I am by nature a selfish person; Evelina however, is not. Of the many things I have learned about myself since having met her, this character trait is the toughest of which to accept. She thinks of me first and herself second and until I met her I had never cared for someone enough to think of anyone but myself.
Plus bad apples caused me to become a little cynical and jaded. My world-view had become survival of the fittest, after all, no one will take care of me like me. Selfishness is a powerful characteristic to overcome and it is the one at the root of most of societal problems.
I see how humans treat each other and I wonder how our species has not been selected out by a massive virus or why a God would have mercy on us when we are slow with mercy and quick with the sword. Then the angel on my other shoulder reminds me of the good that humans are capable of doing and that all hope is not lost. I struggle with these dual ideologies, each one fighting for supremacy in my mind. On the one hand I truly want to believe in the goodness of humankind, but then our actions want to destroy that belief.
We live in a world full of bad people capable of horrific acts. And I think we all realize the world is going to pot, but want to believe in the better qualities of humanity. We must lock our doors at night, fear going to the ATM, carry concealed weapons, password protect our identities. Let’s face it…the world seems to have become a bad place. Corporations are pumping our foods full of pesticides and chemicals. Politicians are robbing the citizens blind. Criminals are more vicious than ever. Husbands and wives have little respect for “till death do us part.” Lying is acceptable. Finding an employee with a solid work ethic and trustable character is more difficult of a task than it should be. Most citizens only have respect for the laws they think are important. Ethics, morality and character have all been rationalized beyond recognition.
What happened? When did we become so “me first” focused?
I believe what has happened is a natural, self-preservation reaction. Information comes at us at all times from all avenues. We are inundated with news about bombings, stabbings, robberies, murders, scam artists, identity thefts, home invasions, infidelity, rapists, child molesters, dishonesty, etc. And over time we become conditioned to focus on keeping ourselves and our families safe. The negative information overload has forced us to believe everyone is out to harm and deceive and destroy, therefore we must avoid other humans in order to remain safe and protected. We have been conditioned by the continuous onslaught of negative news to believe the world is more violent now than ever. The truth is actually the opposite according to crime statistics!
Since the 1990’s crime has actually decreased. But because we hear about most crimes committed in most cities, the perception is the opposite. And thus the natural instinct of self-preservation kicks in and human beings focus inward versus outward. We have become selfish as a way to perpetuate the species; to survive. It is innate in all animals to live/survive by any means. And as species adapt or go extinct, our species is adapting to a perception of danger. It matters not that crime is down it only matters to us that we perceive the world to be full of creeps and weirdos that must be kept away from us and our children!
But how do we overcome this? How do we learn to lend a hand? How do we learn to trust? I’m not sure of the answer. Maybe it starts with one single individual deciding to take action and help another? Maybe we must start setting a new example for our kids? Whatever the answer, I pray we find it soon. Society is like a large corporation. It takes large companies months or years to make change, as they have a large turning radius. I suspect it will take generations to change our society from selfish to more selfless. Maybe I am being an idealist in believing we can change. Or maybe I just can’t stomach the thought of a selfish world. Regardless, I know the only way to bring about a mindset of thinking of others is to start with self examination, we must inventory our own lives and then take action to help. I am not sure that it will happen, but I am hopeful.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”-Mahatma Gandhi