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The Social Condition

Social interaction between citizens of a community is at an all time low. What little interaction there is usually follows the standards of rudeness rather than those of courtesy. As common courtesy sinks further into history, it is quickly becoming a "lost art" or like Latin, a dead language that only a few choose to study, and even fewer choose to apply to their daily lives. We are constantly and ritualistically bombarded by almost every single negative aspect of human nature, behavior and effect that can be discovered with ease, as opposed to the positive consequences. The good in humanity is often discarded and ostracized from the normal routine by any given society, as it paints a picture of what life not only could be, but also should be. When confronted with this picture, most turn away out of personal necessity, out of pure same that they did not help paint that picture themselves.

"Whatever we refuse to let ourselves to, be…we refuse to tolerate in any other living soul." (Hyde, Catharine Ryan, Pay It Forward, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2001)

The number of "good" people that any average person knows can most likely be counted on less than two hands. Along with the forgotten art of common courtesy (manners), these people become increasingly rare, or hidden, as society mandates that everyone should pay attention to only themselves. The average citizen then becomes the definition of negativity, defined by their non-involvement in what could easily turn from a community into a family. A cause definitely worth fighting for, no? Where are the people to fight for such a noble cause? What citizens are willing to stand and make a difference?

"There have been many great men and women involved in causes, to which they gave their energies, resources and support. Those people, however, recognized the importance of their own beings, and added that vitality to causes in which they believed. They did not submerge their individuality to causes. Instead, they asserted their individuality, and became more themselves. They extended their horizons, pushed beyond the conventional mental landscapes - driven by zest and vitality, by curiosity and love, and not by fear." (Roberts, Jane, The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, Amber Allen Publications, San Rafael, CA, 1995)

There are good people out there. I have met quite a few over the years. Often, however, they are but one of a select few who endlessly embody those ideal qualities of humanity. They do this by choice, not by force, as many of them will tell you unequivocally, that they have chosen the hardest road by far. The isolation that they suffer amid the masses usually causes them to teach by example. Unfortunately, their single acts of good faith and common courtesy go all but unheard upon the ears of those who refuse to listen. Endlessly plagued with the knowledge that you can only teach those who want to learn, these ideal people spiral into and out of our societies. This all while the society itself continues to preach the ideal qualities it finds necessary to immortalize in movies and faerie tales. It always tends to oust these individuals out of fear of the truth, which many know but fail to accept. The fact that they too are part of the problems that haunt our communities today.

"Sometimes I think theologians have it backwards. The big problem is not how to explain the existence of evil in this world. It's How to explain the existence of good!" (Lestat, Rice, Anne, Blood Canticle, Knopf, New York, 2003)

It is time now that everyone take a good long look inside themselves, and without shame or anger, understand that man is not inherently sinful or evil, but simply afraid of being such. By eternally dwelling on this negative aspect though, every one of you further contributes, each in your own ways, to the problems that infest our culture.

"Man is of good intent. When you see the evil everywhere in man's intent - in your own actions and those of others - then you set yourself up against your own existence, and that of your kind. You focus upon the gulf between your ideals and your experience, until the gulf is all that is real. You will not see man's good intent, or you will do so ironically - for in comparison with your ideals, good in the world appears to be so minute as to be a mockery.

"To this extent, experience becomes closed. Such people are frightened of themselves, and of the nature of their existence. They may be intelligent or stupid, gifted or mundane, but they are frightened of experiencing themselves as themselves, or of acting according to their own wishes. They help create a dogma or system or cult to which they "fall prey." They expect their leaders to act for them. To a certain extent he soaks up their paranoia, until it becomes an unquenchable force in him, and he is their 'victim' as much as his followers are his 'victims.'" (Roberts, Jane, The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, Amber Allen Publications, San Rafael, CA, 1995)

This all continues in a vicious cycle of apathy and non-involvement until such events occur that cause us to ask "why did this happen?" Then, in answer to this stationary question, we get the same systematic responses all of which neatly avoid placing the blame where it actually belongs. Upon each member of the community involved. It is not television, as it simply reflects our culture. It does not define it. It is not those who do or do not vote, as they all rarely keep up with their constituents and elected officials anyways. It is not the lack of religion, as issues of faith belong to each individual personally, and if left alone are normally addressed through the process of "growing up." It is from the lack of community involvement, in which things like Integrity and Loyalty and Honor cannot be seen in action.

As these arts become further and further lost among the cracks of our increasingly disjointed society, we loose those feelings, which, at first, held us so close together. However, what has become blatantly obvious is that we no loner care for our fellow neighbors, as we are taught to prioritize according to incentive. We only place importance upon those things that will provide us with the most "rewarding" materials. Money, cars, houses, furniture, health insurance. We no longer look out our windows, see the neighbor working in the yard, and venture out with a pitcher of tea to say hello. We much rather complain about all the noise their lawnmower makes and report them to the police if they have too many people over. You can no longer expect to have a polite greeting returned while on the streets, as your intentions will always be questioned, and driving has moved from "safety first" to offensive and defensive. These are all consequences of each individual placing more importance on themselves than their fellow human being, which leads to a secular, separatist and egocentric society. Today people would rather tear each other down rather than expend ten times less energy and build each other up. They would rather find fault and blame out among the masses, rather than take responsibility for their own part in the community.

"Quite talking about great souls and how they should be. Become one yourself!" (Aurelius, Marcus, Meditations)

What I think is needed today is for all of us to come together, first as a community, so that we may be able to share our knowledge and experience to help further improve the quality of life around us. There are those of you who have great souls. There are those of you who know what I am speaking of deep down in your heart. Take those ideals in your hearts and imagine what would happen if you and even four others with the same passion and desire, got together to make a difference. I have seen such communities before, I have been part of such families before. Together, there was nothing that we could not accomplish. Together, we were a force to be reckoned with. As we stood together, on a united front, with common goals, we were hard to ignore. We lived a quality of life much better than that of surrounding communities. This led to people wanting to become part of our community, so that they too may take advantage of this mythical and idealistic way of life. All it took was adherence to simple rules, known today as common courtesy, which include but are not limited to, respect for your neighbor and their life, and the acceptance of the responsibility to treat your neighbor as you would like them to treat you.

"They say that a Hero can save us, I'm not going to stand here and wait." (Nickelback, Hero, Spiderman Soundtrack)

Here is where your part comes in. Here is where you can decide to continue being part of the problem, or you can take a step up, and be an example to the community around you of how life can be, and how absolutely easy it would be if you would all just come together, with the common goal of being better than you are now. I have chosen to think. Will you?

The Smokestacks