Consideration For and Kindness Toward Others Is In Short Supply. Why?
First, a smattering of real-life examples…
People selling hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other things that are needed and in very short supply, for a lot of money per item.
A young woman takes all her (now) remote work phone calls outside on her balcony, amongst an otherwise quiet courtyard of other balconies, talking at such a volume that everyone within 500+ feet can hear every word she is saying. She is nearly yelling, as well as puts her Skype call on speakerphone. This one person, destroying the otherwise quiet of outside.
The way so many people now attack, rip apart, bully, and tear down other people via the internet, because they do not like this person. Example: feminist writers such as Lindy West and Kate Harding, who have received all manner of death threats and abusive, nasty, horrible comments sent to them, such as that they “deserve rape” or “deserve to die” for the thoughts and opinions they have, and for the advocacy they do. As a culture, we’ve become especially cruel and cowardly via the protective barrier of a screen in front of us. The majority of this stuff, we would unlikely dare to say if the person were standing right in front of us.
Hoards of people shoving and pushing past one another to get on the train or bus during rush hours.
How we disregard, half focus on, or even flat out ignore people for our electronic devices nowadays. This behavior has come to be considered “normal.” We text, scroll, and “check” our phones numerous times throughout a given social interaction.
Someone falls when walking out and about in public. Numerous passersby witness the citizen fall and no one says a word, nor inquires as to whether this person is ok or asks if they need help.
Not stopping to let someone pass who, say, might be elderly or disabled, because either the person does not notice them or just cannot be bothered. They just “don’t have the time.”
Not pausing one’s own monologue to focus and actually listen with interest to what another person has to say about their own experience, feelings, or thoughts. Instead, we are ever ready and chomping at the bit for “my turn” to talk, and mostly concerned with “me” and what I think.
Blasting one’s music aloud from their cell phone (headphones are not even a thought here) so that everyone surrounding is then treated to (aka, forced into) hearing the music or video (or Facetime phone call) that this one person needs to hear right now. What happened to headphones? This is what they are for. To contain personal noise to your ears only, for consideration toward others. Why are we suddenly blatantly disregarding and shunning these?
Too many people today do not seem to care or even experience thoughts crossing their mind such as:
-Gee, how might this affect the people in my surrounding area?
-Am I unnecessarily upsetting others?
-Might I be infringing on the boundaries of others with whatever I am doing?
-Am I being rude and self-centered at the moment?
-Could I shift my behavior in a way to make it more considerate to others, while still doing this thing I would like to do?
-And if not, can I wait until later so I am not disturbing others? Or, take it somewhere else entirely?
Why might self-centeredness and unkindness be skyrocketing?
We live in a “me, me, me” culture. Our touted mindset of “LYBL” (Live Your Best Life), often coming at the expense of other's needs, feelings, and comfort. We have become a “you do you and I do me” society, where we disregard the feelings of others because our desires and feelings matter far more.
We have entered an age of, “I do what’s best for me and what I want, and screw you if you don’t like it.”
Our culture is growing more narcissistic (look no further than social media, the invention of the “selfie stick”, and this “live my best life” thought process) by the day.
In the United States, researchers have found symptoms of the “narcissism epidemic” throughout countless sources. A boatload of recently published books, for example, feature a more self-centered language. This, in comparison to earlier publications in which the pronouns I and me tend to be used less frequently than we and us.
The use of narcissistic phrases such as “I am the greatest” has also increased between 1960 and 2008. Our culture seems mainly built on conceptions of the self that give credibility to fame and self-focused content like blogs, song lyrics, tweets, Instagram, and so on.
We have grown into a society that seeks and prioritizes status and fame above things like inner character and how someone treats others.
In 1963, when adolescents were asked if they considered themselves important, only 12% percent answered affirmatively. Thirty years later, that percentage had risen to 80%.
Coupled with our growing narcissism, our Western culture is also a highly individualistic one. People here tend to be out for and most concerned with themselves, as opposed to caring for their fellow citizens.
In tune with our high degree of individualism, Westernized cultures tend to be known for being more open and blunter (as compared with cultures such as Asia or Eastern parts of Europe). Here, if one feels angry, or offended, or wants to do something, they let it all out, no holds barred (at least much of the time). Whereas people in the East are more likely to hold it in, act out of tact, good manners, and of a sense of consideration and thought for others.
In the West, we tout and prize utmost independence and people doing “what’s right for them,” often to the exclusion, lack of thought for, or even detriment of others. In Eastern culture, it’s the opposite. They tend to behave in ways with thought, concern and care for the surrounding others (and the greater good) in mind.
Within individualistic cultures, individual rights take center stage. In these cultures, they tend to be self-reliant, independence is highly valued, people place greater emphasis on standing out or “being unique”, and being dependent on others is considered shameful, weak, or embarrassing.
On the flip side, collectivist culture’s social rules focus on promoting selflessness. They prioritize working as a group and doing what is best for the society and their fellow citizens, as opposed to catering to each individual. Families and communities play a central role.
People from individualistic cultures routinely describe themselves in ways such as, “I am witty, outgoing, and athletic,” whereas people from collectivist cultures tend more to describe themselves in ways such as “I’m a loyal and loving spouse, a kind-hearted friend, and a cheerful colleague.”
Within our individualistic, more self-centered, Westernized culture, we tend to see ourselves as apart from others. As “me first” and then “maybe you, though after me and if I have time.” Whereas in collectivist cultures, they consider strongly, the needs, feelings, and thoughts of those around them too.
American culture specifically though, has become a largely angry, entitled, and divided one. In our world today, where every child gets a trophy for merely showing up, where kids are routinely told “you can be anything you want, do anything you want,” and where a parent frequently sides with their own children against their educators (this, teaching children they are entitled to any treatment they wish and that they are “above” authority and adults), and in a culture where the “promising golden boy” who rapes a young woman is sided with, the news crying “aww, poor James, now his life is ruined” with zero mention of the young woman whose life is now destroyed (nor any mentioned of the fact that James is the awful person here and thus, not really deserving of empathy. That we are empathizing in the wildly wrong direction), it’s no wonder that a lack of empathy is exploding forth, and a sense of entitlement and self-centeredness is majorly on the rise.
We are not held accountable for our bad behavior any longer. We are not made to feel the consequences of failure, disappointment, or shame. No, we can be “anything we want to be.” We are not taught respect and manners toward others, especially our elders. We are not made to learn the lesson of hard work and effort paying off. Instead, we expect the trophy, huge salary, or A+ with minimal effort.
We are taught that being vain, shallow, self-centered, and rude is acceptable, even admirable. We are taught that other's feelings and thoughts need not even enter our consciousness, nor be our concern. Instead, “you do you and I will do me.” We are taught not to bother with consideration and thoughtfulness. Everyone else can s*ck it instead. I do what I want and when I want it. Others can deal. It’s every man (and woman) for themselves. We are taught disconnection from others, distraction, and self-focus. We are taught to expect the best, without having to do much to earn it. We are taught that we are owed something.
In our culture of selfies and selfie sticks, where young women and men oft spend hours editing, affixing, and tweaking their looks just so for these falsified images to garner the most attention and outer validation, and within our current political climate, one that is rife with lying, abusive, and corrupt white men who are mostly women-hating, even abusive and rapist, horrible humans, we are taught narcissism, junk values, and disconnection from others at its utmost.
The problem with this pervasive sense of entitlement, disconnection, narcissism, and sense of anger pervading our culture is that it results in people who disregard societal norms. Societal norms which can be (and often are) there for the emotional and physical well-being of its citizens. People now disregarding them because they believe they’re special, deserving, and “above it” all. They deserve the best. They are the best.
This leads to people putting themselves ahead of others and dismissing any consideration or thought for one’s fellow citizens, which can be a slippery slope then culminating in those surrounding to feel resentful, dismissed, disrespected, infringed upon, and ultimately, angry.
No persons, society, or nation can long survive (let alone thrive) when a sense of entitlement is pervasive.
Entitlement breeds arrogance, conceit, pride, and fosters social hierarchy.
Those qualities weaken and destroy nations.
America’s entitlement is fast growing out of control. So, what can and what are we going to do about it?
Because all of this makes for a far less hospitable world and society.
It results in people feeling resentful, frustrated, dismissed, unseen, and disrespected.
It divides people rather than bringing them together.
When people are all about “me” to the dismissal and exclusion of “you,” this creates a sense of hurt and bitterness between people. It results in cracks and fractures in the community and society. It breeds bad feelings between neighbors, colleagues, fellow passengers on the train, etc.
What happened to a sense of care, concern, and thought for the feelings of our fellow neighbors, colleagues, and even citizens in general?
We need to bring this back and fast. It will result in a far happier, emotionally healthier, and more hospitable society and world for everyone. You don’t have to like everyone. This is not about liking someone though. You can dislike someone and still treat them civilly and with general consideration. If each of us did this, our society would be a better place, by leaps and bounds.
Checking your own immediate needs and wants and pausing to consider what the feelings of others around you might be (and then altering your behavior accordingly at times) is part of being an empathetic, considerate, less selfish human being.
Do this. Be a better human. Let’s all be better humans. The trajectory of our country and world depends on it.