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Consideration of Others: The Next Rung On The Ladder Of Evolution

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Could someone tell me what the hell is wrong with the human race? How did such a selfish and mean spirited species ever come to survive and dominate the planet in the first place? I’m not talking about a particular race, sex, or culture here, because this behaviour crosses all lines.

Species have distinct traits marking them as different from others; felines are predatory and sleek, canines are social, and bovines all look like they’re permanently puzzled by the world. But one thing all species have in common is a survival instinct. Leisure is not something that exists when all of your energy is spent ensuring the your life’s continuance.

By nature, the instinct to survive is selfish. A critter’s world revolves around it’s own desires for food and shelter, it’s offspring’s safe upbringing, and in some cases the continuation of their family group The majority of civilized humanity no longer faces that daily grind of ensuring food and shelter for their immediate family group. Food is purchased, shelter paid for, and offspring cared for through the pursuit of labour that takes up a third of our time or less during a week.

For some reason though, instead of that selfish streak necessary for survival falling by the wayside, it has persisted. Far too many humans still act like no one exists outside their pack or family group when it comes to how they govern their behaviour, especially during times when they are not concerned with survival.

I try to avoid making sweeping generalizations, especially pejorative ones, on any subject, but events of the past week in particular, and the last little while in general, where I live, has only given credence to that theory. The microcosm I’ve evaluated to reach this conclusion has three strata: my immediate neighbours on the street where I live, the three of four block radius that surrounds an all night donut shop in my neighbourhood, and a special event that took place last week in the heart of a residential area in the city where I live.

How many times have those of you who live in close proximity to others been woken on a weekend morning this past summer by some jerk mowing their lawn at some ungodly hour of the morning or have had a moment of quiet destroyed by the same? One must expect these things to a certain extent, living in the city, but seven days a week non-stop throughout the day and evening?

Most of these people are using gas powered lawn equipment — weed whackers, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and anything else you can think of and beyond. (For trimming is one measly cedar hedge, one guy uses a chain saw that looks like it’s leftover from clearing his grandfather’s farmland. He then hauls out an equally archaic wood chipper for the few scraggily branches he has mutilated. Both produce noise that could easily be mistaken for an ancient Harley-Davidson in desperate need of a tune up.

There are those who make it their life’s work finding things to do with the power tools that they have been given as gifts over the years. They’ve never made an effort to learn how to use this equipment. This means you not only have to listen to them being used, but abused on top of that, and for far longer then the “jobs” being done merit. One particular idiot took three months to rebuild a small atrium off his front door. Most of his work seemed to involve hitting things loudly for extended periods of time with a hammer for no apparent reason except that he couldn’t hammer a nail in to save his life.

As if the noise weren’t bad enough, the attitude that goes with it is amazing. How can they not realize their constant barrage of sound is disturbing everyone? But if you should happen to point out the fact that the windows of your apartment are rattling because of their lawn mower, they either don’t care or take a sort of perverse pride in it.

It might explain why nobody in my neighbourhood is able to talk at a level of anything less then a shout. One family group gathers on their fire escape and shouts the intimate details of their lives at each other. But it doesn’t explain why people feel the need to hold conversations by shouting at each other from top floor balconies to the sidewalk across the road.

Don’t they know or care that everybody within a two-block radius can hear every word they are saying? Don’t any of these people stop to consider that no one else wants to hear the sound of their voice echoing through their apartment? These same people complain about other people’s noise but don’t seem to notice they are contributing to the overall cacophony that besets us on a daily basis.

From the moment the streets are first cleared of snow in the spring until the first snowfall of the following winter, the roads in my neighbourhood are taken over by what seem to be either people who don’t know how to drive or have confused residential streets with speedways. They congregate at a local Donut chain where they idle their engines while guzzling coffee and eating deep fried sugar in order to fuel their personal tanks.

From one stop sign to the next they floor their cars and squeal their breaks. They can’t seem to move their cars from a stationary position without peeling out, tires smoking, and exhaust complaining. Maybe they feel their lives aren’t complete if they can’t rattle the windows of every house they drive by on their way through a neighbourhood?

You can’t make that kind of noise with a car as consistently as they do by accident. It has to be done on purpose. This means they are taking great pleasure in making other people’s lives miserable. The truly selfish part of the equation is that they didn’t even make that a part a consideration in their decision making process.

In fact, that applies to all of the examples I’ve cited to this point: nobody even thinks enough about other people to say the hell with them before they do something. Afterwards they may say, “Who the fuck cares what you think?” but beforehand, they didn’t even consider what effect their actions might have on others. Nobody exists outside of themselves and their own little worlds.

I’m going to pull out a little from my own personal environs to supply one last example of how consideration of others appears to have become something less than a virtue. Now I know there are people who enjoy car races, stunt shows, motorcycle races, and even Monster Truck rallies, and to some extent that’s fine. To each their own, right? But even those who like these events have to admit they are dammed loud. Perhaps for some people that’s even part of the appeal, I don’t know.

They are horribly intrusive upon anyone who lives within a minimum of a quarter mile radius from the event. So who would organize such an event in the middle of a densely populated residential area for two nights and one afternoon, four hours at a shot? How could no one give any consideration to the feelings of the people living in the neighbourhood?

Can you imagine what it would be like for families with infant children to be beset with the equivalent noise of a large jet taking off in their backyards for two hours at a time? How about any senior citizens living by themselves and having to feel their apartment’s vibrating and shaking and wondering if the noise is going to cause them physical damage?

Given the population density of the neighbourhood where this “entertainment” was held and the seating capacity of the facility, more people were disturbed by the event than could have possibly attended. What nobody seems to care about anymore is that some suffer in order for others to have fun.

How many kids have been teased mercilessly by people only having fun? How many people have been made the butts of racist or sexist jokes by some asshole only having fun? How many women have been groped and sexually annoyed by people only having a “bit of fun”? How is it that nobody ever thinks about the repercussions their actions might be having on the other person?

I don’t care what you do to yourself for fun; just don’t inflict it on others. Just because you have fun drinking yourself stupid and screaming and yelling at the top of your lungs doesn’t mean that the people around you think it’s a great time.

When we as a species needed to fight for food and shelter for family and ourselves, selfishness was understandable; it was part of the instinctual behaviour that allowed us to survive to this point. But now that is no longer required for our continuation as a species, don’t you think it’s time we started thinking about the effect of our actions on others?

We claim that we are superior to other life forms. Isn’t it about time we started to prove it?

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • robertmacevain

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  • http://www.booklinker.blogspot.com Deano

    Well, I could (courteously of course) point out that the mere fact that selfish behaviors are an intrinstic part of the human experience, as so, somewhere along the line, must have been an evolutionary trait that enhanced survival.

    That ability to distance yourself from others and consider only your own worth, to take the last cookie on the plate, ill-mannered though it be at times, is a survival trait.

    Someone once noted that in nature, the only unnatural act is one that you cannot do. Selfish behaviors, though at times socially disruptive, have their place right alongside altruism and other “positive” social/emotional behaviors…but I do sympathize regarding the construction and / or leaf-blowing/hedge-triming.

    Think of it as evolution in action.

  • Nancy

    Things like what go on in your neighborhood get easier to take as one gets older and deafer, in my actual experience. Be that as it may, you sound like you just have the misfortune to live in a neighborhood of Yahoos. I’ve noticed neighborhoods are like that: some neighborhoods tend to attract quiet, peacable types; some attract the birders; some the young breeders; and others get the rednecks or yahoos.

    I was lucky. My own area is predominantly older, more settled types. It may very well be noisy from time to time (we have a county ballfield in the park behind my condo), but the increasing deafness that has come with age reduces it to a nice distant sound of people at play, interspersed with strident shrills of katydids nearer to hand. Ah, the country. Or suburbia. Whatever.

    You either need to get deafer, or you need to move someplace away from the donut shop.