Friday 12th August 2011
NECK sticking out time, but I shall be 61 next week and don’t give a damn if nobody reading this doesn’t agree with one single word of it. And that’s not an excuse, justification, explanation or deep-seated psychological exoneration of what follows. You can condemn or condone the following content to your heart’s content.
Yesterday, I observed a quite ordinary – but, to me, disturbing – example of contemporary human behaviour.
Liz’s check-out was free. Meanwhile, ten people continued waiting for a self-service machine to become available. Why?
“Have you scared them all off, Liz?”
“Dunno. Maybe I’m using the wrong deodorant.”
Young people particularly, she told me, would rather queue to serve themselves. Many hours can pass before she is spoken to by a teenager.
She held up, meaningfully, a chocolate bar I was purchasing. Apparently they all do it, even middle-class kids. Cheaper for the store to have a few items nicked than employ more staff.
But how many of us, I wonder, can spend whole days not talking to people we don’t already know, avoiding, consciously or not, direct contact with strangers?
And need I mention the park-bench pensioner, who would break bread with children feeding ducks? Not any more. For his own sake and safety, he now stays at home, lonely, numbed, expected to be excited by having a free television licence. Oh, the irony of that device called ‘remote control’.
Cars, cash machines, social media, online shopping, ear-phones and emails. Bubble-wrapped, we are. Xenophobia is no longer confined to the beggar, the yob, the person whose skin is a different colour. It’s everywhere.
Easy as it is to point fingers at greed, envy, and wrath, I believe subtler forces are at work here. We need to get out more, to acknowledge that differences need not be difficulties, and to start looking into each other’s eyes.
In order to begin to mend this ‘broken society’ of ours, we would do well to examine how best to break the chains that are strangling it.