Have we lost our sense of community? Did it ever really exist?
Perhaps I need to give this statement some context, earlier this week I read a news article and was dismayed by the actions of banks, liquidators and lawyers. In the same paper was an article about a group of real estate agents, developers and a lending institution who weaved a web to trap unsuspecting investors. Today I read about students behaving badly at a Sydney University College.
I wonder if there is a macabre connection; will the students who found it acceptable to intimidate and bully their fellow dorm-mates today become the financiers, and business executives who intimidate and bully their fellow workers tomorrow. Where does it start and importantly, when does it stop.
These articles are painful to read. I keep thinking about the unnecessary hardship and shattered lives that result from one person (or company) taking advantage over another. Where is the love? Where is the sense of personal and social responsibility? We are not playing a game, yet it seems the spirit of competition and winning at all costs offers some sort of acceptability to the exploitation of the weak or unwary. When did it become acceptable to leap on top of the person in front of you, to use their frame to catapult yours. When did become reasonable to crush the person beneath you because all that matters is being on top and fulfilling your responsibilities. When did it become common to ‘blame the victim’, claiming it was their fault for standing still; after all, if they had been quick enough, or strong enough, they could have moved out of the way – or else, jumped on you.
In a somewhat paradoxical twist, I am also reading Game of Thrones; a reality fantasy of feudal realms. Many of these chapters are also difficult to read; they explore the worst traits of humanity then juxtapose them with innocence and compassion. It makes for compelling drama, drawing the reader into the machinations of political intrigue and a quest for power. Ironically each contentious king (and Queen) believes their cause is just – I wonder if these are the thoughts that haunt the dreams of modern day usurpers.
You may question why I am writing about this. To answer, I would like to share a brief story. Earlier this year while exploring the issue of racism within the novel To Kill A Mockingbird I asked my class, “what would you do if one of your mates tripped over in front of you.”
“Laugh” they responded.
Slightly perturbed I asked, “then what would you do, would you offer help”.
The response was shocking. “No”.
I realised these students were stuck in a ‘character trap’, forced to play the role they believed they were expected to play – and compassionate behaviour was not part of the story. This is where I believe we, as a society, let our kids down . We need to support young people. We need to help teenagers feel as though they are part of a community and we need to help them develop a clear sense of who they are. Perhaps then they could build enough self confidence to stand on their own feet, rather than needing to knock someone else.
What can you do to help?
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