Last week I was leaving a grocery store when a man literally ran into my back, jarring me. I snapped a glance at the culprit as he bounced off me and came around my right flank, not pausing to say, “excuse me” or “sorry.” He kept going out the door, bobbing and weaving around a mother with two small children, almost knocking over one. He jumped into a truck that was running in the front handicap space, backed out without looking, and sped off at a high speed through the parking lot. He did not have a handicap placard.
A few years ago, I was on my way to work, traveling down a busy road, and was being tailgated (to the extreme) by a woman in an SUV. I was a bit annoyed, by could not speed up, or maneuver to another lane because of the denseness of the traffic. When traffic slowed to a stop for a red light, she ran into my back end… but not hard enough to do anything but piss me off. We both got out of our cars, and looked at the possible damage. She yelled, “Your fucking car is alright” and got back in her SUV. When the light changed, I was able to move over a lane. I watched as she again moved within an inch of a bumper before she pealed out on a right turn to, I imagine, try to move the world out of her way.
These two incidences, the likes of which I see and hear of all the time make me think that people are fucking insane. I ask myself, “Is this the norm? Have we lost all touch with reality? Do people care this little about the welfare of others?”
I do not know the answer to these questions. Is it such a chore to be kind? I think it is. I believe people take the path of least resistance. They act without restraint because they believe it is their right. What happens when people take liberty with their freedom? A state of hypocritical unrestrained behavior ensues. Hypocritical because the person believes his or her actions should not be called into question (unrestrained liberty) but shuts down others that say stop (denying them the same liberty).
Freedom, independence, liberty refer to an absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights and powers. Freedom emphasizes the opportunity given for the exercise of one’s rights, powers, desires, or the like: freedom of speech or conscience; freedom of movement. Independence implies not only lack of restrictions but also the ability to stand alone, unsustained by anything else: Independence of thought promotes invention and discovery. Liberty, though most often interchanged with freedom, is also used to imply undue exercise of freedom: He took liberties with the text.
“ Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end. ”
—Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Moral
I am not sure the human race has caught up with this premise, or the premise is wrong. Or people just don’t care what they are doing or what effect they are having on the world. In general, most people don’t give a shit, and this bothers me.
When I am presented with situations like the two mentioned above, I am usually too shocked at the lack of human kindness and caring to speak. It is only later that my response comes to me. I think of how the human population rallied together after 9/11. Democrat, Republican, Black, White, Asian Hippie, Yuppie etc. We had been assaulted and were in the same state of shock. I mean, WTF? How could someone care so little for humanity as to perpetrate such an attack? Now, 9 years later, we are more fragmented than ever; more self-focused than ever.
The kindness of strangers pulled us together to celebrate heroism in the face of unfathomable shock and sadness. Be kind to strangers, and be a hero.