I Hate People (sorta…)
OK, not really, but I find myself hating what people do. We’ve all experienced it, we’ve all contributed to it. At one time or another we all have deliberately acted in a rude, abusive, and generally evil manner to someone. Usually, it’s a random encounter in a car or mall, in a crowded place like an amusement park or a fireworks show or a theater line, involving some hapless stranger oafishly intruding on our personal space, our perceive personal rights, or even our very person. These are situations we experience on a personal level, a level of contact that we still have control over. We have the choice in how we act or react to others, yet we often choose poorly, reflexively responding poorly to any perceived slight, thereby escalating a bad situation.
And we all know better than that.
What’s wrong with us? Part of the problem, I think, is the sheer number of humans on this planet. We’re being so packed together, so surrounded by strangers that we begin to feel threatened, often on an instinctual level, lashing out blindly to inflict ourselves upon some stranger.
The internet doesn’t help this scenario. Instead, it promotes distance from others - something we feel we need on an instinctual level - obliviating the need for human contact in certain situations. In a world of decreasing personal space we glom onto the internet as a way to be both in touch with and insulated from the world. The internet fosters false senses of security and privacy. It gives us an unprecedented opportunity to add a buffer between ourselves and others, to scream, whine, vent or complain without looking anyone in the eye, making it easier to be obnoxoius in chat rooms and discussion boards with little concrete consequences. Great. Now we can spread incivility throughout the world instantly. I ask you, Is this a good idea?
And what about the non-personal level of contact, when our control is minimal? We are living in an age of escalating fear, anger and uncertainty, a vortex of unresolved issues and minor crises that is spiralling out of control. Everything is growing exponentially - population, global temperatures, random violence and hate crimes, the information explosion, the number of automobiles on the road, the gap between rich and poor, inflation, the number of poor, the number of AIDS cases worldwide, the world’s nuclear arsenal - it’s all growing at enormous rates. And there’s no sight of it ending. We all know, in theory, that it must end somehow, else we truly are on a path to disaster: the human race cannot continue to expand at this or any other rate while living on a finite world with finite resources. Something must eventually give way: if you blow up a balloon too far, it will burst. I make no claims to knowing what hundreds or thousands of doctoral types are struggling with, yet I find these thoughts to be self-evident. Just look about you and evidence supporting this uncontrollable sociopolitical vortex will leap out at you. If you look long enough, you may get the impression that something is coming into fruition, that something huge is about to happen. I make no apocalyptic claims here, but I think that if we all slow down a bit and really take a look at our collective society - the world culture, if you must - you will sense that the uneasiness you often feel is in anticipation of something.
I know I do.
As we trumpet in a new millenium of technological wonderment, it is easy to forget what all these advances are really about: people. Aren’t these new capabilities supposed to make our life better, more productive, more prosperous? Isn’t that the implied, underlining hypotheses in all our hype of the internet and all things computer-ish? You bet it is. Does technology really do all this? I have my doubts, but that is what we and our children are being conditioned to believe. How else can the companies responsible for our techno-craze build their elaborate and self-congratulatory ad campaigns scientifically designed to extract from us our earnings? Reality, however, is showing us the falseness of these business philosophies. No computer has yet been built that can stop war, plague, or famine. We’re a long way from Star Trek’s replicators, magically serving out Earl Grey at just the right temperature.