I don’t like to see myself as a Social Justice Warrior, but I have to admit that I do take chances to point out intolerant or non-differentiated nonsense people utter or post on Social Media. Simply because I think change starts small, and if everyone who sees or notices something in their inner circle (yes, I count my 1000+ facebook-friends to my inner circle) speaks out, maybe people will start listening, and, more importantly, start thinking. Towards a more tolerant and kind society.
Fact is, however, that human beings are selfish little scumbags. Since, like, ever, we need institutions like religion or the government to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong, simply because we don’t seem to be able to internalize something like moral values, and act accordingly. Discussing about ethics and moral is thus as constructive as Sisyphus keeping on rolling that stone. Because, here comes a fun fact, there will always be counter arguments as to why the person that in someone’s eyes acted intolerant is actually very right in what they are doing, has reasons that can be related to, and anyway, there’s no law that would keep them from doing whatever disgusting little selfish act they are living out right now. And then you stand there with all your good intentions to make it right, to bring someone onto “the right path”, and you start questioning yourself: How do I even know the path I want them to take is “the right one”?
If we were all super tolerant, nothing could ever bother us, right? The most intolerant behaviour, which, according to my established hypothetical parallel reality would now need a different adjective, would just be an “alternative” way of doing things, and we should be absolutely fine with it. If an acquaintance offers you to lend you their vehicle when you’re in need, to conditions that would let the most nefarious business man turn green with envy, and then calls it an act of friendship, while you are one of those people that are used to helping out even random strangers on the street at your own expense – well, then that’s just the way they roll! You do it your way, they do it theirs, and because we’re all so tolerant, there’s absolutely no problem with that!
Since I came to the US, I compare and rant and complain about all the little nasty things that come with this strongly individualistic, capitalist system that leaves so many people behind and seems to benefit only the few that are in power to change it (which, of course, they won’t). I’m sure you noticed. So the other day, I was starting another rant about how on social events, people seem to need to hop from person to person to make small-talk about uninteresting things for two minutes. I went on how I, of course, totally boycott this, and refuse to play this game. How I rather have conversations with a deeper meaning and a real value, and maybe even some entertainment factor, instead of trying to “invest” in the future in which this random two-minutes-person might be of help to me some day. And then, suddenly, I caught myself in my own head as being very judgemental.
Who am I to decide which way is the better one – having conversations to invest in the future, or for mere entertainment? Yes, I do advocate the YOLO approach to a certain extent, but why would that be the one right one? Everyone is on this planet only once, and only for a limited amount of time. If some people want to make the most out of it by enjoying every second, it’s their choice, but if some people want to try thriving for being remembered way beyond their existence, and they thus need to “invest” in their future and career at any possible point in time, shouldn’t that be their own choice then, as well?
You can carry this thought forward. Who are we to decide that socialism is better than capitalism? Sure, it’s unfair if people are left behind merely because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, and others are given a head start because they are privileged. Sure, no one on this planet, I claim, is able to sustain their high living standards without living off of other people’s poor living standards – but does that mean they owe being fair to anyone? That life is unfair and random becomes most evident when natural catastrophes kill people. When a spider ends up in your house instead of your yard and this might be the last thing the little creature ever saw. When you want to get in shape and all the weight you lose leaves from your boobs.
The other day, someone shared a very true comic about having ideals, in the context of inheritance and true equality in opportunities. The bottom line was that everyone seems to have an ideal opinion as to how fair society should work – until they are affected themselves, and something they think they earned or deserved is suddenly at stake. This is usually the upper limit of people’s kindness and generosity. And these upper limits are defined very subjectively and per individual. For some people, money is the thickest boundary, for others it might be time. As soon as we have to sacrifice something we value in order to give it to someone else who might need it more, we take a decision about where to set those boundaries. We might be willing to sacrifice a little bit, but not too much, and the threshold of this sacrifice is again very subjective. So while you (or I, in that matter) might be thinking we are super altruistic people because we are willing to lend our car to a friend for a weekend and drive around by bus ourselves, because the friend needs to go 500 kms and we only 10, this is actually just defined by our own constraints. For someone else, the constraint might be at the fact that even though it’s just 10 kms, it’s still their own car, so why the heck would they even need to lend it to anyone in the first place?
This was just an excursion into what-would-be-land for me, and I will of course continue to regard our society as a whole, and our goods and assets more as a shared basket where everyone randomly happened to be in control over a certain part; if nothing else then because of the unfairness and randomness of being born into the ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ family, which I mentioned earlier (I hate unfairness). In this ‘basket’, I weigh 500 kms against 10 kms, and I disregard the my-car-aspect versus their no-car-aspect, because there might be so many reasons why someone does not own a car but I do. And also, it really doesn’t hurt me to take the bus.
I will, however, try to be more tolerant towards those that set their constraints lower than I do. Those that think they earned every penny they own by themselves, with their own hard work alone, while randomness has nothing to do with it. Who think it is thus OK to not tolerate anyone who works less than they do, or earns less than they do (which apparently implies someone worked less, according to these people’s belief system), and dares to live off social welfare. I will try to not judge them. After all, I have to tolerate their intolerance. But I won’t shut up, either. And while I will still explain to them why I see things very differently, expecting my view to be tolerated, I do admit that this might be a discussion to which there is no ending: it might as well be that the world will change to the worse instead of the better, benchmarked by my own, socialist beliefs. Tolerating each others tolerance and intolerance will lead to a vicious circle of confusing nothingness, where any opinion is to be accepted, even those that might generally be considered morally and ethically wrong.
Because, after all, human beings are nasty, selfish scumbags, and with moving more and more away from religion, we seemingly managed to eliminate the one good thing the Bible had to offer: Love thy neighbour as thyself. Breaking news: now tolerance is the new next-love!