1 Jan

Perpetrators has the word tra(i)tors in it, sort of, if you exclude spelling and etymology and common sense…ok; the point is, perpetrators are nasty people who violate the sanctity of human trust. They prey on others. They hurt others for what they see in their narrow-mindedness as a win/lose scenario that is decided in their favour. These mean people do not understand or who refuse to acknowledge that acts of meanness towards others will ultimately come back to haunt them. Karma or just deserts or the chickens coming home to roost or whatever you want to call it does exist and does kick in. We humans are not privy to when these mechanisms do kick in and how. Other people’s families/lives, as the Russian saying goes, are dark forests. Translation: we don’t know what is going on in other people’s heads. This Russian saying is a variation on the Jewish saying (one that I’ve always liked and found useful when I have the urge to go nuclear on someone that I deem in my judgmental moments to be an idiot) “Be gentle with those whom you encounter; they are coming from an epic battle” or something to that effect.
Being nice to others seems to be the exception. Case in point. I was at the mall the other day, two days before Christmas, when I spied an older lady making a B line (but actually, despite the expression, a straight line) towards the outer door of the mall. These outer doors seem to have been made out of moulted steel to help keep out Canadian winters so they are heavy. Why this lady was racing to beat me to this door is beyond me. I could have ‘let’ her get there first and then take advantage of her having already opened the door. But I like to play head games in public. I try to make statements without coming out and actually saying it for fear of having some crazy citizen take umbrage and berate or hurt me physically. The point I was trying to make in this instance was not to assume that all middle aged males were pricks. So I raced the old lady to the door and got there first. Then I pretended to open it for me but at the last minute I stepped aside and said, “Welcome to the mall.” She looked at me bewildered thinking that perhaps I was a rapist with an age fetish. Upon second thought though, she smiled and thanked me. As this moment was in play, I noticed that there were six other people close behind the old lady no doubt hoping to capitalize on her efforts at door opening. To their surprise the old lady waltzed in on my exertion of energy. The train and caboose of people then assumed, and this is the point of the story, that I would then slip in behind the lady and let the rest of the humans that followed follow me. But no. This was not to be. I remained at my post as all six of our fellow humans filed in to the mall. A few actually said thanks but all of them had a look of incredulity on their faces. They were stunned that someone would take the time to open the door for anyone other than themselves, much less seven people. It dawned on me then and there, as it sometimes does when witnessing an event that puts us ahead of I, that this moment was a sad indictment on our society as a whole.
Was there ever a time when people were nice to each other more often than not? I doubt it. I have watched the military Youtube videos long enough to know that we seem to revel in our ability to hurt and be selfish. Greedy. Self-serving. Human. Maybe my clinical depression forces me to see the world in a negative light. Maybe not. And don’t get me wrong. I don’t open the door for others most of the time so I too am guilty of taking care of number one. But I am trying to be a better person. And I am trying to subvert the dominant paradigm of enlightened self-interest by performing senseless acts of educating the public to the benefits of taking social responsibility, or else.
When I am at the check out and NOT having an anxiety attack, I play a game with the person ahead of me. If they have their food down on the animal-blood-stained-then-‘cleaned’-with-a-dirty-Lysol-soaked-rag conveyor belt but failed or decided not to put down the divider to separate their food from mine, I do the following. I put my food on the conveyor belt haphazardly with onions going one way and grapes the other….and I do not put down the divider. So buddy ahead of me has three choices. They can ignore me and worry that they are going to pay for some of my food accidentally. They can move their food further away from mine. Or they can put the divider down. Some would argue that I am a control freak and they would be right. The lesson in this exercise is to remind the person that manners, polite behaviour and being considerate are not relegated to the history books.
I love the side long glance that I get when they realize that I am not going to put down the divider. Food:expensive; look on dude’s face:priceless.
My point is this. If they are too indifferent to put the divided down for me or too lazy, opting to save their energy in order to operate the T.V. remote, than so am I. If they don’t feel the need or desire or compunction to help me out than quid pro quo. I become indifferent to them too. To me watching them worry and squirm over this dilemma is worth all the thinking and vindictiveness that goes into it. To paraphrase David Letterman, if the person is unusually selfish then they are an open target.
I hoped that my first blog message would be an elegant one with great passages about love and peace. Instead I give you social mind games for the masses. Groan. But love and peace have to start somewhere. And what better place than manners and civility. I mean when we open a door for another human being or put down the divider, what we are really saying is that we acknowledge that that person is our contemporary. That we acknowledge their existence in time and space with us and that by our selfless gestures we say to them, `I hope your journey through this world is going well and I wish you the best in the future.`
We can say all of that just by opening a door. By placing a divider we in fact remove a divider.
Something to think about the next time you are loading up on Chef Boyarde ravioli , cat litter, and beef jerky, eh.


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