I witnessed two situations today that had more of an impact on me than I thought they would. A bit of a showcase of the culture we’ve fed and the creature it has grown into.
I have a long drive home. 40 miles in Phoenix rush hour to be specific. Long. Because of this I try different routes to cut the drive time and spend a good part of my drive on surface streets. On my drive today there was an accident. An SUV had collided with a motorcycle rider. Traffic was being diverted around the scene by a large fire engine that served as traffic control and a shield for the fire fighters who were administering first aid to the fallen rider. The long line of cars crept slowly around the scene and each of us stole our quick glance at the situation. Hey, I didn’t say I was completely innocent here. For the most part we all kept our focus on not creating another accident in the same spot and we inched our way forward.
As I moved past the accident traffic came to a stop. This left the car directly behind mine with a front row seat to the situation. Immediately the driver and passenger craned their necks to get a view. Shortly thereafter, out came the phones with the driver practically climbing over the center console to get a better line of sight. The light changed to green and traffic began to inch along again. All the while their filming continued. Horns started sounding as the gap between my car and theirs grew to about a car’s length, but to no avail. They kept filming even as the traffic in front of them pulled away.
As I neared home I stopped by a local grocery store to pick up a few items. I pushed my cart into a line, placed my items on the belt, and waited my turn. Now normally I have the ability, the almost superhuman ability, to pick the line where something will go wrong. Either the cashier runs into problems, someone sends their kid to get one last thing that “will take just a second”, or one of the last 3 people on Earth to still write paper checks in public will be in front of me. Today was no exception, but it is what it is so I did what most of us do when we have to wait: Twitter! With one person between me and the current customer at the register, the hold up for this trip happened to be a woman who was having to figure out what items she could keep and what she couldn’t in order to get the balance due under $20 cash, after not being able to use her card. Which is rough. Its one thing to privately realize you don’t have the money, but to experience it in public with multiple people waiting on you is painful. Whatever the cause, a clerical error or just too much month at the end of her money, it doesn’t matter. Life happens.
The woman and the cashier were able to get the balance correct and she left with her items, quickly out of earshot in the loud front end of the store. As the man immediately in front of me stepped forward he pulled out his debit card from his wallet and proceeded to follow pleasantries with the cashier with a snarky “I hope I have enough. She had me checking my bank account while I was waiting”. A laugh exchanged and a few words of pointless small talk later and the man left.
These two instances are fairly harmless in their execution. The motorcycle rider had no idea he was being filmed and while the firefighters may expect it in their day to day work, they likely were not aware of that specific recording. The woman at the store was out of the automatic doors by the time her fellow shopper made his remark. The likelihood of her having heard him was incredibly low. But the awareness of the subjects are not what made these things stick in my head. Its what these actions mean as a society. As a people who are far more dependent on one another that we care to admit or understand.
There is a failure of Humanity in the drive to capitalize on someone’s misfortune for personal gain. Getting fake internet points for posting an injured man on the side of the road does nothing to serve society. Where is the acknowledgement of perspective and, if not care, decency for their fellow human? I feel we keep digging ourselves deeper into a hole of exploitation and instant gratification. 15 minutes of fame has turned into 15 seconds and we will clamor and fight to get our piece. We need to pause and remember our capacity for morals, ethics, and understanding. No one is perfect and nor should they strive to be, but we can each make an effort to lighten the load on our neighbor. Refrain from the snide comment about someone who is short on funds. Sure, maybe they were foolish and made poor decisions. Maybe they squandered it. Maybe their partner was laid off and their household income was cut in half or more. Maybe they have a sick relative who needs expensive treatment.
Give the man lying injured on the side of the road the dignity and respect of not being a sideshow. Help if you can, look over if you must, but he is not your entertainment. He is not your ticket to viral fame. If it helps, place yourself in the other person’s shoes. Imagine it is you in an embarrassing situation in public or lying on the ground in pain. Then imagine the ridicule others are throwing your way. The self righteous, indignant comments uttered when they think you can’t hear them so they can tell themselves that they weren’t actually being unkind. We are very capable of not being horrible to one another but I’m not saying you need to bend over backwards and help the world as they suffer. Just don’t talk shit about them.
Pretty simple if you think about it.