We live in this world surrounded by selfish idiots, in a less disparaging, more literal sense than you may be assuming I mean.
Firstly, I believe that it is perfectly justified to say that we are a selfish people. We have learned to be possessive of our belongings, or family, our freedoms, our guns, our time, our food, our privacy, and anything else that can be construed as being ours.
We are irrationally self-indulgent – “I absolutely need a pedicure today” or “What a long day at work… I need a beer”
We are unnecessarily self-reliant to the detriment of community. Our deepest friendships are often tainted with worries about boundary issues and limitations on what can be expected of one another.
We hoard our effectively limitless material wealth in gargantuan homes.
Secondly, you must understand that Idiot is an interesting word for a lot of reasons. It’s generally meant as an insult. It assumes some sort of comparison – that is, “I’m stupid compared to you.” But if you go back far enough, it actually comes from a greek word that means “own/private.” A man that keeps to himself, that does things his own way.
We are now in an alternate universe where the man who was once considered worthy of insult for trying to do things outside the bounds of community is now exalted as the fully self-actualized archetypal human.
Something is amiss.
I’m indubitably aware that we are victims. Marketers appeal to our sense of individualism, our desire to rise above the commoner and excel, to ride the tidal waves of commerce and materialism and prestige to new lands that need conquering. We are ourselves unselfish. Rather we are creatures persuaded into this harsh lifestyle of wine and LCDs and imported automobiles.
Excuses are meant to minimize the effect of one’s own mistakes and misgivings.
And as people die from starvation, and as others are held down by failures of systems supposedly designed to help, and as resources that could help are hoarded, our advice seems all the more surreal:
“Pick yourself up by your bootstraps, get your life back together, do something with your life.”
The message seems to be “If you were just a little more idiotic you clearly wouldn’t’ be in this mess.”
As our toxic individualism has grown, we see psychological and often physical barricades to concepts that are obvious in community. Universal healthcare makes sense to those unconsumed with self. Peaceful resolutions take the place of pervasive war metaphor because it’s not OK that innocent men, women, and children should die. To suppose this is necessary evil is to be only half correct.
As dangerous as this individualism to our world at large, I’m aware that cynicism is equally as damaging and it is an aspiration to be free of this. It is my affliction.
To combat this, surround yourself with people that have an unselfish heart, those who have an appropriate perspective on how to navigate these lives we find ourselves in. Long for relationships that intertwine regularly with deeper meaning and purpose and those in need.
We are not alone and we are not meant to live lonely.