Islands…

Image: Pixabay

Over the past few days, social media has been awash with disgust at the note left on an ambulance window when the paramedics had been called to a dying man. It was a critical and time sensitive occasion and the patient died later in hospital. The man who had left the note, which read ‘you may be saving lives, but don’t park your van in a stupid place and block my drive’, has since called his own behaviour ‘monstrous’.

I am not going to join the viral chorus of blame and repugnance for this act. It may be an isolated incident, but I think it is symptomatic of something our world now suffers from on a much wider scale. The culture of ‘me’.

This is not about individuals, rather it is the baseline of Western society. People, as individuals, still care, still go out of their way to help others, still embrace family and friendship. But, we have crafted for ourselves a wider society of entitlement in which we are encouraged to believe that we come first.

Survival of the fittest has not disappeared from humankind’s evolutionary path, it has just been redefined. Our ‘fitness’, once a purely physical quality required for survival, is now measured by what we own or the position we hold on the socio-economic ladder and we are encouraged to fight tooth and claw for that place in many arenas, from school to the workplace and beyond. We compete not to be the best we can be, but to be seen to be the best.

At some point along the way, we have lost our connection to that sense of community that shares its efforts for a greater good than its own. Not completely… it is still there. It only takes a crisis, or a cause that touches our hearts, to remind us of how to pull together. I have witnessed that myself, here on these pages, on more than one occasion. For instance, when my son decided to ride in the triathlon and you raised £3000 in sponsorship for charity…and in doing so, changed his life, giving him the confidence to go on to new and exciting things.

But, on a day-to-day basis, while life is plodding along, we are not so good. The advent of entertainment technology has us all staring at screens most evenings, either watching TV or doing whatever it is that draws us to a computer. We seldom gather together in the way we once did. We are losing the art of conversation and, critically, of listening to each other. Neighbours often do not know each other, other than to nod in the street. Any delay, at a supermarket checkout or in a queue of traffic, is a personal affront and time is our enemy, so those few minutes ‘wasted’ are resented.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

John Donne

These lines were penned in 1624 by the metaphysical poet, John Donne in his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions.  The idea of the interconnectedness of all things is probably more widespread now than at any other time in our history. We understand, at least in part, how dependant we are upon a functioning ecology. The storm-creating butterfly of Chaos Theory has become a byword and quantum entanglement posits a connection between particles light years apart.

We know that for our world, even our universe, to function correctly, every thing we know is dependant upon its interaction with something else. Yet we are failing to apply that to ourselves and are consequently isolating ourselves from each other.

There is no mysterious ‘they’ who can be blamed… even our governments are freely elected… and there is a cut-off point where a society’s decadence decays beyond repair. Any society creates the ‘rules’ for the behaviour of its people. But a society is created by the behaviour of its people… and that means that not only are its faults our own, but that any change we wish to see begins with us. It should not be beyond our capabilities to turn ‘me’ into ‘we’.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She has written a number of books, both alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com
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63 Responses to Islands…

  1. It’s funny because Garry and I had this conversation this evening. We were talking about women and how so many men who weren’t gropers failed to do or say anything. And Garry said that he always thought he was being diplomatic, but maybe he was wrong and should have done more. I said I thought it is a weird kind of laziness, that people don’t want to be bothered dealing with others. They dress as if they don’t care and they act like they don’t care — and then you get a leader like Trump and he says to everyone “Hey, it’s okay to have no empathy … you can be a selfish, racist idiot and it’s just fine.” He has given permission to a whole mass of people to behave badly.

    But on another level I wonder if what we are seeing is what was always there, but now with some very bad leaders and a technological lethargy, people are just showing how it has been all along.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I think both sides of the spectrum have always been there… but I wonder how much the balance has shifted between cooperation and empathy, to disconnection and ‘island vision’?

      Like

  2. You are you preaching to MY choir here, Sue – and so very well. There are over 7 billion people on the planet – many of whom have so little, and even less opportunity to pull themselves up by their bootstraps on levels we in first world countries take for granted as BASICS.

    The need is SO great I believe we numb out to it – in other words, since most of us feel impotent to make a BIG difference, we don’t take the time to do what “little” we can.

    How do we impact that? That IS the question.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. barbtaub says:

    This might make me hopelessly Pollyana, but I’m choosing to think of this in a different way. Yes, there is and possibly always has been callous, indifferent, self-centered behaviors. But that’s not what’s going on here. This is a repugnant thoughtless act by one person, but it has resulted in a viral condemnation. People across the globe have taken the time to express their indignation and disgust.

    I think instead that turning from silently bemoaning such appalling behavior to taking action for change is like turning the cruise ship. It might take time, but the results are inexorable. Just as the outpouring of accusations from victims of sexual harassment are toppling perpetrators from their smug entitlement, I think that there really ARE good people out there and eventually they will be on board with righting a number of wrongs. That’s the only way it ever HAS been done. They’re the reason that so much charitable donation happens across the need spectrum. Across the UK even the tiniest village has a charity shop. Across the US, charitable giving over the past five-year average remains at an all-time high. Is it enough? Of course not. Does it excuse ongoing atrocities, victimisation, or just plain obnoxious behavior? Not at all. But it does encourage me to believe that there is more good than evil out there and that, eventually, our cruise ship will turn back on course. The Charitable Aid Foundation’s annual report on worldwide giving might be an example. While this year’s numbers are slightly lower, overall the rates are holding steady or increasing over the past five years in the top twenty nations. In the USA, for example, over 76% report that they have provided help to a stranger. In the UK, over 71% of people donated money to charitable efforts. And in Canada, over 41% of people volunteered their time to charitable causes.

    These people are all out there, and they could prove to be a force for change. At least, I hope so.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I agree with you, Barb, that there are more good than indifferent individuals out there, but the society we have made for ourselves seems to discourage working together for anything other than profit. Humanity has built that cruise ship and is stuck out there on the ocean. Like you, I hope we are slowly turning it around.
      Ultimately, I have faith in the human ability to learn, grow and heal… the timescales for such evolution are vast, but it has to begin somewhere. The choice between isolating ourselves or those small acts of kindness and compassion is not a bad place to start.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was appalled at this note as were so many others, even before it had been announced that the patient had died.
    The guy who wrote it may be feeling remorse, but he cannot retract his actions. If it does act as a wakeup call to how selfish and self centred we have become as human beings then so be it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well said Sue. I don’t think Barbara is being Pollyanna either. We choose where we put our energy and all the energy that went into the outpouring on social media just fuels the dis-connect. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jenanita01 says:

    There is still a degree of caring, compassion and respect abroad in the world, but it is becoming as rare as hens teeth. I wonder about these people who object so strongly, do they ever show compassion in the same degree?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yesterday I’ve made my weekly shopping tour. I carried my big shopping venture with me, and stuffed it at the discounter shop it with all the goods I would need for the next handful of days. On the stop of the tramway where I had go get out I had difficulties to move the heavy shopping venture over the gap of about thirty centimeters between the exit and the curbside. A middle-aged man who wanted to get out too gave me very angry looks while he watched me struggling with my heavy load. If he would have given me a little help I would have been out much more faster, and he would have been leaving the tramway sooner. But he stood nervous tapping with his food…
    I often watched during the last years that egoism, impatience and insensitivity have been growing frightening fast…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      Yes, it takes so little to help another…and in doing so, help ourselves too. We rush around so much, though, that we seem to have overlooked that bit of common sense and common decency.

      Like

  8. macjam47 says:

    The “me world” is downright discouraging. What happened to putting others first, showing compassion, and helping others out to be rewarded only by knowing you made a difference? It’s a sad statement for our world.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. In an age where technology allows us to interact on a global basis, it seems we are becoming more isolated all the time. Interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue Vincent says:

      Technology is, as are all good things, a double edged sword. We are the wielder of the balde, though… it does not dictate what we must do…our own choices are allowing it to isolate when it can as easily break down barriers and bring us together.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. bobcabkings says:

    I read this and think of a song, “People Used To” by Donovan:

    “People Used To”

    People used to get together round a fire
    Fishes were cooked, songs were sung
    Moonlight used to guide our way home in the dark
    Do you find it hard remembering?

    And still you people tell me life is easy to get on with
    But what I’ve got so far’s enough to get along with
    People tell me that it’s so oh – oh
    I don’t know anymore, I don’t know

    People used to get together round a problem
    Eyes were looked at tongues were true
    People used to stop and say how do you do
    Do you find it hard remembering?

    And still you people tell me life is easy to get on with
    But what I’ve got so far’s enough to get along with
    People tell me that it’s so oh – oh
    I don’t know anymore, I don’t know

    People used to spend an hour making tea
    Easy easy was the rule
    People used to pause to think and contemplate
    He who hurried was the fool

    And still you people tell me life is easy to get on with
    But what I’ve got so far’s enough to get along with
    People tell me that it’s so oh – oh
    I don’t know anymore, I don’t know

    Liked by 1 person

  11. bobcabkings says:

    Reblogged this on cabbagesandkings524 and commented:
    Sue Vincent writes on “Me” versus “We”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Islands…#SueVincent | Not Tomatoes

  13. An important post, Sue, and much-needed words to embrace the interdependence of community. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jennie says:

    Never underestimate the poor behavior… I think you can finish this sentence. Thank you for this post, Sue.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. We do seem to have become more entitled and appear to have little empathy for others, but the outrage that so many showed at this man’s selfish outburst shows at least that some people do still understand the meaning of community.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. paulandruss says:

    Well said Sue. there is NO ‘mysterious’ they to be blamed. There is only us. All of us!

    Like

  17. Eliza Waters says:

    Hear, hear. Well put, Sue.

    Like

  18. dgkaye says:

    I am with you 1000% Things are out of control. And the advent of technical communications is surely causing traffic jams, accidents, and a serious lack of human interaction. It’s really sad 😦 ❤

    Like

  19. Adele Marie says:

    That should be a banner, “Any change to society must start with yourselves.” It’s a poignant lesson that unless learned sees the situation becoming worse. Unless of course there is a backlash. Was it Karl Marx who said, “The revolution will not be televised.” xxx

    Like

  20. You make some really good points here, Sue. Nothing ever really changes, does it?

    Like

    • Sue Vincent says:

      Globally? Perhaps things only wear a different face but the essence of the problems remain until we can learn to grow through them. Individually, though, we can all create change and those small changes do have a cumulative effect.

      Like

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