October 3, 2023•793 words
A reminder from my previous post:
I will try to break free of that hesitation and document whatever comes to mind, however immature, naive, or uninformed.
With the necessary caveats in place, I'm free to share an untested theory about humanity: most adults are fundamentally flawed in their interactions with other humans. They fail as parents, friends, colleagues, and partners. This messed-up-ness makes everyone around them miserable, and it trickles down to create a miserable society.
To clarify, I'm focusing on adults—those who've had at least 18 years to learn the basics of being human. The irony is, how can they become decent when they're nurtured by equally flawed individuals? (And it's not that things get better when they turn 30 or so. Or even 50—I hope you get the sentiment.)
The killer issue isn't just about failing as a human. It's that most people don't even know they're failing. It's about their obliviousness to their own faults and the unwillingness to change. It's like a malfunctioning gear in a machine, unaware that it's jamming the whole system. They don't just mess up their own lives, they mess up for everyone around them.
Okay, some nuance. Some folks are purposefully nasty, but others mess up without meaning to. It's that second bunch that really gets to me. They don't intend to be toxic; they're just...lost, or something. Some deeper issue at play.
What's behind it? I honestly don't know. I struggle to understand the line between personal responsibility and systemic influences. Is it biology, bad upbringing, cultural ignorance, lack of life experience? Or is it just them?
My high empathy often leads me to give people the benefit of the doubt, perhaps too much. This is a constant struggle: I don't understand how to assess people and their behaviours. What I do feel is that at the humanity level, most humans are very messed up people.
When I talk about a "normal" human, I don't mean a saint. I'm just talking about people who don't screw up things for others. Shouldn't there be a manual or something for how to be a normal human which is made compulsory before they are allowed to be a member of a functioning society?
Yes, this is a cynical view of human nature, but I feel this every day—in family, with friends, in dating, at work, on the internet. Basically, everywhere.
And then occasionally, I see some good people, or even kind people (which is not really the pre-requisite), and I feel hopeful that people can become better.
Why is all of this relevant? A few things:
First, so I can tell myself that, bhai, you are actually doing okay. Yes, I know this might give off narcissistic vibes, but seriously, after extensive self-deliberation, after deep self-reflection, I have reached this conclusion: I may not be a great guy, but I am at least not a terrible guy. The rest is all perception.
I mean, I don't think I'm the centre of the universe or anything. I care about how people feel, I respect their personal space, and I'm mindful of the words I use when talking. I don't jump to conclusions or pass instant judgements, I try to show up on time, and I make an effort to communicate clearly. Simple stuff, but loads of people mess it up. Whatever be the reason—their fault or not—the point is, their actions cause problems for others. And normal people—yes, that includes me—can only do so much when we are living in a society full of messed-up people.
Second, so I can learn to live with guilt. I might feel like I'm doing alright, but when I see how messed up things are around me, I start questioning myself: "Could I have done more?"
It's ironic, really. I think most people feel they're okay and it's the rest of the world that's off. So, am I deluding myself? (Perhaps the difference really is that I am at least asking myself if I could do more.)
The thing is, I can't really know for sure, which always leaves room for doubt, and that doubt feeds guilt. ́Experience has taught me to just live with this guilt. As the Stoics have said: focus on what you can control; ignore what you can't.
For my existential dilemma, I need to think: Is my theory correct? Why are people the way they are? What drives everyday behaviour? Are we all just lost in this complicated world? But some good stuff does happen, so how does that square with all the mess? How can society be less messed up? And what does this mean for me and how I choose to exist?
Right now, it's more about questions than answers. I'll keep thinking.