Wednesday, November 10, 2004


My son and I have had several discussions recently about kindness, not as an abstraction, but rather in why it should always be a part of interacting with others.

We are all occasionally unkind. Sometimes it is inadvertent. Sometimes it is deliberate. Sometimes unkind behaviour is distributed coolly and without second thought. Sometimes it is purveyed in anger and then relished with vengeful glee for a long time. The intent is irrelevant; the results are the same in either case.

Children are especially unkind. They don't know better. Someone has to teach them. That is the job of the parents. No, not the schools, the parents. No, not the various social agencies of government, the parents. If you have kids, that means you. Because I have a child, that means me too.

Unkindness can take many forms. Like gossip, for example. George Harrison called gossip the "Devil's Radio." How true that is. People like to talk about others when they aren't around to defend themselves. The dirtier and more salacious the story, the more glee is derived from the recounting. The damage can be substantial, especially since so much of gossip is exaggeration or simply untrue.

Then, there is criticism. When I hear someone speaking critically of someone else, it makes me wonder. I wonder less about the target of the criticism than I do about the motive of the person doing the criticizing. Why do some people feel compelled to speak ill of others? Do they feel inferior and use the belittlement of others to reduce them to their own pathetic level? I suspect so. Generally, criticism of others serves no useful purpose. I might wish to know if someone is dishonest or generally untrustworthy. Beyond that, I don't need to know much else about them. I don't even need to know that much if I am not likely to interact with them in some meaningful way.

Shunning, among children, is particularly obnoxious. A group of kids might decide to bar a child from playing with them because he or she is different in some way. Kids take considerable pleasure in this sort of behaviour. Someone is always 'out' with them. Until that someone is graced with being let 'in' again, his or her self-esteem is battered.

Sure, there are times when it is appropriate to shun others. I certainly wouldn't chastise my son if he refused to interact with druggies or bullies.

Because we are adults, let's look at these issues from a larger point of view. If we are Libertarians or Conservatives, do we need to hate Liberals or Democrats, simply because they are not like us? If we are atheists, is it necessary to hate Christians, or vice versa? I am not likely to hate anyone, regardless of their political or religious stripe, unless they are 'in my face' constantly. And I mean that in the most literal sense. Simply because I can read and hear views opposing mine somewhere doesn't mean that I can take offense. If I have the right to speak my mind, so do others. Freedom of speech applies to everyone or no-one. It either exists or it doesn't.

There is so much hatred emanating from the political left and directed at anyone even slightly to the right of centre (whatever that means, anymore) that it is time for the left to take a deep breath and be grateful for what they have, even if it isn't entirely what they want.

And, oh yes, that applies to the right too.

Maybe if the left and the right talked to each other, we might all learn something. The left might learn that freedom of trade and commerce is what makes us affluent enough to allow us free time for introspection. The right might discover that Playboy really does have interesting articles.

Just a thought. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I agree. This was one of the most hateful presidental campaigns that I can remember. It's not that the candidates (D and R) hated each other. They hated the American people. They showed it with their lies.. their assumption that the American people are stupid.
    I, like you, think that the USA is in a steep decline. It is very disappointing.

    Since I arrived in the Philippines, I've seen lots of acts of kindness. All the people who helped prepare for our wedding, everyone who helped take care of my wife when she was in the hospital, everyone who has tried to make me feel at home. It really means a lot when someone goes out of their way to help me and/or my wife.