Yesterday I was driving and noticed that a young man made a lane change a little too short from another car, and he had to step on the breaks hard as he stopped right behind me. I noticed this while I was looking at rear-view mirror. From what I saw, it was obviously an honest mistake, no big deal.
Anyways, there was this young lady behind him and she also had to step on her brakes... That's the sort of thing that happens often, so it really is not big deal after all.
I'm fully aware some people get enraged when they feel they've dangerously cut-off in traffic, and they may react with hand expressions or honking their horns in disapproval...
But in this case what I saw was totally out of proportion. The young lady did get upset, and did started honking, but she got within one centimeter behind the car, and kept the horn on nonstop. It was very loud. When the traffic started moving, she stayed right behind him within one inch, and kept the horn stuck. I noticed that the young man was kind of scared as this woman stayed behind with the horns engaged non-stop. You could see in her face she was enraged.
I'm sure everybody recognizes that as a road rage incident. But here's the thing; from an anecdotal account, I can attest to the fact that I've seen a marked increase of this type of behavior in multiple settings.
It's like many people are literally walking time bombs. Their emotional state so damaged that it causes them to walk around with blinding rage, and any little perceived transgression causes them to fly off the handle.
The other day I heard in the news about this woman that tried to commit suicide by crashing her car against some structure (I don't remember all the details). It turned out that she had been staying at a hotel room with her two kids. The woman survived the crash, and told the police that her two kids were at the hotel room--they were dead.
When I hear stories like this one of the first things that comes to mind is what type of pressure or unfortunate circumstances would push somebody over the edge.
And as I think about it, what comes to mind are the structural and systemic socioeconomic conditions that help exacerbate the suffering of the most vulnerable among us.
I think many people would agree that those conditions are the result of the unprecedented level of income inequality, the results of the massive trillion-dollars looting by the Wall Street criminal racketeering cartel (my interpretation), and other structural issues that arise from the imposition of Neoliberalism.
And also it is the result of people having bought the lie of "individualism," which is nothing more than a manipulative abstraction meant to prevent people from uniting in solidarity.
And I think about the practicalities of the concepts of empathy and altruism.
If you, yes you the person reading this, happen to fall into hard times and lose everything and find yourself in dire need of help, what would happen if you come to my door, knock, and ask me for help?
About if the situation is so dire that you have no money, your health is failing, your emotional state is compromised, and you've run out of options?
Can I help? Am I in a position to alleviate your suffering? If I'm just like any other middle class person, maybe there is really not that much I can do. Maybe I can lend a hand with some money (if I have it), some food, maybe a ride to an appointment, but overall, is not going to be hardly enough to really help you. And what about if I'm having my own struggles, hunkering down trying to keep things afloat, taking care of immediate family and immediate needs?
And as I think about that quandary, I ask myself: "Okay, so maybe I can't do much, but what about if I was a member of a group of 1,000 people who had decided to change their socioeconomic paradigm away from mindless hyper-consumerism, and individualism in favor of collectivism and sustainability?"
Obviously the question itself is a though experiment since as of today, there is very little of that going on in or society. But it is something worth thinking about nevertheless. And that is especially true in today's environment where the Corporate/Government alliance dictated by Neoliberalism is systematically tearing down the social safety net, and undermining human and constitutional rights.
One other thing touching on these concepts of empathy, altruism, and individualism; when I think about these issues my own situation, regardless of whether is comfortable or dire, doesn't even cross my mind. I never think about these things from a self-interest perspective.
In other words, whether I'm making huge amounts of money with a six figure salary (which I have), or whether I'm in a parked car partially covered by snow in some city in the East Coast, turning on the heater every couple of hours or so to avoid freezing to death (which I've also experienced), doesn't factor in when it comes to my thinking about these issues.
However, I've noticed that many people that consider these larger social issues tend to be influenced by their own situation. If they are doing fine, then there seems to be a lack of understanding about the urgency of the situation (when it comes to the whole system); if they are in a dire situation, they of course (and naturally) worry about just surviving, staying viable.
Could that be the effect of social conditioning? Are we being conditioned to be selfish, self-absorbed, individualistic? Why do you think that is?
Lately I've been noticing another thing I haven't seen before (at least at this level): I've been noticing older ladies (I'd say in their late 50's, early 60's) pulling large (wheeled) luggage while walking on sidewalks. What's striking is that they don't look like the typical homeless person. What comes to mind is that they have been recently displaced; that they may have just run out of options and are newly homeless.
I make a point to look at their faces, their eyes, and I notice both, a sense of resilience, and sense of fear and apprehension.
And then I look around and see the world moving on like nothing; she's invisible to the rest of us. How must it feel to to be invisible to an entire society? A society that in the final analysis has more accumulated wealth than any society in the history of the world--albeit in the hands of the one percent.
And I think about that woman, when she was a child, her growing up, her education, he family, jobs, struggles, successes, failures, her humanity, her vulnerabilities, her story, and then ending up in the streets out of options, and seemingly invisible to the rest of us.
As she walks pulling her large luggage, and she thinks about her diminishing options, does it ever cross her mind that maybe somebody with enough wherewithal will notice and help her?
I think like that; I think about the prisoners being torture with solitary confinement and force feeding; about residents in inner-city communities left to rot in crime, unemployment, and failing infrastructure, all of it which is the result of systemic oppression and neglect. I think about undocumented immigrants being held in for-profit prison camps. I think about the innocent people shot to death by police with total impunity...
There are so many injustices in this increasingly brutal system. Does one must be directly affected by it in order to recognize this fact? Isn't that the exact opposite of empathy?
There are things we can do... But first we need to start thinking differently; we need to change the paradigm.
Here's an additional perspective, and suggestions:
P.S. There is a small group of users who regularly engage in disruptive behavior in my diaries' discussion threads. I would like to ask people interested in serious discussion to avoid engaging these few folks in any way. They usually engage in insults, mockery, and fallacies intended to derail discussion, and post several dozens messages each. I know this may be annoying to some readers and may prompt them to engage these folks. I highly recommend that they be ignored so we can focus on intelligent discussion.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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