I am often disheartened by the cold commercialism of society. As I watch the rise of the giant corporations and mega conglomerates, I feel like life in general is becoming less conducive to humanity and relationships and more about flashy advertisements and raking in the money. Those few people running the world don’t just seem to be garden-variety-greedy anymore, they seem to be Scrooge-McDuck-diving-into-a-swimming-pool-of-gold-greedy.
Recently I was walking around a Walmart, my head almost swimming from all the useless stuff trying to attract my attention, when I suddenly had the impulse to go around the store and ask every employee I could find whether they believe Walmart really gives a shit about them as a person, or if they think they are viewed as a replaceable number only. I resisted the urge, but as someone who spent a short amount of time working as a greeter at Walmart, I can almost guarantee that if the employees answered my question honestly, probably none of them would say the corporation gives a damn about them. And that microcosm of Walmart, represents an entire world of similar sentiments.
The problem isn’t me. Not really. The problem is the world. The gossips. The bullies. The abusers. The narcissists. The shallow. The cruel. The snobs. The judgmental. The callous. The ignorant. The rude. The contentious. The angry. The passive aggressive. The sadistic. The jealous. The violent.
Is it any wonder I fear humanity? Is it any wonder I fear humiliation, rejection, and being misunderstood?
My experiences have taught me that life is harsh, and that is what I’ve come to expect. Not long ago, my psychiatrist warned me about the danger of “expecting everyone to treat me the way my abusers did”, but how easy is that to accomplish when so many others HAVE turned out to treat me that way? I often feel like a wounded gazelle surrounded by lions. I look for empathy, but instead I find savagery.
Public Domain Image
Sometimes I feel like I live in an entirely different world than the one I grew up in. One thing I am greatly thankful for is that there wasn’t the sensitivity to threats of violence or stupid immature outbursts when I was a kid and teen. I think about how common it was when I was a kid to joke about “blowing up the school” when you were mad, or how easily we threw around the “I’m going to kill you!” threat. Of course, we didn’t really mean it, to us, it was just a way to express frustration…but if kid me were to make those comments today in school, I would likely be taken away in handcuffs.
I also think about a stupid reaction I had as a teenager to a betrayal by someone I had a huge crush on. This person I had a crush on had been sort of leading me on and making me think that we might have a future together. We worked together at Burger King, and he was a few years older than me, but probably not much more grown up. When I found out that he had been lying to me and was secretly in a romantic relationship with someone else we worked with, I was SUPER PISSED. Both of these people I worked with had pretty much lied right to my face about their relationship numerous times and one day at work I simply went off.
Everyone else was gossiping about their affair and I was pulled into the conversation. Several knew how I had felt about him and asked if I planned to do anything. Being someone who was viciously angry and has always had a dark sense of humor, I said maybe I should go set their house on fire with them inside. Then I remembered that the girl had a daughter and I corrected myself by saying I would make sure I got the little girl out first. It was a dark joke. Clearly not something I intended to do, just a way to let off steam. I have often thought though that if that were to happen in our world’s current climate, I seriously could have been arrested for making terrorism threats.
It is these memories I revisit when I see stories about kids getting expelled or investigated for making pretend guns out of Pop-Tarts, shouting something in anger, or making pretend shooting motions with their fingers. I think of how stupid and immature I used to be and how I lacked the wisdom to see the potential consequences of a rash, snide comment or playful dark humor. I certainly understand our world’s over-sensitivity to these things today, but I can’t help but think of how naively innocent I once was when I would foolishly spout off without thinking it through.
If I could have one wish, I would wish more than anything that we as humanity could let go of our illusions –
so that we could take a cold, hard look at reality as it actually is, and work together to solve our real problems at the core. Of course, I would have to start with myself, being willing to let go of any illusions I still hold, illusions I am blind to. In fact, I have found that it is almost impossible for any of us to recognize our own illusions until we have come to a place where we are willing to let them go.
*Art by Maranda Russell
Hiking with Hemingway
Written By: Maranda Russell
One foot in front of the other,
he reminds himself sternly,
pulling the edge of his hat down
to shield his sensitive brown eyes
from the glare of the city lights
winking in the distance.
Every glimpse of human society,
of the burning embers
from love lost and found
and lust thrown to the ground,
only serve to make a lesser man
turn his heart aside.
I think I have a savior complex. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not delusional. I don’t think I’m Jesus Christ or anything like that (the whole being crucified thing honestly kind of freaks me out). However, in my mind I have this ridiculous idea that I have to save the world. Sometimes I think it is because I am overly sensitive (a bittersweet gift from my Asperger’s Syndrome). It could also be because I grew up in a generation where we were constantly told “you can change the world!” Or maybe it is the fault of a stranger who came up to me at a truck stop when I was around 12. The guy walked right up to me, handed me a $20 bill and told me “God has a very important plan for you. Make sure you fulfill it.” Weird encounters like that leave a mark.
Regardless of the reason behind it, I can’t just look away when I see children starving, animals abused, the earth destroyed or people being cruel to one another…regardless of where it takes place in the world. There is this driving voice in my head that continually tells me that things have to change and that I need to be actively working on changing them. I feel a sense of urgency, like more is at stake than I even realize. Sometimes this drives me crazy. I feel like I should always be doing more. I should be feeding the poor. I should be saving the animals. I should be fighting against the mere appearance of injustice and prejudice. It is almost like a compulsion, with the voice in my head always shouting, “Do more! Do more! Do more!”
Sometimes I wonder if other people feel this. I like to think they do, but when I look around I don’t see that. Instead, it seems like most people are caught up in their daily lives and in being entertained or distracted from reality. Maybe that is why I feel so heavily that I need to do more all the time, that it all “depends on me”. Because many others just don’t seem to care. Perhaps I feel like I have to do enough for me and all of them too in order to really make this world better.
However, I know that I can’t do it all. I am just one person in a sea of humanity. I have few material or physical assets. I have health problems that limit what I can do. I can’t drive more than about 20 minutes away from home without getting lost. I am a woman, and as such, often seen as some kind of “inferior” being. Doesn’t seem like I have much of a chance of saving the world, huh? However, I keep doing what little I can do. Speaking out about things that matter to me. Looking for little opportunities to lend a hand or show kindness. Drawing attention to things that many people would rather not see. Trying to shine my little bit of light on this often dark world. Hoping that others will join me and shine their light as well. Alone, I am little more than a spark, but together, we could brighten the world tremendously.