You don’t know; not really. It’s easier like that. I know it is, because I’m sure I’m guilty of doing the same with some of those around me.
People imagine that when someone reaches their boiling point, when they lash out and just reach a moment when patience is in immeasurably low quantity, some emotionally cataclysmic event is to blame. So it’s easier not to know about others’ problems. Why get dragged into some messy drama, right?
Let me set the record straight here. Maybe you don’t want to see it, or maybe you just never got to understand this. Or maybe yet, nobody ever taught you, so now it comes as a shock to hear it. But listen up, it’s the truth I’m preaching here – it’s all the little things adding up day by day that make someone break. Those times when you flaked last minute. Those times when you just didn’t feel like keeping your word. Those moments when you were gratuitously mean and hurtful. Words, actions, or lack thereof, all have consequences of their own that you might not be able to anticipate, but would be damned nice to at least consider.
I binge watched 13 Reasons Why on Saturday. You may think my tirade streams from watching the show and getting caught up in its deeply disturbing story line. In part; but it was more of a catalyst than the main reason. Just look at the world around and all the senseless cruelty we treat one another with on a daily basis. We seem to heave learnt nothing from history and our past mistakes as a society or simply as human kind. We’re repeating them today at dizzying speed and with irrational conviction in the irrational. Just look around: the rise to power of extremists (wouldn’t you believe it that Turkey just democratically voted away the very democracy that allowed them to make that choice? Mind blowing, I know!), the reduction of women’s rights in countries that applaud themselves for being democratic through and through and for supporting women (but I guess that’s how it starts – men with law-making power who believe they know what’s best for women), the torture and killing of LGBT individuals in Chechnya, the murder of civilians – in large part children – in war torn countries like Syria.
These are the extreme events, the large scale ones. But they start in the small, don’t they? The fake news in the media, the rumours and the gossip in the schools; the racist, homophobic views you can read in the comments section of any news article, blog post or Instagram photo. Accepting hate speech and mindless, aggressive reactions under the guise of a statement like “this is my opinion, so as long as there’s freedom of speech I’m going to voice it” is nothing short of insanity.
If someone believes the Earth is flat, that doesn’t make it true. When a public figure says things like: “He was presenting alternative facts” and they’re not penalised for that sort of bullshit, we’re teaching our kids – and not only – that lies are relative and they can get away with lying by simply stating they were giving alternative facts. We’re telling them that they can be absolved of the consequences of their words and actions, so long as they’re in line with what they believe. Just remember the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Watching 13 Reasons Why was hard. Let me rephrase that – watching each episode was painful, the gut wrenching kind of painful. I had a lump in my throat the entire time; I cried and not just once. How could you not, when the story moves back and forth between a bleak present where the main character is no longer alive, victim to her own depression, that could or could not have been treated, as well as to the cruelty of the ones around her, and flashbacks to when happiness was almost within her reach, but not quite? That almost, but not quite was the point from where tears gushed out inevitably.
We’re cruel. As a society, as individuals. Whether by choice or without even realising it until the damage is done and irreversible, we’re cruel beings, with the same potentiality to commit harmful and hurtful acts as the one to practice kindness and understanding for what the other might be going through.
Beyond that, one aspect should be acknowledged and fully understood: the potentiality may be there for either direction, but which direction one chooses is mostly influenced by what one sees around, what one grows up in. It’s the kind of societal expectations we are shaped by that matters for how most of us will act and react.
Efficiency and productivity are sought and taught, as if they will ever give anyone a sense of purpose or fulfilment, as if they will save us from mental and emotional distress. It’s kindness we should be teaching, it’s empathy we should be educating children in – how to recognise it and how to develop it within themselves and others. This is the only way we’ll be able to save ourselves from darkness and nothingness.
So maybe you don’t know; not really, because it’s easier. But you should start. Right now.