Depending on our own level of success in repairing whatever damage may have been wrought, we may continue down this path of the “fixer” or we may abandon helping efforts altogether.
The Doctor Manhattan Approach
“I’m tired of this planet, these people…tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.”- Watchmen If we move on from our roles as fixers, we may arrive to that of the uninvolved observer. The stance of “not my problem” and/or “doesn’t directly affect me” may force our inaction.
The Punisher Approach
“To pursue... natural justice. This is not vengeance. Revenge is not a valid motive, it's an emotional response. No, not vengeance. Punishment." - Punisher. This path is fairly simple, do onto others. If someone commits a minor transgression against you, the chosen course of action is to even the score, harm then, or do what has been done back to them.
Why do we do it? (Acting Human)
No formal thought
Though it may seem like a cop out, the truth is that most of these abrasive situations arise because people aren’t actively thinking about consequences. Humans love to auto pilot through the day, this often leads to the inability to see the reactions of our actions, if you will.
They are actively thinking about themselves. The guy that cut you off in traffic, the lady that cut you in line, the politician that cut your health coverage. All of them were acting out of their own best interest, not yours.
They didn’t say, “I’m going to do ____ to Joe today.” But they did do ____ to Joe today. The end result is the same.
While this may sound a bit over the top, some people do enjoy the slight spark of torment that goes along with causing you inconvenience or minor harm. These people are perhaps the easiest to deal with, but the hardest to figure out. Assuming, that is, you want to figure them out at all. Personally, I’d like to see what makes them tick slightly out of time.
What do we do?
with it man, that’s life after all.
If you’ve read this far you were probably hoping for a better solution, I’m sure.
However, honestly encounters like these and the more awkward, difficult situations in life builds both character, improvisational thinking and resiliency.
“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.”
- Henry Ford