Think about the way children play. Three are less likely to interact peacefully than two, four even less so. Get more than about six of them together, and you’re likely to start witnessing border skirmishes on the daycare playground.
The reasons behind our general tendency to be assholish, though, are in dispute. Some say it’s because only God brings peace, and the world has turned its back on God. This is often predicated, by the way, on the idea that the “God” in question must be the Deity-in-Chief of whatever power structure holds sway at the moment.
Others say that people fight because there are just too many who don’t agree with their own particular ideology, whether it be religious, economic, political, sports teams, or a preference when it comes to purchasing soft drinks.
Here’s what I think: We don’t get along because we never actually stop being three-year-old kids.
It’s sad, especially considering the time and effort our society devotes to teaching kids to grow up and act like adults. Finish school, the story goes, get married, pay bills, have children, take care of your own, raise up another generation of future adults–all the things grownups are expected to do in our world.
The shame is, though, that many of us never grow out of that stage where we first gave in to the temptation to get really pissed when someone had a toy train that we believed should belong to us.
What is it that makes us act like this? When we don’t get our way, we scream, cry, scrub our butts on the floor, pout, hold our breath, roll our eyes, and do whatever it takes to get noticed. We say we want to work hard and live our own lives, and that we intend to let others do the same. But once we get the inkling that someone else has something we don’t, the spoiled brat in us rears its special little head and screams to the heavens.
The kid who covets the toy doesn’t consider asking nicely, and neither do we. Instead, what we do is something like dialogue on hyperbolic steroids, folks demanding the proper amounts of outrage. Today, it may be that someone’s religion is under attack, or yesterday, it might’ve been that someone made fun of someone else’s country or failed to show the proper amount of respect to something. Next week, this guy will be honorably mentioned and that one won’t. That woman will make the front page of the newspaper and this one won’t.
The unfairness of it all becomes too much to bear, and we lash out. It all comes down to us, after all, which ultimately means it comes down to me. People just tend to scream more loudly when they’re in groups.
Full disclosure. This comes from the perspective of some who knows from being selfish. For too long, I devoted far too much energy looking out for myself and letting others get their own–family, friends, neighbors, the person in front of me at the checkout.
Even now, the temptation comes back to me in a rush, maybe when I’m driving to work and someone cuts me off in traffic. What right do they have to get in my way? I was there first. I did my homework, got up early, shaved, maybe even skipped breakfast to get to work on time, and here they come, expecting to just take their place in the queue. Why can’t I just smile and let them go ahead, though? It’s not as if they’re trying to take my life away, steal my dog, or reschedule my birthday.
Optimists think that we humans get better as time goes by, but I’m not so sure. Once, I told a friend that I believed a majority of people in the world would do precisely what they believed they could get away with. I have no scientific basis for this belief–it’s built on nothing more than my tendency towards pessimism and forty-some-odd years of being around lots of people.
I hope I’m wrong, though.
And for my part, I’m trying not to bitch so much.