There is a certain level of meanness found in groups of people that isn’t found in individuals. If one person goes out and kills a lot of people we are shocked and shaken and we are convinced of evil but if we act on concert to kill a lot of people then it’s a war and patriotic. This is chief among the reasons I am a Hermit. Groups of human beings are at any given moment a loud noise from directional stupidity.
It’s a waste of time, generally, to engage groups of people in an effort to change the way they behave. Some talented individuals have pulled this off in the course of history but many more have been killed for their efforts or led astray by the power that corrupts. I really do not believe Hitler woke up one day and decided to murder ten million people, but he surrounded himself with a group of truly evil people and they all fed on hatred until it just became some sort of momentum that only death could stop. Hitler wasn’t the most evil person who ever lived but he was the first to televise himself and the first to use modern technology as a tool of extermination. What Hitler tried to do to the peoples he considered inferior was the same thing we did to the natives of America, but he did it much more quickly. It is easy to see Hitler as evil because he is just one person, like a serial killer, and it is much harder to see what happened to the natives of America because a country did that to them over a long period of time.
Some are going to take exception to my comparison, but it is historically valid if not emotionally reassuring.
Friday, a friend of mine had dinner with me and she made a remark about another woman and I was shocked at how petty and cruel the comment made was. This was High School clique building at its very worst, and what made me feel even more surreal about it is when I told her what I thought about the comment she just repeated what she said, if that would somehow make it right. I really am at a loss as to why she would say something like this, or why she thought it was funny.
I was tired. That skews perception. I was also running late and I know this irritates her. But at the same time this is a person I view as an intellectual being, someone I respect and admire, and someone who I expect to rise above this sort of behavior. And to make matters worse, I suspect it was intended to have the impression it did. This was her way of punishing me for being late. This was her way of showing me disrespect. And it was extremely petty.
I really do not know what to do. My tried and true method of dealing with such matters is to withdraw. She and I do not share the rapport we once did, this is true, and perhaps I am making too big of a deal of this. I should ignore it and move on. I should just let it go and not bring it up again, right? That’s painless and expedite. Lower my expectations of other people and I won’t have to worry about being disappointed, will I?
But why? Why would she make such a comment? Is it she is approaching at age where she looks back at her career and now wonders if all the effort was worthwhile? I‘ve known people like that and I have seen people who were well respected in their field just sort of fall apart near the end, as if finishing the work they began many years ago would be worse than not. It’s as if suddenly the comfort and security of a steady job is seen as a thief of time and opportunity long since passed. Is this comment some anger driven comment lashed out at a world that doesn’t look the same in retrospect as it did in youth? Now, after all these years of seeing the rise and fall of cliques built on meanness and boredom is there some sort of need, or attraction to this behavior out of ennui?
Yet as Michael Valentine Smith of “Stranger in a Strange Land” finally grokked, this may be nothing more than the human condition. When humans feel slighted in some way some of them find some way to punish other humans for it. Why do you think Hitler was so able to turn an entire country into a war machine? We have been wronged! It is the fault of the Jews! We must go forth and reclaim what is our own! Is this so very different than a woman taking a cheap shot at another woman because she is mad over someone being late? The motives are the same even if the consequences cannot be compared.
I wonder if Speer would have sat Hitler down and said, “Look, you’re mad and frustrated, we all are, but don’t you think we might be able to lower the tone a bit here?” I wonder if that would have made any difference. Surely not, for we want to believe in a Greater Evil, for that means we’re separated from it in our daily lives. The lesser evils we might commit aren’t anywhere near the level of things that have gone on so all we have to do is keep away from that standard and everything will be okay.
Exhaustion has made me bitchy. A stray comment from someone I’ve known for years weighs on me like a stone on my back. Here in the dark, in the hours before dawn, I cannot sleep, could not sleep, even without that remark, but it sits in front of me like a leprous Imp, robbing me of the comfort of what few friends I have.
It is a petty thief, but a sure one.