Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On Uncommon Decency

I addressed a similar thought eight years ago and, for kicks, am including the same pointless disclaimer: I realize that I'm focusing on a narrow aspect of society and indirectly ignoring other aspects.

Many act as though they're in their living room 24/7, and more importantly, they act as if they're alone, paying no respect to current company.

It's easy to blame New York City for the selfish motivations of the average citizen, who literally has to hustle to, through, and from work; he also has a long, round-trip commute for his job, whether by foot, bus, train, or car, in which for sanity's sake, he can't be overly conscious of his "neighbor" because having that many neighbors places a limit on the capacity of his consciousness. This single-minded focus is why rush-hour commuting is the quietest train ride: each is a solo universe unto himself, purposely unconscious of his neighbor, giving attention to a book, phone, music through headphones, or work-a-day thoughts.

What about a New Yorker's downtime? Why is she seemingly selfish in leisure, too? She's motivated by the same reasoning. Whether going to the theater, a dinner, a stroll in the park, or staying home for a Netflix binge, she still thinks: "How do I get the most out of my downtime? How do I recuperate most efficiently?"

Uncommon decency requires empathy, or at least attention, toward others. And we feel we don't have the time, which is understandable if not acceptable.

What about non New Yorkers? All the above remains true, but with fewer people, distractions, and commuting concerns to use as poor justification.

Technology isn't the enemy, but advertising and social networks, more than ever, have helped each person realize that "I am the center of the universe." More than ever, people accumulate knowledge based on their experience, and establish, even unconsciously, values according to this knowledge, which creates a void of critical thinking, a void of attempting to see the perspective of other persons and cultures.

To Kill a Mockingbird is taught to American, high-school sophomores because the theme, "don't judge a man till you've walked a mile in his shoes," is important for people who are just beginning to value their own experience, to reject their parents' advice, and to exercise their independence for the first time in their lives. Thinking about why we think and act the way we do is important, but thinking about why others do the same is equally important. This is the only way we can understand what motivates us and them, and the only way we can determine if it's a good motivation.

Blind self absorption and self seeking helps none other than the self, and even that's questionable.

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