Cultures are not won by the timid

There was a recent study that showed that many of the people who are attracted to gatekeeper jobs, like receptionists, are psychopaths.  That seems a little extreme, but if it’s true, it means we have a lot of psychopaths walking around this country right now, and I’m not just talking about office workers.  Many of us have built walls around our lives.  I think it started with answering machines screening calls, then screening people through social media, and even screening out cashiers by going through the self-checkout at the store.  It has created a situation where our lives are completely insulated.  Every experience is carefully filtered and curated.  Each moment of our day is mapped out to every predictable detail.  There are no surprises if everyone we interact with is a known quantity.  All this makes me wonder if we are paying a hidden price for the lifestyle we have chosen.

We have been in a culture war for a long time.  We fight and fight, but the culture seems to grow colder and colder.  In the public square, life is shamelessly treated as cheap.  Whether it is pro-abortion protesters, Antifa, or warmongers, there seems to be a brazen contempt for humanity.  What if our lack of progress is because we have been ignoring one of the fronts in the war?  What if that’s because we have shielded ourselves from the action?  They say war can be a long, grinding slog.  Winning the culture may be about engaging in the battle on a more granular level.  Not hand-to-hand combat, but heart-to-heart.

We are surrounded by people who need our help, but modern culture has separated us from them.  By help, I’m talking about the kind of personal interaction on a day-to-day basis that keeps civilization from stalling the way ours has now.  If we express concern for the girl sitting on the curb crying, she may ask us for something we are not prepared to give.  Or, if we talk to the neighbor who is struggling with alcohol, people might think we are sanctioning his behavior.  Then there’s the chatty clerk at the store; if we don’t politely cut her off, she might keep us there all day.  After all, we don’t know anything about these people.  If only people were born with a constantly updating resume on their forehead so we could feel comfortable interacting with them, but they are not, so it is too risky.  Therefore, we just stay in our digital forts, write a few checks to organizations, and wait for a cultural renaissance.  The trouble is, there is no such thing as a digital community, no matter what Silicon Valley says.

There is a certain amount of courage that goes along with our responsibilities as adults.  The trouble with bravery is that it often looks like stupidity.  We can’t just “put ourselves out there.”  We might look silly, unprofessional, or vulnerable.  So we stay on the sidelines.  We say we want opportunities, but we forget that inherent in every opportunity is uncertainty.  Changing the world is not for the faint of heart.  We must be brave enough to leave our atomized lives to build communities worth living in.  We can’t join the battle if we never get out of the bunker.  It’s not like we have to face guns and cannons.  We just have to face the ups and downs of dealing with our fellow man, with all the successes and disappointments that go along with these experiences.  But if we do, we can have a culture that cherishes life and makes it more fulfilling for everyone.

Image: Bigstock.

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