In my last decade–the one in which I learned about who I am and what made me me–I, in my holier-than-thou manner, have concluded that most people in the U.S. never, or rarely, wonder about who they are, or how they act, or whether the things they do are right or wrong.
They just assume everything they do is okay; e.g. When someone cuts them off in traffic, “What an a-hole!”, but when they do the same, that’s okay.
They don’t question how hard they try to do well at their jobs (or what “doing well” means),
or how they treat their employees or customers,
or how well they parent (or what type of parenting is needed in order for a child to become a thoughtful, happy, independent and socially-responsible adult),
any more than they question how they drive.
They just assume that how they do everything is pretty darn okay.
We writers are idealists who want to think our words can make a difference in this.
I suspect these people are so self-blind not because they’re inherently stupid or evil, but because they haven’t been parented to wholly grasp that other people’s feelings and motivations are exactly like their own,
and because “everyone’s doing it, and if I don’t, they will”,
and because commercial interests, implementing their policies via our corporate-run government and media, have heavily influenced such “me-first” attitudes.
There are some who self-monitor behavior only toward members of the groups they perceive as theirs: Their friends, immediate or extended family, co-workers, members of their religion, or their perceived race, ethnic group, or nationality.
These “Love My Gang” bangers either don’t worry about being polite to outsiders, or they feel free to abuse them verbally or in worse ways. So we find otherwise-polite people who are curt to or verbally abusive of maintenance-/wait-/hotel-staff,
or people of one race or ethnic group who will not move over on the sidewalk for another, or even “inadvertently” crash shoulders with members of another…
…or just talk trash about all members of another group around the dinner table in front of their children.
So here I am, self-identifying as different than these selfish people (and so, I make myself a member of the superior group “Better Than They Are!”. Here I am, a smug self-monitor-er. [
My self-examination has yielded a tremendous amount of insight into how events from my past have influenced my later behavior.
How proud am I that I wring my actions dry:
WHY did I do what I did when I did–
Was I right when I said what I said?
How proud am I that this self-improvement effort has resulted in a net yield of…
Nothing. After years of trying to modify my behavior based upon a ton’o’self-knowledge, I behave no better than my previous Popeye self:
Those who were supposedly poorly-parented, by my lights–You can pick them out by how they drive and park:
They park in handicapped spots,
or slantwise taking up two or three spaces,
or they exit lots dead center in the drive, taking up both exit and entry lanes, making traffic wait for them.
Why leave room for others? THEY are the only driver who counts.
These are the same people who don’t give up their seats for elderly, pregnant, or physically-disabled people,
don’t do ANY volunteering (more often men, by the way–even if retired),
don’t tithe to charity even when they can afford to…the list goes on.
But all of those awful, awful folks are not the ones who have been occasionally barking and snapping at strangers out of the blue for the past six months.
That has been ME.
All of those folks are not the person who jumped down the throat of an innocent commenter on one of my posts this past week.
Or who tried, in the most childish, foolish way possible, to show off on not one site, but several, falling flat on her face each time, exposing her ignorance and proving only her own foolishness.
Me, me, me.
(Or wrote this self-indulgent post, looking for attention even for her failings. Me again.)
When I was a kid, in my oh-so-precious precociousness, and my not so precious oversized sense of smarts–both characteristics common with Asperger’s children–I freely, loudly, frequently overshared knowledge I thought I had gained from my extensive reading.
Whether or not those around me were interested.
And whether or not I was correct.
My sisters and brother called me The Professor. This was not a compliment.
I have had many decades to decide not to stoop to that level of childishness. To not pontificate upon some subject about which I know little or nothing. To not issue my personal edict or opinion as if it came from Mount Olympus, or Zion.
One would think I would so choose. If not because the behavior is ego-driven, then because it can cause me to look as foolish as I am. The happy news is, for fifty years, I did so choose.
But, for this past week, I have demonstrated, on my own blog and the blogs of others, that this old foolishness lay in wait, at the ready. It was pulled out and aired for all to see.
I don’t know how YOU feel when you’ve acted like an ass, but I feel like an ass.
That I’m such a self-examination expert by now, and I know WHY the behavior slippage occurred helped not a whit. I saw, partly, even as each fail happened, but was unable to stop each train car from crashing into the one before.
The good news is that, although, for me thus far, self-awareness has not effected positive behavior modification, there are some upsides to ENLIGHTENED jerk-waddery:
(1) I’d rather be unconsciously egocentric, but consciously unselfish, and an occasional jackass, than to go through life acting selfishly most of the time because I just can’t be bothered to put any effort into being nice to “little people”.
(2) If my now-renounced Catholic upbringing was correct, all this regret-filled suffering has given me a golden ticket through the pearly gates.
(3) Each time I finish cussing out other jerkwads, I have reason to remember that they may be nice people, too, on their insides, where I can’t see beneath their dumb stupid-head faces.
Perhaps, someday, when I learn not to be a jerkwad so often, I’ll remember this first, and not cuss them so quickly, even though they really, really deserve it. Believe me. (“Stupidheads!” [If only my word was this nice.])
Perhaps this transformation will occur once my gray hairs outnumber the red ones.
(I admit I’ll miss the red, but by then will think the trade-off worth it.)
After thinking about the “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful” incidents related in my LAST “Feel Sorry For Poor Me” post, and similar incidents not mentioned, I have just concluded quite late in life that,
due to that remarkable red hair, and my other outstanding features (not the least outstanding among these, my outlying ( 😉 ) proboscis)–
–I must be so BREATHTAKINGLY good-looking (good GOSH almighty!!!)–
–that I can do no wrong:
My cuteness will overwhelm everyone around me. Offline, at least.
So: The conscience has been K.O.’d. The days of angst are over.