21 May Conformity………3 ; Individuality………0
… it’s the 84th minute, not even Sir Alex himself can stop Conformity (aka the Cons) from winning now. The score was 1 – 0 in the 80th minute; Individuality (the Indies) were still in the game. Then it happened, the Cons used their trump card to devastating effect. They brought on their new signing from PC United, Socio (dos metros) Distancio and he looks prolific; he truly changed the game. He scored after one minute of coming on and just scored again making it 3 0. Can the Indies mount a miraculous comeback? … Let’s press the pause button for a minute, we’ll get back to the game later.
I hope you can forgive the slight change of direction this week. I wanted to take a mini break from focussing purely on all things relationships. Perhaps that’s not such a bad idea; for one thing, how many times and in how many ways can you say “DON’T SELL OUT”? However, if you’ve been enjoying the deluge of aspects from which this message has been portrayed, fret not, this is just a momentary break followed by a swift return to our favourite topic. Even in this piece, I’m sure that if you look carefully, you will find the ‘R’ theme lurking somewhere behind the scenes.
The reason for choosing to go off on a slight tangent was born from a couple of incidents that happened this past week. The first took place at my local HSBC bank and the second arose during a conversation with some family and friends (don’t panic, those of us that did not live under the same roof were two meters apart. In fact, our recently installed government provided distance measuring phone apps that emit a mild but effective electric shock if we go below 2m showed that 2.3m was the closest we got to those that don’t live with us – I may be using something called sarcasm here, I hope this will not also be added to the list of all things politically incorrect).
I had to do a bank transaction which could not be performed online and after a quick chat on the HSBC website with Christina (probably Harvinder in real life), I was told that I needed to visit a branch to complete my transaction. She/he proceeded to kindly check where is the nearest open branch and if it will be open long enough for me to get there that same day, which it was (Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London, look out for her). Upon entering, I noticed I was the only one there apart from her, standing behind the teller window. I’ve been to that branch many times and there’s always a queue. I have never put less than 30 minutes in the parking meter in anticipation of some waiting time.
As I approached the window, I noticed that the lack of queue generated a small but noticeable smile on my face; I did not know it yet, however this was something that must have annoyed the teller (I will only refer to the teller as her from now on). My feeling was that her must have been quite bored so perhaps it would be good to say a word or two to humanise things. On a tangent within the tangent, I have, and have always had, an issue with non-personal functional contact; I really don’t know why. If there are any therapists out there who can shed light on this, please feel free to get in touch. To me, it seems that since we’ve been gifted this thing called ‘brain’, and since each of us possesses a unique one with an unlimited ability to colour and personalise all aspects of our lives, from the mundane to the extraordinary, the least we can do is use it. It feels lazy, defeatist, even soviet-like if not just plain rude to ignore a fellow human with whom we happen to be interacting.
Flushed with these thoughts, I proceeded to say “What! no queue? I get to talk to you immediately? I suppose that’s one plus we got from Corona”. Granted, it’s not a line so hilarious that it would easily fit into a Bill Hicks routine but I didn’t find it to be leaning towards the inappropriate. Her response was, and I quote, “well it may be something that you find amusing sir, but we are only supposed to be serving the vulnerable or emergencies so I’m afraid I may have to ask you to leave and come back when it is safe to do so”.
I would like to carry out a survey. If you are thinking, “listen buddy, a time and a place, what if she was having a bad day, what if a relative of hers is ill, what if she was worried about her job, what if……”, raise your hand now. See, therein lies the very issue that is the essence of this article. The assumption here is that there is a high probability that my lot is better than hers; that maybe I’m having a relatively issue free day, week, life, and in contrast, hers maybe less so. Bearing this in mind, the ‘correct’ and socially acceptable choice of behaviour is to assume the other might be having a bad day therefore one is to refrain from light-hearted trivialities that, if badly timed, may cause some form of pain or offence. Given this assumption, you can understand, and somewhat justify, the reason for her reply. Can you see that this conclusion can only be derived from that assumption?
My question is this: why is the world obsessed with starting from an assumption that is misery inclined? There are literally tens of other assumption genres from which to choose that would make it not just acceptable, but even kind to try and be light-hearted – always.
To those very same people who veered towards understanding where she came from, I would like to tell you this. I had the coronavirus for three weeks where my temperature remained between 39.5 °C and 40 °C. I had the mother of all headaches, sweats and sleepless nights…etc. My sixteen year old daughter also caught it, probably from me, or it was the other way, no one knows. She did not have it for long but definitely had it worse. One day, all of a sudden, she stopped breathing, her face tuned white, her eyes rolled to the back of her head and her lips turned dark blue. Needless to say, this was probably the scariest moment of my life. We called an ambulance, they asked us to immediately give her a Ventolin inhaler if we had it, which we luckily did. This turned her breathing from zero to gasping. At that moment, we were eternally grateful for ‘gasping’. The ambulance arrived in less than five minutes, they were wonderful; they helped her calm down, took her to a hospital and, four hours later, she was back home; she’s been fine ever since. We have all had a bit of a wakeup call and a refocus on what is truly valuable in life; ironically, this has somehow made us become far more upbeat.
The point of me telling you all this is to redo the survey. How many of you still think that I was wrong to try and be light-hearted with her? How many instead now have a starting assumption that sounds something like: there really is no point in being miserable. We need to be far more thankful for our good health, our way of life and the many blessings we have. Therefore, yes, of course we should try and look at each other and really see one another, not just see through one another in order to get to where we want. A little hello, how are you, perhaps even a smile or an observation to lighten the day and make the interaction more human and less functional will go a long way to enhancing kindness and all its byproducts. If some of you have switched to this way of thinking, I really don’t get you… Why do you need my daughter to nearly die for you to see this?
The definition of kindness is NOT to feel sorry for, or try and help the, less fortunate or those who’ve suffered. If you see a beggar, you are not being kind if you just give but think there is no way you would have ended up like that. Kindness is about seeing the less fortunate as equals. We must look at that beggar and think “this could very easily have been me if my parents’ sperm, egg, energetic wavelength cocktail switched with that beggar’s”. Even more importantly, kindness is about seeing those in a better place as equals. One of the best lines I have ever read is this by Oscar Wilde: “Anybody can sympathise with the suffering of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature – it requires, in fact, the nature of a true individualist – to sympathise with a friend’s success”.
Let’s say you come across someone jolly when you’re having a bad day, feeling the urge to wipe their smile off their face is the very definition of cruelty. Why not, instead, see them as an equal? Get infected by that joy or at least allow it to remind you of a joyous moment. If you cannot do that, it means you have spent your whole life hiding in the shadows of others. Some people find it easy, in fact it’s second nature for them to be happy, to be light hearted, to, dare I say it, be funny; perhaps a part of you wishes you could do the same. You may show appreciation of this sprightliness in their presence, but once out of sight, you can’t wait to find something, some way of putting them down to exhale and feel a bit better about your own inability to neither easily feel joy nor provide it. What a waste of energy. If only you can use this energy to lift that dark veil with which you have surrounded your heart; a veil that you mistakenly think is the very shield, the only shield, that can keep you safe. Once lifted, you may experience the very exhaling liberation you have always sought.
I do not forgive her, I pity her. I hope she will one day realise that you gain ten-fold by welcoming those who are happy as equals. I hope that our current pandemic is not going to be used as the greatest ever aphrodisiac made specifically for those that hate to see happiness and get an orgasm that porn stars can only dream of at the thought of what this pandemic has presented to them: a stick to hit anyone who may jest, smile, cross the line or even dabble with political incorrectness. I hope we won’t lose our uniquely human skill to distinguish between inclusive comical prejudice and evil prejudice. The former clearly states, “I don’t believe in prejudice, but I do see the funny side of it.” The latter shows its true intention which is to reveal a belief in some sort of birth acquired superiority. I hope that our newly increased attention on being safe, verbally and physically, will not kill the former in its attempt to quash the latter. Cheeky is good, comedy that unites is wonderful, comedy and sarcasm that isolates and singles out by ridiculing is not. If I say “Is it true that black men are all well-endowed? I wish I was black”, this cannot be frowned upon the way we now cringe and frown at old Jim Davidson footage. These are all themes that are closely interlinked with the definition of what it means to be kind. When it comes to this point, I hope we will all follow is Oscar’s footsteps.
As for the second incident, the theme is very much the same. I mentioned this sentence in a gathering with friends and family, “I wonder how many people are truly clapping for the NHS and how many are doing it because they don’t want to be negatively judged by their neighbours?” The expressions of disgust that I received from most would probably have not looked out of place in the Nuremberg trials. I hope I don’t need to explain what I think of the NHS. However, can I please ask what happened to us? Why can’t this question even be thought of let alone debated? We truly need to stay alert people. If we’re not careful, we may kill the very thing that makes us, us in our continued search for the perfect one size fits all politically correct world; for there is no such thing, nor should there ever be.
……six minutes plus extra time left. Will it be a fairy tale ending for the Indies, or will the Cons hold on to, what I hope, will be a very unpopular victory? ….. un-pause……