People

It almost sent me over the edge.

I was at “the Wal-Mart” on Saturday — Super Wal-Mart, to be exact — to do some grocery shopping, when I encountered a pet peeve of mine. Clogging up the aisle were two older women engaged in deep conversation, unknowing of the waves of people swerving around them. Or so I thought.

Seeing this selfish in front of me, I could have either busted through the elderly road block like a slave running for freedom with my cart and a curt “Excuse me,” or I could go around them and be the better man. I took the high road and went around them. One of them noticed my maneuver and remarked to the other, “That was so nice of him to go around us.”

EXCUSE ME?!?!?

Let’s examine this for a second: these two people felt that their conversation was so important that they knowingly blocked traffic in the aisle coming and going, never mind the fact that they could move into a side aisle and continue their conversation. And when they see the effect that their selfishness is having on others, they have the audacity to talk about it and not miss a beat in their most important conversation in the world.

This is one of the reasons that I do not like people.

To most, I may seem like a calm, happy-go-lucky kind of dude. And I am: I am pretty optimistic for the most part, believing that human beings are inherently good at their core and that no one wishes harm on their fellow man or woman. But living life on this planet, it’s hard not to notice the worst behaviors that we exhibit, and a layer of cynicism has fogged up my rose-colored glasses as I’ve gotten older.

One of those polluters is selfishness. We come out of the womb only capable of wanting to survive by any means necessary. It is through experience, empathy and wisdom that humans learn to look beyond their own needs. Unfortunately, we still have the innate need for what we want, and many — if not most — of our actions are driven to satisfy that desire. And marketers, banks and even politicians know how to scratch that proverbial itch.

No wonder he thinks for himself: those feet must generate some MAD funk.

It’s all about what people can do for US, and if we don’t learn otherwise from the outset of life, we have the rudeness, laziness and selfishness that pervades everyday life. Talking on cell phones while driving; breaking promises to people; willingly cheating on partners; lying: they are human foibles, certainly, and we all do them on occasion. But there are people that thrive on inconveniencing, hurting and cheating their fellow man, and only when it benefits them.

For example, give two infants a toy for each of them. Notice how after they play with their individual toy, they start eying the other infant’s toy. That want is there; it only becomes worse when you introduce more infants into the equation. Now imagine what happens when you expand this to include millions of people, a carnivorous capitalistic economic model, poor parenting and a ticking timer of life that is continually going, and it is all around. And the more successful this ecosystem of greed is manipulated, the more positively the person is rewarded — look at Paris Hilton for a special-needs example.

It’s interesting that we learn so early to fend for ourselves that to care about others is almost looked down upon. I can only look at the example of the shockingly-mocked “community organizers” talking point brought up in the recent presidential election: at the same Republican National Convention that Senator John McCain was made the Republican presidential nominee, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin each took the piss out of the idea of a former “community organizer” like Barack Obama wanting to run for president, like his experience helping people in need of the necessities of life — education, monetary, shelter, clothing — was not only a horrible thing to do, but that helping people was a detriment against someone wanting to be president of the United States. Oh, SHUDDER!

Asshole? “You betcha!”

Overlooking the fact that Giuliani and Palin have their own skeletons that were/are the results of their own selfish behavior, how do those remarks reflect upon the ideals of the American people? That the idea of thinking of someone or others besides one’s self is open season to point and laugh? That considering the needs of others is weak and only for those weak in character? Whatever the perception was, people made what they wanted out of it for their own purposes, cementing the notion of benefiting from something for nothing.

Even worse is when people use the niceness of others for their own benefit. We see it all the time: people manipulating the corporate or political structures for their own gains; getting the smart kid to do homework for the popular student; the creeps on Craigslist.org that exchange “massages” for other services. The frequency and scale of such acts only seems to worsen if the person doesn’t learn how those actions affect the people they manipulate and/or use.

Seeing those two older women blocking the aisle at Super Wal-Mart for their conversation brought those thoughts into focus. Having been on this Earth for 70, 80 or 180 years, they had been around long enough to have been aware of how their actions affected others. And yet, seeing the generations of humans that tend to act, think and react for themselves highlighted that the problems generated from and included them.

It’s certainly human nature, but funny thing about humans: we can also overrule those primal urges to do for ourselves. And I’m certainly guilty of it because of that damn being human thing. But I try to do good and look out for others, which is more than I can say for whoever runs VH1 these days. Hey, maybe we can think about how what we’re doing will affect those around us and directly involved before doing it, eh?

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