5 October 2011

Why I Hate People

Finally, after many years of debating the long and short of it, I have come to the conclusion that yes, I really do hate people.  As the title of this blog indicates, this will be the illustration of the reasons that have led me to finally to come down on the "yes" side of this question.*

So, I'm gonna get all philosophical on yo' ass.  Not with the bookish philosophy of Kant and Socrates and those fellows.  I don't have the time or inclination to read all that. I'm gonna philosophize with Mike's Philosophy of Life(TM).

Today, while at the office** I had two run-ins that illustrated to me that people are by their nature self-centered and singular in thought.  The first "incident" wasn't actually an incident, but just my being aurally assaulted by a woman's baby that kept emitting loud screeches that were distracting me from my work.  Unfortunately, today I had left my iPod at home, thus was unable to drown out the piercing, banshee-like shrieks uttered by such a tiny child.

No.  I don't necessarily hate children.  In this case, the offender was the mom, who was oblivious to the effect that her screeching baby had on the people assembled in a public place.  The mom was totally focused on herself, her baby and her friend.  The constant irritation that her baby was causing actually made me get up and leave "the office" prematurely.

This fateful timing of my leaving led me to the next encounter with another self-centered human being.  While coming up to the double doors exiting Starbucks (double doors that swing outward, yes, that does matter to this story), I noticed an elderly woman with a walker approaching the double doors with her caregiver/assistant.  I waited, allowing the woman to enter, but when she did, she proceeded to insult my lack of manners.

Now, I understand the frustrations of the elderly.  Living with my 92-year-old grandfather, I know about the feelings of isolation for a senior citizen when most of their friends and family have already passed away, or are no longer capable of visiting.  I understand the feeling of helplessness when a once strong, independent, and healthy individual needs to rely on others for some of the most basic of needs. 

I also understand how the desire to keep living and surviving can make one's focus entirely on their own self.  We call this being "set-in-your-ways" to be polite, but it also closes one's mind off from how others may be thinking.

The old lady's comments made me realize not that she's a mean old bitch.***  It made me realize that she was incapable of interpreting my actions any differently than how she saw them.  In my mind, stepping back and waiting for her to enter was the polite thing to do.  Had I tried to open the doors for her (remember, they swing outwards), I would have hit her walker with the doors.  Her caregiver was still behind her, leaving her no choice to open the door for herself.

Her response was one of knowing that she was right and I was just another rude youngster who is signalling the coming of the apocalypse or some shit like that.  This showed me that the problem was not the lack of politeness in the world, but the lack of an ability to think beyond one's self and one's own state of mind.

By not seeing the effect that her child was having on the patrons of Starbucks, the woman with the baby was being self- (and baby-) centered.  By not being able to see that (at least in my mind) I was acting in deference to her, the old lady was being self-centered.

The notion of being self-centered is as old as humanity.  One must protect themselves, their kin, their village, their nation, etc., in that order.^  Even Jewish theology states that one may break the laws of the Torah to save their life.  However, in day to day life, being able to see the world from others' points of view is a valuable aid.

As an umpire, I learned very quickly, that when a coach was arguing a play, it wasn't necessarily that he was arguing the FACTS.  He was arguing the point of view.  I learned that the way I saw a play wasn't necessarily right or wrong, but it was my point of view.  As an official in sports, one must call their own point of view, rather than be influenced by that of either team.  This is why officials are encouraged to not change calls, especially in response to questioning from either team.  Officials are useless if they do not call the game with an independent point of view.

It is my experience in the "heat of battle" on the ball diamond getting yelled at and having to make a call on every play that allows me to see that there are other points of view that are equally valid to the people who experience them.  In fact, they are so convinced of their point of view that they are compelled to vociferously defend them to their teams.  Fundamentalists of all religions, political orientations and ethnicities are also particularly good examples of this.

Unfortunately, the world is the way it is because these people fail to see the validity of other points of view.  World views that don't allow the points of view of others lead us down the wrong paths to war, injustice, discrimination, and just general rudeness.

As the world becomes more crowded, and in particular as we become more publicly introverted (with iphones, ipads, ipods, igenes, irates) our ability to consider the people around us continues to erode.  

Being self-centered isn't good or bad.  It is how we are wired.  This is why I hate people.


* The question being, "Do I really, truly, actually hate people?"

** For a PhD student, the "office" is actually Starbucks (or some facsmile thereof).  In my case, it's one of the 2 Starbuckses within walk/cycle distance from home.

*** Although she may be.  I don't know her well enough to make that judgement.

^ See Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities for notions of how the "nation" is an imagined construct.

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