Thursday, February 09, 2017

"Firehose of kindness"

One of the things that distresses me - it has distressed me for a while, but since the start of 2017, it seems more obvious, perhaps because more attention is being given it, because politics, is what I see as a creeping incivility in our culture. There are people who think "telling it like it is" in the most unvarnished way possible (including Anglo-Saxonisms) is the way to be "real."

(I still think of the old MTV show "The Real World," which was kind of guilty-pleasure watching for me in grad school - well, maybe not guilty-PLEASURE, but for some reason I still watched it. But it started off with the comment about "this is what happens when people stop being polite and start being real." And I kind of hated the idea that "real" and "polite" were set up as mutually exclusive choices. It is entirely possible, I would argue, to be polite but still people what they need to change or what the problem is. In fact, I'd argue that people will be more inclined to listen to criticism if it is delivered in a polite way).

Anyway. My general nature reflects how I was raised, and probably to a certain degree, my genetics.

(A former doctor of my family: "You are ALL introverts. I picture you as going home in the evening, each going to separate rooms, and reading a book." Yeah, more or less. And I do think there's a genetic link with whether or not you are comfortable in crowds but there's also a learned aspect to it, and I know my parents "taught" me a certain level of self-reliance and reticence)

I was raised with the "love your neighbor as yourself" ideal. Oh, that doesn't mean you constantly have to be in the middle of your neighbor's business. It doesn't mean you have to go over there and offer unrequested advice. But it does mean, for example, if they've just come home from the hospital you check to see if they need you to run errands for them or cook them a meal. Or that you find out if they just need to talk to someone when they've lost a loved one, and be there to listen. Or if their lawnmower is broken, send your kid over and ask if they either want to borrow ours, or have the kid mow the lawn for them.

I was also raised to be perceptive. I think some introverts are that way - I've had people comment on how I seem to be sensitive to mood and the like, and pick up on when something else is going on in someone's life. I suspect that's a feature from having been on the "outside" looking "in" so much of my life - I never had THAT many friends, I was never a part of a big clique, I was usually on the fringes of any group I belonged to, so I observed.

But anyway. I also strive to be kind (kind =/= nice, where "nice" is Fluttershy in Our Town where she's saying "Maybe we should just go along to get along" instead of resisting Starlight Glimmer's tyranny). This does mean sometimes putting myself out a little bit - coming in at times I might not otherwise be here when someone needs help, or allowing extensions/make up exams when it's not really convenient. Or agreeing to do stuff.

But anyway. I do these things. Once in a while I either get a thank-you or I see that what I did had some beneficial effect. Sometimes I don't. I know we shouldn't expect to be thanked but I do admit it grates when you have someone who seems to expect you to go over and above what is expected, where they act as if it is their due and OF COURSE you would do that because they are special and deserving.

That's part of it.

 The other part is just the general growing incivility. I know it's been going on for a long time, really, I've noticed it since I was an adult. But things like, instead of going straight for the policies or positions of some politician that you disagree with, using name-calling: which really just brings you down to the lowest possible level and honestly, in my day-to-day life, if someone criticizes me and then calls me some kind of insulting name, I am going to take the criticism far less seriously.

And I dunno. I've reached my limit of watching people get down in the mud, and more than reached my limit of seeing the contempt of politicians or famous-people-behaving-badly extended in the same rude terms to people around one.

And I commented, on ITFF: "What I can do [being kind, being civil] is so small; it feels like I am at a house fire with an eyedropper full of water." And it does, a lot of the time.

Someone else replied that based on things I said to people on there, it was more like a "fire hose of kindness" Maybe, I don't know. I still feel pretty ineffectual in what I can do to make things better but the metaphor made me smile.

I vacillate a lot in this "new normal" (which, as I've said before, is never something good: if the "new normal" were better it would be called "an improvement" and not have the newspeak euphemism of "new normal" pasted over it to cover up that it's worse than it was).

Sometimes, when I'm at my best and emotionally strongest, I think, "They say being kind is for 'losers.' Well, then, baby, I'm a loser" - sort of a rebellious, I-don't-care-what-they-think, I'm-gonna-do-what-I-believe-to-be-right attitude

Other times I wonder: Maybe I need to get harder and develop sharper elbows. Maybe sometimes I need to say to people, "I'm sorry, but I won't grant you an extension despite the sad things going on in your life, because it's inconvenient for me. Get the paper in on time or else forfeit the points" - to make MY life easier by maybe making someone else's a little harder. And I don't know. That goes against everything I learned growing up but sometimes it does feel like the only way to "play" the "game" is to be kind of hard and "scrape 'em off, Claire."

Then again: if you win the rat race, you are still surrounded by rats. So I don't know.

The third option I see is one I couldn't currently do, but maybe will consider once I reach retirement age: running away to a cabin somewhere, living off the grid as much as possible, and just avoiding the nuffers altogether. Reading books instead of being out among people. Walking in the woods instead of going to work....and yeah, I get weird and sad when I'm away from people too much but the fact that I still fantasize about that kind of life (alone in a cabin far away from people) tells me there's some attraction to it for me, and maybe I'd eventually break through being weird and sad and reach some kind of new equilibrium where I was just fine 100% alone....

1 comment:

Lynn said...

I think you will like this: