“It is very easy to be a terrible human being to others simply through neglecting or hurting yourself.”

Two real-life encounters from long ago got me thinking: it is very easy to be a terrible human being to others simply through neglecting or hurting yourself.

From a more abstract perspective, this does not seem possible in our world. The two people of whom I’m thinking were actually rather pious. It’s very difficult to say they’re morally reprehensible because they weren’t strictly speaking. Inasmuch laws and authorities told them exactly how to behave, they acted in those specific ways. Combine this limited moral sensibility with our attitude that people should mind their own business – if you’re not hurting anyone else physically, who cares? – and you had a recipe for disaster. The two were absolutely toxic, spreading misery wherever they went and creating all sorts of drama that had to create fights or tears.

No, not everyone can have good habits or social graces. I completely understand people who are a bit careless or want to be alone or are a bit needy at times or whatever. But we seriously have no way of saying “your personality is awful and tearing all of us down?” We have no way of calling people on their immaturity outright? That’s just ridiculous, emblematic of a Pharisaic approach to morality that defines everyone in this modern world: our way of doing things matters more than any good others try to establish. We don’t need to always call out those who only understand cruelty. But we’d better be prepared to fight for those who want something better. The laws don’t mean a damn thing if there aren’t any people worth having around.

1 Comment

  1. [If] you’re not hurting anyone else physically, who cares?

    Therein lies the rub, doesn’t it? Can one draw a line between the physical and mental (and even the moral)? Oppression can manifest itself just as psychologically.

    But, then, oppression becomes as much about perception and can be wielded as a weapon in its own right (the Mohammed cartoons would be a crude example here).

    In a previous age social grace and consideration were givens. It must be a sign of my getting older that I perceive there to be less and less of it.

    I am enjoying these meditations of late. They give on lots to ponder about.

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