Archive for April, 2012

it’s the principle


Think of the last time you got mad.

Got it in your head?

Tell yourself why you were mad.

Now ask yourself, “Was it worth it?”

Now ask yourself, “Really . . . was it worth it?”

I posted the other week about how I got angry at a coworker. In that time I’ve watched other people get angry and, as an objective observer, I can see the triviality of, well, of simply getting angry. Not to say they were wrong in the principle, mind you. But this has nothing to do with principle.

societal pressures

We feel a need to be angry because society tells us we should be. Our teachers, our parents, books and television have instilled in us what we dub “values” or “a code of honor” that we think must be correct. We get angry at something and then hide behind principle. We think we understand what’s right and what’s wrong.

When someone invades our privacy, we should feel violated. When someone shoulder bumps us in the hallway, we should feel indignant. When someone goes too slow on the highway (60 in a 60), we feel a personal affront to our character. We may say that we shouldn’t get mad at things like this, but as Seth Godin so aptly states, “We say we’d like people to think first and act later, but we get cut off in traffic and all bets are off.”

Seem out of whack? It isn’t. You do it. I do it, too (although I like to imagine I don’t get as angry as most people, but who knows?).

The interesting aspect of these societal pressures, and one of the only things that can get people to understand this concept, is one simple fact: if we were raised somewhere else, in a different time or by different people, our values would be very different.

Not an original thought, but one people understand on a mere intellectual level, not an intuitive one. Someone raised in Tehran does not have the same values as someone raised in Moscow. Someone raised in the 50s does not have the same values as someone raised in the 60s. You don’t have the same values as someone raised across the street from you.

We can escape these societal pressures if we make a conscientious effort day in and day out, moment to conscious moment. But it’s hard. Very hard. And maybe, for some people, it’s not worth it. And that’s OK.

Is it worth it for you?

Understand: we can control our reactions to outward stimuli. Only it’s not as simple as reading this blog post, agreeing with the principle of it, and moving on. (see above regarding effort)

there is a reason

There is a reason that person goes so slow on the highway. And it may not be as vindictive as you imagine.

There is a reason that person shoulder bumped you in the hallway. And it may not be that they are an asshole.

There is a reason that person invaded your privacy. And it may not have been with malicious intent.

There is a reason for everything everyone does, and failure to feel empathy for other people’s stories will result in the downfall of the individual.

And ultimately – and I do not make this claim lightly – of civilization.