Back in high school, we constantly got talks about how the media (in those cases, they were referring to the news) so thoroughly desensitizes people. Most of the kids in that class watched the news often enough to have an opinion on the matter. I’ve never been one to watch news (though I’ll occasionally read about it. I do think it’s important to read the news and be aware of the goings-ons, but it’s something I need to improve on), so I didn’t notice that trend that people most commonly talk about: how the focus is so often on “bad” news. The teachers would argue that all the stories and their focus on death and destruction made people see it as commonplace and stop caring so much. For example, we all see so many bad things that, when they happen, we don’t think, “Wow, how awful. That was someone’s son.” We just brush it off. I can see that. Most people don’t associate those deaths with the trauma it causes family members. That’s not to say we’re all oblivious to others’ suffering but that we accept it.
Life is tough. I buy that. But I can’t really argue that there should ever be a time when we think that it’s okay. If I see a death, am I supposed to act like it’s fine? Am I supposed to assume those people don’t need comfort? Am I supposed to say “So it goes” like a Tralfamadorian?
We see so many bad things or hear about them that I understand that we can’t break our hearts over everyone else’s miseries. Back when there was no news, people probably didn’t hear about many deaths that didn’t have at least something to do with them, even if it was only their neighbour’s sister’s boyfriend. It still tangentially touches our lives, and we have to feel for our neighbour, who’s dealing with her sister’s grief. But now there are so many people experiencing so many tragedies that how can our emotions keep up with it?
If someone saw my sister’s death in the news, I can’t say I’d expect them to care. They didn’t know her. They don’t know what a loss it was. But I think the concerning part is that they don’t care that they don’t care. I know that’s such a convoluted idea, but it’s true. Most of us don’t look at the reports and try to imagine how that feels for someone else (myself included sometimes). Even when we feel things, we’d rather drown them out.
So why in the world would we bother to feel someone else’s pain?
I think we’d be a lot better off if we did. The people who bothered to imagine my pain when they had no reason to, when they barely knew me, those are the best people I’ve ever met. They look at the world and think, not just what’s wrong, but what they can do to fix it. Even when things are going right for them, they can imagine what’s not going right for others.
And we can exhaust ourselves caring for other people, ones we don’t even know and ones who might not bother returning the energy to care about us. I could spend an entire day trying to talk a stranger off from a window ledge who would just turn around and hand me a knife for my own wrists (throat?).
A lot of people might even deem those sort of people not worth our energy. The ones who are so wrapped up in their own problems. Why encourage them to continue taking instead of teaching them to give? Everyone has a different story, but I know some people who needed to take so much because it was the first time anyone had given to them. My ex, one of those wonderful people who listened to me ramble about Shauna when he’d only known me for a fortnight, he takes a lot. Sometimes, he’d take when I needed him to give. Not to the extent of handing me a knife, but when I needed a hug, I’d have to turn around and give him the hug instead.
But in the end, even when we’re giving, doesn’t it feel like we’re getting something in return? If you bother to compliment someone who just sneers at you, don’t you at least feel a bit better for knowing you tried? And imagine, if more people bother to compliment that person, they start feeling like a better person, and despite what people believe, what others think about you matters a lot. There’s a whole school of sociology who believes that people act based on labels they’ve received from others. It’s not that everyone has to subscribe to that logic, but if people did define themselves based on what you have to say about them, wouldn’t you rather take the energy to compliment them and make them see the good in themselves? You don’t have to tell them you like the bad parts, but some people focus so much on the negative that they don’t bother trying to be good.
Again, it’s not everyone.
I can’t tell people to be a hippie and hug everyone and care about every person they meet and constantly take a beating from people who treat you poorly. I’m not telling you to go make buddies with people who are toxic. But there are some people that we don’t think about. We see them alone and are too afraid to approach them in case they get annoyed with it. We hear a few bad things and think they don’t deserve friends because they’re just bad people. It’s pretty impressive to see how much people can change when they have some faith put in them. We can’t all go around exhausting ourselves over people who refuse to change, and I’m not going to suggest becoming a “fixer”. Some people will stay the same. But when the time comes to hurt someone or help them, you’ll feel a lot better about yourself if you help. If you find people turning to you for comfort. Sure, your life is busy and you have things to take care of. But there are people with burdens as bad as yours (I don’t believe in saying that some people’s pain is greater than others’). And just like you occasionally need someone, there are plenty of people who just need someone to take a chance on them, as well.
I don’t think it’s “weird” to care about someone you barely know. If you have the chance, think about how others are feeling, even if their tragedies don’t touch your life at all. And they might not believe you care– you probably don’t understand, in their minds– but you can flex your mind and learn to go against that desensitization (assuming you believe in it). Don’t exhaust yourselves- you have to care for yourself before you can care for others- but, even if it can be taxing, you’ll gain a lot by caring for others, even if the only currency you give them is time or attention or a few kind words.
I have so many things to talk about, but I get rambly, like in this instance. When I had a focused topic like birth control, I focused a lot better. Would you guys mind reading something all over the place like this, or would you prefer a more focused topic? Should I try to tackle things one situation or scenario at a time, or can I do something like this and still be understood?
Sorry for the length and somewhat tangential organization. My mind is all over the place these days. I’d really like to hear from you guys, and appreciate so much that you bothered to read! I hope your days are all going well.
Superfluous information time (because I like remembering these things for myself and need a personal touch aside from just an extremely verbose style)
Listening to: Take This to Heart- Mayday Parade
And I still have an english paper to write *sigh*. Just two more big projects to tackle, and school is done. Now if only I could do anything on a grand scale. Hopefully someday soon.