Why are there not more simple acts of kindness by ordinary working people?
Why should Corbyn-like idealists live puritan lives in an effort for the greater good, whilst the greater mass of the population think nothing of commuting to work in a car every day, and flying multiple times a year, buying bottled water, wrapping food in clingfilm, using disposable nappies, buying new clothes every weekend, and all the other tiny flippant acts that create the waste of the world?
Both groups infuriate the other, the do-gooders are silently raging at your wasteful lifestyle, and you’re furious at their judgemental high standards, yet nobody changes, and nothing gets any better.
Society could be built on kindness. On listening. On excellence. Listening to ordinary people and experts too.
Why do we have arbitrary choice between caring devotedly, and not caring at all?
It’s far easier to do nothing, and it makes sense, given how impossible the scale of change that is needed in this country.
I don’t stop for every homeless person, I don’t donate to all the charities, I don’t volunteer with my community. The scale of need is too huge.
I’ve tried to volunteer with my community a few times. Once, curious, I went to a community event, entirely on my own.
The people there were friendly, welcoming, informed about social justice. They were also free on a Tuesday afternoon, to sit around talking with strangers for a few hours.
They have the gift of security and time, and I hate them for it.
Right now I don’t “have” time. Most of my “free time” is used to restore myself before I do more work. And my work isn’t even physically demanding; I’m lucky enough to be in an office. I’m overwhelmingly privileged compared to working an unpredictable shift rota. I can access internet during my work hours, drink cups of tea, chat and sit down.
No one has energy left over to care with.
We don’t want to give away our precious energy to fusty old charity shops and half-hearted litter picks. Fragile people living on the streets aren’t fixed by us throwing them a fiver or a sandwich, but they aren’t fixed by our averted gazes either.
We can’t all stop consuming. We’re workers, and we’re consumers. It’s how our lives are designed. There’s no time to relax, or grow our own food, or get to know our neighbours. We have to spend all our time working.
We’re funneled into a narrow range of experience, then kept there by exhaustion.
If you’re privileged enough to have your health, high-paid employment, good education, supportive family, you might just escape before you’re 70, if you live that long.
If you can escape, who can blame you for basking in the pleasure of retired or stay-at-home life? Life is meant to be lived on a natural pace, not chopped into punishing shift-schedules or grueling nine-to-fives.
If you’re extremely lucky, you might even one day be able to relax your grip on your precious energy to become a caring part of your community.
But even then, you’d be funneled into small, non-challenging acts of kindness. Helping to run a knitting group, or an information phone-line, or an activity club. These trivial, (although helpful) activities would inhale your time, and still wouldn’t scratch the surface.
All the knitting groups in the world wouldn’t change that the majority of human energy is devoted the opposite way, taking parents away from children, people away from nature, joy away from life.
Charitable efforts are part of only a tiny fraction of human activity devoted to kindness and hope. Which raises my eternal question…
What is the rest of our activity getting devoted to, and why?
More Like This:
- Philosophy is Making A Meme-Based Comeback
- Real Life Is Boring But Precious: Why Not Everyone Can Be An Idealist
- “The Greta Thunberg Divide” – Bonus Poem
- How deep are your ethics?
Thanks for reading. This blog is a labour of love. I post once a week, so please consider subscribing via email for updates. I appreciate any support and feedback. Thank you.