So, I was in a pretty bad mood yesterday. I’m still in a bad mood, but maybe slightly less so. On the whole, I’m happy with how many races went on Tuesday, but still frustrated with where we stand as a country.
To some extent, I think that the attitudes that so infuriate me in others are indicative of larger societal norms that have come to be in the age of reality TV: everyone is the star of their own little world, and on the whole, people seem to no longer even consider that other people are, in fact, people. Whether it’s the attitude that the poor are just lazy and would rather take a handout than work, or pitching garbage out a car window because someone else will pick it up, or pushing ahead of people waiting at an airport, or parking in a handicap spot to run in for just a minute, or fighting against welfare and health care funding—people seem to forget that at the other end of any action like that is other people. I don’t know if we’ve always been so self-absorbed, or if I’m just becoming more aware of the inconsideration that permeates our culture.
When people say that they don’t want to pay taxes so that the poor can get a handout instead of taking responsibility for their situation, I like to offer an experiment: quit your job. Give away all but a couple grand of your savings. Pretend that you didn’t get to go to college, and using neither your degree nor previous work experience that relied upon it, go find some minimum wage job. Live that way for six months—really put yourself in the other person’s shoes—and let me know how far those reviled food stamps really get you.
Needless to say, no one has taken me up on it yet. I point out that if one is so industrious and capable that they believe others to simply be lazy, that one will have no trouble regaining better employment at the end of the experiment, but still: no one is really willing to live in another person’s shoes. Not that I blame them, but I hope they at least take a moment to consider how different their life would be if not for the privilege that got them where they are. I recognize how lucky I am to have come from a home with two parents, that my mother could be a stay-at-home mom, that I did get to go to private Catholic schools for twelve years. Those things gave me time to explore and get good at the thing that interested me, and allowed me to go off to college for four years instead of having to immediately join the workforce. I know how different things could have been: 1.2 million people declared bankruptcy in the past year (up to September); about a fifth of those—over 200,000 people—were due to medical costs. That’s a lot of families whose kids probably won’t be as lucky as I was.
As much as we need to fix problems that lead to bankruptcy and unemployment, we also need to work on fixing perception of these things. Too often, the assumption is that other people fall on hard times because of something they did, because of some personal failing, while few would ever think that of themselves: people think that the only way they could lose their job is because of something outside their control, but other people lose their jobs due to laziness or incompetence.
This got a bit rambly, as these things tend to do when I write them in spits and spurts over the course of a few hours. I hope that we, as a society, can become a little more empathic. I wish I had some ideas on how to start getting us there.
I feel I should mention—since I got a “vulgarity is no substitute for wit” comment—that the title of yesterday’s post is a quote from an old episode of Scrubs. It bubbles up from my subconscious every time it seems that people might indeed be bastard-coated bastards.