2009-12-03

How Does that Affect Me?

Humans divide themselves into all kinds of different groups. Almost all of us group ourselves by family units. We live with our family, generally not with other families or in group settings. Sometimes we divide ourselves by our gender. Sometimes it's our profession and we will associate with people who work in the same field that we do. Sometimes it's by nationality, race or religion. Sometimes we group ourselves by hobbies or activities that we like to do. People who like to shoot guns generally hang out with other people who like to shoot guns. You get the idea...

Often times we can be protective of our groups too. If someone says something hurtful or mean-spirited about our group, we get defensive. We don't like it when someone else is tearing down our groups. We don't like it when someone else views us as bad, or substandard in someway. It's not unusual to hear about a group boycotting a movie because somehow their group was portrayed poorly in the movie. I'm quite sure the police officers and lawyers are tired of everyone viewing them as bad-guys because of some the members of their groups act poorly. Because of this defense mechanism, many times when we see someone in one of our groups acting in a way that might not reflect well for our group, we get concerned. Our first thought is usually, how does that affect me? If that group member continues with that behavior, will there be repercussions that affect me?

For example, if you've been reading this blog, you know I'm a member of the group of motorcyclists. Now motorcyclists, or bikers, are often portrayed poorly in the media. Sometimes the reputation is well earned. But I'm still often very aware of how bikers can actly badly and how that affects me. Recently I was riding home and the traffic was horrible. I was going between lanes trying to just move through without going too fast and upseting John Q Public in their cars. Another biker came up behind me and I let him pass as he wanted to go faster than I did. This guy was a piece of work. He was yelling at the cars, shaking his fist at them, acting like he was going to kick in their doors, I think he even spit on one car. He was one seriously angry dude. If someone didn't move over and let him pass, he acted like a federal offense had been committed. As I watch his tirades, I wondered - how does that affect me? Now I have to drive along behind him. What if the motorists are ticked off and they decide to take it out on me? What if they get fed up with bikers like him and they decided to change the laws so they are less friendly to bikers? etc. etc...

Never once was my concern for that individual or even the people that he was acting so poorly towards. All I could think about was myself and how his behavior might affect me. That makes me sad. It's hard to believe that I am so self-centered. Now I don't know what I could have done to help that individual. The middle of the freeway during rush hour is generally not a good time for an intervention. But I wish I had offered up a prayer or at least thought about something other than myself.

"How does that affect me?" is not something I want to ponder about too much. Apparently I spend way too much time thinking about me and not near enough time thinking about the people around me. What, or who, are you thinking about?

1 comment:

krausologer said...

Nice post, Bill. Tribalism is the natural phenomena that divides us all and strips us of empathy for those outside of the groups we associate with. We must grow passed of our tribalistic nature!