In “On the Waterfront”, Eve Marie Saint’s character, Edie, is on a date with Marlon Brandon’s character Terry, and as they sit and talk and get to know a little about each other, she enquires about his situation in life. He’s a tough, street-hardened fighter, raised in a boys’ home after his father got bumped off. It’s clear he’s not had much in the way of caring in his life. She shows a lot of interest in him and his situation. At one point in their conversation, he asks, “What do you really, care, am I right?”, the “am I right?” seemingly indicating that his entire worldview is constructed around “every man for himself”, characterised by isolation and fear. Indeed, later in their conversation he says that his philosophy of life is to “do it to him before he does it to you” and suggests that to have any “spark of sentiment, romance or human kindness” is something that would get a person in trouble. In other words, he can’t comprehend that Edie’s caring might be genuine. He goes about life as if nobody could really gives a toss about anyone. It just doesn’t compute that someone would really care about him, or anyone else for that matter. Not only does he struggle to comprehend her caring, he dismisses it. A self-perpetuating cycle, it seems to me. Not a chink of light in there.
She doesn’t give up, though. She replies, “Shouldn’t everybody care about everybody else?” to which he responds, “Boy, what a fruitcake you are.” She continues, “I mean, isn’t everybody a part of everybody else?”
Therein seems to lie the complete antithesis of Terry’s worldview. The Eisenstein quote I used in my previous post seems apt. “We are all fundamentally unseparated from each other, from all beings and from the universe.” One corollary of this for me is that we owe it to each other AND ourselves to bring some more caring into the world. If we start with our own individual worlds, it seems to me that this is a pretty good start.
Some further thoughts around sociometry have been going through me since writing that last post. They were amplified during a chat on Twitter between Luis Suarez, Rotana Ty, Paul Simbeck-Hampson and myself. Much of it revolved around humility, vulnerability, humane-ness and authenticity.
“And you really believe that drool?”
I’m with Edie when she says, “Yes, I do.”
When she goes on to accuse him of having not a “spark of sentiment or romance or human kindness in (his) whole body,” he says, “What good does it do you but get you in trouble?”
Call me a fruitcake, but I’d rather have a go at encountering people in all their weirdness and make an attempt to offer some kindness or meet someone’s heart-needs, than for all of us to remain bricked up behind a self-made wall. I’m not a hardened street fighter like Terry, and I can understand why he would see the world the way he does, but I still find it hard to see how a bit of appreciation or kindness or caring would be a bad thing. It takes me aback slightly when, for example, I’m blithely dismissed for thanking someone for sharing one of my blog posts on social media. My internal response to a comment like, “It was merely something I thought worthy of passing on,” was “We are not Borg or Vulcans.” Perhaps it WAS worth sharing, that’s another matter. That notwithstanding, I felt a little stung when my appreciation for what I experienced as kind support was dismissed so instantly. How much do we really enact caring about others in Socialmedia-land? If I say, “Thanks, very kind”, I mean it. It is not all about “efficiency”, “logic” or “relevance”. Surely it’s also about humans connecting with humans in a human way. A little human kindness, in a world where loneliness and separation is becoming the “new normal”, goes a very very long way. I know many would agree but some of these same folks would also rebuff my expression of gratitude.
What actually is wrong with a little more human kindness? I tire of that casual interpersonal violence that goes on all around us: in our communities, in our workplaces and in the online world. It’s why I focus my efforts on assisting people to improve their sociometry with each other.
“You wanna hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you.”
I suppose Terry’s philosophy of life works for some, and I suppose in a world that I’ve heard someone describe as brutal, it makes sense. Best defence being a good offence, sort of thing. Robert Reich, in his article “In Our Horrifying Future Very Few People will Have Work or Make Money”, suggests that as the world becomes more “elecronified” and “algorithm-ed”, a lot of what humans do will be replaced with something done by some sort of machine, with fewer and fewer people doing paid-for work or capitalising on investments, and that “the rest of us will be left providing the only things technology can’t provide – person-to-person attention, human touch, and care.” Sometimes it seems that in our rush to avoid being one of the “left behind”, we immerse ourselves in social media and the internet but we leave behind something intrinsic to who we are. We can move into the future and we can also be the most human of ourselves online. If nothing else, it might just be that little something that identifies us as more than an intelligent and efficient social media bot. Why don’t we enact more of that person-to-person attention and caring online? Let’s not play the “you go first” game, waiting for someone else to show us kindness before we act. When we know that communicating through online social networks can often be misconstrued because of the lack of face-to-face nuance that we get in real life, let’s go that extra mile to eliminate brusque-ness. When someone puts their work out there, let’s be more considered than an “I don’t agree” or “Your argument is flawed”. We can disagree and challenge while still being mindful that someone has invested themselves (yes, and their SELF) in their work.
As Susan Pinker observes, “Our survival hinges on social interaction……and our electronic devices can give us the illusion of intimacy without the hormonal rush of the real deal.” My view is that social interaction, whether face-to-face or virtually, is not purely a transactional exchange of pleasantries or functional statements. It carries the expression of our humanity. It touches the core of us and lets us know that we hear and we are heard, we see and we are seen, we value and we are valued. It is the kind of interaction that can only be approximated virtually. I’m not one to say we need to turn the clock back and leave our iLives, for they can augment our real lives, but since we are, indeed, living our social networks more online, let’s do our best to build each other up and be as convivial as we can. Just because we only have 140 characters, let’s not leave out the love.