Courtesy, kindness, politeness. Call it what you may, (Google chooses to define it as the showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behavior toward others) these are traits that every human being is expected to exhibit to differing degrees depending on upbringing, time of the month, and various other factors (such as age, gender, and various others that can always result in some random person screaming “_____ist!” while frothing at the mouth at this perceived injustice).
The question that has bothered me for the longest time is this: why? Why do we exhibit kindness. Is it because of an inherent need to display affection and good juju to other human beings?
Heh. Juju. Lots of good juju.
Is it because of the concept of karma? That what goes around must inevitably come back around, thereby biting you in your posterior while spewing forth multiple remixes of Justin Timberlake songs?
I guess at the base of it, the question boils down to this: Are we good because we are good, or are we good because we must be?
Are we born good, with an inherent knowledge of right and wrong, good and bad? Or are we conditioned by our upbringing and our society into forming notions of what is good and what is acceptable in today’s culture?
The knee jerk reaction would be to say yes, we are born good. Humans are here to be the shining examples for other creatures. We are here to love and care for others, while at the same time also displaying an aversion to all things that are not good.
So who determines what is good? How do we know the innate nature of something, whether a particular action is good or bad? It’s easy enough to agree on certain acts. Murder, Rape, Theft, all thee are known universally to be bad. They are frowned upon, as they should be. The confusion arises when you look at acts that are not so clearly defined.
Homosexuality, for example. Good or bad? Depending on where you were born, your faith or any number of factors, your answer would change. This slowly leads us to the conclusion that perhaps what is good or bad is not so much hardwired into our skulls as it is a result of the times and the society that we live and grow up in.
But I digress from the main point.
What is the driving force behind a person’s kindness?
The incident that drove me to consider this question again was a simple one, not very monumental. And yet, the train of thought that my overactive brain followed at the speed of thought
No la, speed of a coconut. Being flung at your head. From behind. By a professional baseball pitcher.
*AHEM* led me to this dilemma. It was the simple gesture of a man giving up his seat to an elderly woman.
She didn’t immediately castrate him where he stood for daring to suggest that she might not be able to support herself. Nor did she huff and puff as though she be royalty and that the very thought of him not giving up his seat to her had not even begun to speculate a hint of even considering crossing her mind.
Nay, she simply accepted this gesture, grateful for the chance to rest her withered legs for the remainder of the journey.
“But Ganesh,” (I here all but 2 of you say, and to those 2 of you I say Well ‘ello chaps!) “Surely it is out of the goodness of his heart alone that the man gave up his seat. Surely he saw this wolrd-weary veteran of life standing up and thought to himself how good she would feel were she able to rest her posterior on the hard plastic (pseudoplastic? Silica? I dunno what those things are made of) and hibernate her legs for a while.”
Ah, but the rest of you know me not, for I am cynicism in human form!
By the way, I dunno if any of you guys noticed, but this dude here (and, by extension, me) be prone to exaggeration.
The way Indians are prone to slightly cheap behaviour. SLIGHTLY.
Let me again pre-empt the flood of comments and hate speech you are forming in your brain right now, by saying that I use these stereotypes precisely because they are that. Stereotypes. Some are ridiculous (Hey, we are not smelly. Not often, anyway. You try having this much hair and working in the sun the whole day without smelling like you just helped clean up seal vomit. We can smell pretty damn good. True story.) while some border on the downright psychotic (All Chinese people look the same? Where the hell did that come from? Come to think of it, almost all races say it about all other races. Bugger off, you guys.) but they share one thing in common. They all have SOME basis of truth. We all look alike, because we share majority of our DNA with each other. That’s what a stereotype is. Hence if I make fun of these stereotypes, which I already have and will, inevitably some person somewhere will bristle in anger. To this person I say: Chill out, bro. And please, brush your bristles down. Pantene shampoo that shit.
Back to my cynical rebuttal to the few of you who still believe in human goodness. “What if,” I say haughtily, looking down at you from atop my high ivory tower built with naught but the snobbish droppings of men like Donald Trump and Ian Bernardo (a hilarious video, must watch), “What if it was not out of the goodness of their own heart but rather the fear inculcated within due to the popularity of online sites like STOMP, that people have become kind? Not because the lady is old and would like to sit, but rather because if they don’t give up the seat then douchebags who consider themselves champions of justice against minor misdemeanours might snap a few photos and post it online?”
I’ve mentioned STOMP before. And it leads to a big problem. That of kindness being carried out, not out of an inherent desire to do so, but out of fear of the repercussions. This can of course, lead to a larger argument about society itself. But I’m not sure I want to open up that can of worms just yet.
I say that if you want to be kind, to not get on STOMP, fine. It’s not a bad thing, nobody wants to be ostracised. But then don’t claim credit for it. Don’t claim you’re a nice person or agree when people say you are. What you are, is adept at avoiding villainisation (is that even a word? My spell check says no, but my brain says screw you, spellcheck. … Brain wins.)
I’ll say it right now. If I see a woman on the train, who looks like she’d like to sit down. I’ll give up my seat. Because it’s the decent thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say I’m a good person. Far from it. If I’m tired, or if I was laden the way I was yesterday, with a big ass bag ON TOP OF a piece of luggage. Then I’ll find the first seat, which isn’t reserved. And plop my butt on it. All the way. Regardless of the makeup of the other passengers. I don’t care. I’m tired, and carrying a heavy burden. I should be allowed to sit. I don’t care that I’m young, and that I should bear my burden. The opportunity arises, I’ll take it.
Having sufficiently alienated myself from about half of you, I shall proceed to end this post on this note:
By far my lamest ending ever, although I did finish this post in the midst of my second lecture of the year. Oh man, this is SO BORING. And yet necessary. Literally half the lecture theatre is sleeping. Even the lights didn’t want to wake up, all dim and shit.