• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Wednesday, November 02, 2005


    ...that's what's missing these days. When you look at all the ills of society, they all distill down to this--decency.

    It is not the color of your skin, or the faith that you adhere to. It is not the state or country that you live in or the school you support. It is not the political party you vote with or company you work for. All problems are ultimately rooted in the lack of decency.

    Take, for example, race relations. Undeniably, and with good excuse, race relations in the United States are still strained. After 300 years of slavery and 150 years of state-sanctioned persecution, can you blame anyone? Things have made great strides since 1965, and the people who have effected this change should be commended. Hence my post on Rosa Parks.

    But if people were truly decent, we would not have these problems. True decency envelopes the utmost respect and esteem for other people, religions, faiths, and creeds. Decency does not require belief. It does not require adopting the ways of another. In America, we like to sum it up as "agreeing to disagree." Yet I think it's more than that.

    Decency is doing the little things with humility because you truly love others. Two Republican and Democrat senators campaigning against each other could embody this virtue if they stayed away from arguing through use of slander and muckracking. Instead, both could praise the good qualities of the opponent, humbly acknowledge that they feel different in the best way to solve a problem, and outline their opposing views. Such harmony results in bonds of strength between people who might possibly be polar opposites.

    Unfortunately, Americans are rapidly losing decency. Nobody is perfect, I don't expect anyone to achieve perfect decency, and I understand that some are much closer to perfection than others. However, as a whole the American people are falling farther away from the ideal. This is seen in the little things--those things people do without fear or expectation of a consequence.

    Today, while trying to park at work, I began to turn into a parking lot. I work at a university, and students were streaming up from their apartments towards campus ... and walking through this parking lot. I slowed to an idle, in order to let those students in front of me pass unmolested. Then, to my dismay, the stream of students kept coming. One after another they cut in front of my car, walking at a leisurely pace, some looking directly into my eyes as they passed. I slowly inched forward, knowing that each pedestrian could easily pass behind my car (as I was the only car) and arrive at the point across the entrance to the parking lot in exactly the same amount of time. Yet they did not.

    After I parked (finally), I walked up from the lot to my laboratory, and watched students as they went to class. Two cars started up a road by my laboratory, and stopped at a crosswalk as a group of four students and I were in the middle of the crosswalk by then. When I reached the other side, I looked back, and saw again to my dismay, that another group of five or six students who were not in the crosswalk when I was in it, jumped out into the street, forcing the two cars to wait.

    How decent it would have been of these students to wait 1-2 seconds for the two cars to pass the crosswalk and then continue onwards? Such lack of decency is not confined to pedestrians. It happens all over America, in the big as well as the little things.

    Perhaps it is the individualism of Americans. We are raised to prize the individual and consider it paramount, and yet we seem to forget that this world is made up of 6 billion individuals who are all paramount. By extrapolation that makes the collective good paramount. Perhaps we must think about it as the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, in The Sun is My Heart, when he says,
    “The presence of one cell in the body implies the presence of all the others, since they cannot exist independently, separate of the others. A Vietnamese Zen master once said, 'If this speck of dust did not exist, the entire universe could not exist.' Looking at a speck of dust, an awakened person sees the universe.”
    I hope we may all see that the importance of the individual is tied into the importance of others, so that we will be more decent to others around us who join in the creation of the universe.

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