Musings for July 2017

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Do You Live in a Bubble?

This is a true event.

Do You Live in a BubbleI was shopping for a present for my wife when I witnessed the following scenario.

A well-dressed middle-aged man entered the store and walked up to the manager and asked for help choosing a dress for his wife (aren’t we good husbands?) The female manager called over an attractive young woman who looked like a Latina. The manager introduced the young Latina sales person to the middle-aged white man, and when the man heard the young woman’s thick accent, he turned to the manager and said loud enough for all to hear: “I don’t want her helping me.” The young woman’s posture became rigid, and I could see the fire in her eyes. I thought the man would be in for an “in-your-face confrontation,” but instead the young woman bit her tongue and silently moved away without saying anything. I waited for the Manager to react, but she also said nothing and proceeded to help the obnoxious customer. I could almost see a dialogue bubble above the manager’s head, “the customer is always right!” When the manager decided to let the situation go, I thought that someone needed to put that bigot in his place. However, I decided that it was not my place to reprimand the man. As I calmed down, I considered the lack of “social reaction” to an obvious pub;ic affront.

The Bubble Affect-It’s just easier not to get involved

As modern life has become more complex and more time compressed, most of us are becoming much more “tuned out” when scenarios for possible confrontation arise. It’s just easier. Hold your breath and move on and let things blow over. And, indeed, this is a good way to dodge most problems because often it becomes politically incorrect to take a stand on just about anything.  After considering this silent statement, it hit me.

In the past three decades, I have lived eighteen years in the “developing world.” I have witnessed at first hand why these countries remain less developed and most likely will remain that way. And the reason is: because of corruption in politics and the legal system, citizens of those countries have lost all belief and confidence in the society’s values. As a way to cope and survive, most citizens live in self-constructed bubbles made up of friends and family. There is no cohesion among the citizenry. As a result, the corruption and weak concern for the general welfare of the nation are perpetuated. I see those trends very clearly in the USA of today.

Our lives in the developed world are hurried, pressured and full of confusing and divisive social problems. Most of us barely have time…or the interest to become involved with our community or become informed citizens. The only way we can get some control over our own lives is to construct a “bubble world” that will allow us to withdraw from general social activities and concerns and allow us to do the things we wish to do. We have our interactive devices, cable TV, and other non-social activities to keep us company.  This bubble mentality (it used to be called the “bunker mentality”) promotes isolation and a disconnection from the general society, and these are the very same things that many psychologists say are symptomatic of psychopathic behavior. We develop our own code of conduct and priorities, and these may have little to do with the “outside” culture we live in. Indeed, there is no doubt that the general “American Values” seem to have more to do with our personal life than even a smidgen of interest in society in general. This tendency to disconnect from what’s happening “out there” is clearly seen in the decline of the general public code of conduct. Indeed, our current President and seeming lack of representation in our governmental institutions are clear examples of effects of a public disconnect reaching the highest levels. The results of this social apathy are a lack of accountability and a common vision of what is acceptable and expected from other citizens and officials.

So, in our opening story, the insulted saleswoman, the store manager, and the observing citizen let unacceptable human behavior continue unchallenged and perhaps reinforced. This is exactly what one sees in less developed nations; citizens are only engaged in their own lives and care little about their social contract.

Somehow, we the people need to get our act together and break out of our bubbles if we don’t want to go down the road of the less developed countries and a Blade Runner future (dystopic Sci-Fi movie from the 60’s). However, while I state these self- righteous words, I am not so sure I can…or want to… break out of my bubble. Indeed, perhaps many of us are asking if living in a” developed,” modern society is all that it’s cracked up to be.

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