Sunday, February 12, 2017

HUMAN DECENCY: IS IT A FADING PICTURE?

Human Decency has been described as:  Being polite, courteous, civil, thoughtful, and using tact and diplomacy when with others, thus treating them as you wish to be treated.

It doesn't seem that challenging to behave with human decency.  And yet, I see exhibitions of polar opposite behavior almost every day.  In fact, it seems to be a contagion that has society gripped in its jaws and is spreading its poison, bite by bite, with alarming speed.  Almost every time I visit Facebook, check my text messages or use mobile apps such as Line or WhatsApp, I am confronted, or to be more precise "affronted" with crude, rude and downright insulting photo or video posts about other people.  YouTube is also a frenzied outlet for this kind of image bullying.

There seems to be an insatiable appetite for derogatory photo or video posts.  It's startling to me that these mean-hearted posts are being created and/or shared with such vigor.  Everywhere you look, there are photos or videos of people (of celebrities, strangers or even friends) being posted followed by derogatory remarks about their bodies, either too fat or too skinny, their facial features, choices of dress, makeup (or lack of) or hairstyles.  Physical appearance is superficial in that it only represents a very small fragment of an individual.  There are a myriad of traits that make one person different from another, and physicality is one of the tiniest and least important among them.  Would you rather spend an afternoon with a person whom you find to be physically ugly but who is an intelligent, engaging, uplifting, fascinating world traveler - or - a physically beautiful  person who is boring, lifeless, negative and demeaning?  I think most of us would choose the former in a heartbeat.  

Yet these visuals, along with their disparaging comments, continue to populate every crevice of society via social networking and in almost every form of media.  Here's an example, which I witnessed just today:  A photo of actor Rosie O'Donnell was posted on someone's Facebook page.  Judging from the comment with which it was posted, which literally invited his friends to laugh about it, it was clearly meant to be insulting.  The photo inviting ridicule was taken from O'Donnell's own Twitter page, and though  completely irrelevant in making my case that this posting reflected no human decency, was the image of a woman with a rather masculine hair and clothing style with a frown and who was wearing little or no makeup.  

My first reaction was:  "I don't get it.  What's there to laugh at?"  I then read the comments posted below it, and there was a flood of negative commentary, including comments about her wrinkles, sexual orientation, bags under her eyes and one that suggested that "blackheads" would have made it even funnier.  When I see posts like this and their abusive commentary, I feel such sadness.  I can well imagine how painful these insults are for the victim, O'Donnell, when she sees posts like this.  It doesn't matter if the person is a celebrity or someone you know.  This is wrong.  And everybody knows it. 

I was raised to be kind to others.  And I was bullied as a child, so perhaps, I am more empathetic toward victims of bullying.  I am especially disheartened and shocked when this bullying is spearheaded by someone I like and respect, as was the case in that Facebook posting.  

Photos and videos of Walmart customers seem to be an especially favored subject.  We've all seen a multitude of  photos of overweight women and men wearing tight leggings, shorts, low-cut shirts or slippers standing at the check-out line.  Somebody snaps a photo or video of them on the sly -- which, in itself, is such a gross infringement on someone's privacy -- and then proceeds to share it across the globe via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Line, Instagram, etc., and sometimes all the above.  What results is insta-pain for the person being insulted.  Does anyone stop and think:  What if that was my friend, my brother, my sister, me?  Would I be cool with that?  Most of us would answer:  Most definitely not!  Would I teach my children to behave that way?  Again, most of us would agree that is not the kind of activity we would want our children to engage in or even comment on.  

I find myself asking why bullies do it.  All I can guess is its for a laugh or for attention or to gain the affection of others in attempt to make them laugh.  That makes me sad for them.  It could also be to raise themselves by comparison.  Many of us suffer from low self-esteem, but inflicting abuse on others or about others is like a two-sided arrow.  It hurts the other person, your target, as well as yourself.  I have to believe that these bullies live with at least a twinge of regret or even remorse for causing another person that pain or for not behaving in a mature, kind-hearted way.  And yes, it's possible that these online insults never reach the victims (subject of the photo or video), but maybe they do.  Once struck, that kind of pain takes years, if not a lifetime, to recover from. Imagine how you would feel if you were publicly abased.  Yes, that arrow strikes twice.  In addition to that, witnesses to such insults will always wonder if they, your friends, will become a victim of your "light-hearted" abuse someday.  It doesn't exactly engender trust among friends or seal a burgeoning friendship with lasting glue.

All I can hope at the end of the day is that the vast majority of us do NOT behave in this way, nor encourage others to do so by providing any attention or commentary when they see it.  And in my wildest dreams, I pray that a decent fraction of society has the courage to speak out against it when they see photo/video bullying.  Take a stand.  

What do I plan to do, personally, about this ongoing exhibition of human indecency?  Besides writing posts like this one, which calls out bullies, I intend to change my past response of saying nothing to something like this:  Ugliness comes in many forms, and the most offensive is insulting others.

I admit that my blog post might offend someone.  But I'm willing to take that risk for a higher purpose. And maybe part of me even hopes that I have offended some offenders with my honesty today.  Maybe it will make someone think twice before they laugh and point at the next poor victim.