Almost daily I am told stories from my children of people’s bad behaviour. From customers treating one of my daughters rudely while ordering a cake, only to be observed prying open a package of iced cupcakes, sticking their fingers in there, scooping some icing before placing it back on the shelf for some other unknowing customer to take. Or to a driver of a pick-up who turned onto a busy road, cutting off my other daughter and her husband – not to mention the other car coming from behind. Not to be outdone by the disdain of these two vehicles that the truck had just cut off the driver gave the finger through their rear window while the passenger in the same truck opened up their door and proceeded to give the finger while yelling obscenities at the two cars.
But even in non-direct contact people are behaving poorly. There is the oversized pick-up truck at a busy intersection that revs its motor enough to produce what has been called ‘coal-rolling’ or while I am on the topic of drivers how about the more common weaving in and out of traffic, often cutting off drivers and creating very unsafe situations only to be one car length ahead at the next set of lights.
Take them out of their vehicles and they don’t get any better. Recently a friend was waiting in line for tickets to a sporting event. They had been waiting for several hours when suddenly someone who was ahead of them let their friend break into the line. When confronted the newly arrived person in line began to shout obscenities at their accuser – making themselves as threatening as they could in order to intimidate and otherwise batter the others into their own twisted sense of submission.
And that was for a sporting event.
The idea of living in a civilised society is an idea that has evaporated long ago. It is as if no-one wants to participate any longer. Instead they ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” and if they are not satisfied with the answer they mock and take whatever the hell they want. Every once in a while we hear of a ‘pay-it-forward’ type event where you go through a drive-thru only to find out the person in front of you has paid for your coffee. However, those events are so rare and so contrary to the norm that they have become a media event – something newsworthy enough to share with the general population.
What would it look like if a single person who was walking down a sidewalk didn’t have to suddenly get off the sidewalk and cross out into a street because a couple of people refused to stop walking side-by-side as they approached this single person walking in the opposite direction? What would it look like if people stopped cutting off other drivers at intersections or stopped driving around someone turning left at an intersection – potentially causing an accident with someone turning left from the opposite direction?
What would it look like if my daughters were able to walk down the street to anywhere without being ogled, mocked, or yelled obscenities at – often filled with sexual references? What would it look like if the only interaction I have with a complete stranger while sitting in my car in a parking lot is their disdain that I have parked next to their car?
Or, what would it look like if the person who hopped out of their truck with their company’s logo emblazoned on the side letting the world know that they are a professional cleaning service didn’t decide in that moment to throw their half eaten sandwich onto the concrete before entering the store? What about if people didn’t stop in the middle of grocery store isles to talk with their friend, blocking the isle from both directions for anyone to walk through and then express their disgust when it is pointed out to them?
Urbanisation has brought all of us together but it doesn’t seem like any of us are happy to be here. It seems like we all would like to be left alone – free to walk down the produce isle of a supermarket eating grapes picked from a bunch, even peeling a banana to have as a snack with no bother to make the purchase but simply treating it like a buffet they haven’t paid to attend. Free to drive down any road at any speed and getting pissed off at those other vehicles that are in their way. Free to do whatever the hell they want to do without suffering any consequences at all.
Perhaps that is a better definition of the problem. This isn’t the loss of a civilised society. This isn’t the bad behaviour of some people exposed for all to see. No, I fear that it is much larger than that. I fear that we have all forgotten about consequences or worse that we have arrived at a place where the word and associated meaning of consequences no longer exists – like it has become our right as a person to not endure any consequences.
At least in Canada this shows itself in some scary ways – like the idea of children being pushed from grade to grade – no-one left behind type thing – no more failing grades – no consequences. The various elaborate social structures that support instant gratification through any means – whether it is the improvement of our cooking processes through the use of a microwave instead of enduring the consequences of having to cook a meal from scratch and making a mistake. Or perhaps it is holding so much technology in the palm of our hand that instantly connects us to the world that our attention span is now less than six seconds in length with no consequences.
This all scares me. The idea that anyone can do anything they want whenever they want to without suffering any consequences is a scary thing. People should never be trusted with such a level of freedom. We can’t handle it. We generally screw that up. And yet, here we are. People can do whatever they want, whenever they want without suffering any consequences. Sure some people get caught doing some things and sometimes there are some consequences but those are the exception to the rule and it has left me terrified of what type of world we now find ourselves in.