Why Is Everyone So Mean These Days?

People seem to not understand that being impolite, hostile and unkind only burdens our existence

By on February 11th, 2006 15:56 GMT
Last evening I found myself out in a fancy café with a good friend of mine talking about various subjects, like our lives, life as a general topic, other people's lives and finally about the people that surrounded us in that sophisticated place. I don't know how it always happens, but every time I go out in a place like that I end up gossiping about the other clients… Could it be just me or is this an ordinary feature of all people? It suddenly dawned on me that people are more often drawn by criticizing on others than just minding their own business and they are also usually more into being mean and devilish than being nice and polite.

So here I am, in front of my keyboard, eager to write an editorial about… something, anything and all I can think about is why is everyone so mean all the time? Wouldn't it be easier to behave ourselves and be friendly, calm and relaxed, or at least polite if we really don't feel like having small talk with our neighbor when we come down by elevator? I agree that there are moments when we believe there's no point in chatting with the cleaning lady or one of silent co-workers, but sometimes these kind of small conversations might bring some light to our daily activities. Let me put it some other way: if we don't want to be kind just because "it's a nice thing to be nice", we can at least think selfishly… Just making others feel better might eventually make us feel better about ourselves by having the feeling of being nice to another human being. So, at least for this reason and we should be less intentioned to harass and harm other people and more happy to behave civilized and nice.

I decided to take the word NICE as a leitmotiv for my statement here. Maybe by using it more frequently I'll actually get to practice it as an alternative to being grumpy. And maybe some of you will also get "addicted" to it!

Let me emphasize my frustration by a example of pointless unkindness that makes our lives even more difficult to be bared these days. After leaving from work with a terrible desire of having some fun with my incoming "The Marketing of Services" exam (and I'm not joking when saying I was very eager to take that exam) I was hit for the second time yesterday by the horrible lack of politeness and goodwill. I pulled my coat on, hurried down the stairs, got into my car and got myself on the way to school. Being a little hungry, I pulled over in front of a supermarket to grab some food (I have to mention that I only stayed inside the store for about 5 minutes and not even one second more). Surprise, surprise! When exiting the supermarket I noticed that my car was partially blocked by another car, whose driver was quietly smoking a cigarette (I believe he was waiting for someone to arrive)… I got myself back into my car, expecting for the smoking driver to move his vehicle just one meter away, but guess what? He didn't even blink! He just stayed there, in his warm cozy indifference and watched me tormenting myself while trying to get out of the parking spot. Why would anyone do such a thing? Why wouldn't he just move his car a little to help me leave more easily and not jeopardize the safety of his own vehicle as well (I must add that I could have easily hit his car by accident for the space was very limited). So, after having a rough day and while heading to school for a difficult exam, imagine how "nice" this incident was for me! I calmed myself down in a few minutes, what could I do about I, but still… I was wondering: why??? Why are people guided by so much malevolence and hostility?

Why are people so mean, for God's sake? I sometimes try so hard to understand why so many human beings do find it easier to be critical and mean and hostile, instead of being nice, but I never seem to get to any valid explanation. Maybe because they express their inside furies and frustrations by trying to make others feel lousy too, or maybe because they just don't care about the way their reactions affect the others or maybe "just like that".

Here's what O-Magazine's Martha Beck has to say about the subject: "Why are people mean? Here's the short answer: They're hurt. Here's the long answer: They're really hurt. At some point, somebody-their parents, their lovers, Lady Luck-did them dirty. They were crushed. And they're still afraid the pain will never stop, or that it will happen again.

There. I've just described every single person living on planet Earth.

The fact is that we've all been hurt, and we're all wounded, but not all of us are mean. Why not? Because some people realize that their history of suffering can be a hero's saga rather than a victim's whine, depending on how they "write" it. The moment we begin tolerating meanness, in ourselves or others, we are using our authorial power in the service of wrongdoing. We have both the capacity and the obligation to do better."

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