I’m not entirely sure why humans insist on trying to keep up the “normal” under our current situation.
I got a call from my 2nd son’s teacher on Friday telling me that he is behind on his schoolwork. He’s the kid who is never behind, never late, always A’s, always a good student. The teacher had the audacity to say, “I don’t understand why.”
Seriously? You don’t understand why? His entire life has been upended and you don’t get why he’s behind on his schoolwork?*
But this is how we always act toward people who are suffering. Someone die in your family? OK, you can take one day off. Your kid die? OK, you can take a few days off. But then we expect you back and acting like you did before it happened.
People are so weird that way. Because when it happens to them, usually, they want special help.
Take the situation at my school. A year and a half ago I had a mental breakdown. My school said, “Here, fill out all this paperwork and have a doctor sign it, then maybe we’ll let you off with a W instead of an F.” I could get no further help from the school, though two of my professors tried. Now, they have this short form you can fill out that will allow you to drop any class for just being too stressed out by Covid. And you won’t even get a W, you’ll get some special mark that will not show up on the transcript.
Suddenly, people who find school too stressful get to slide, but those of us who found it too much before? Who cares.
We are raised to attack the weak. Our policies and rules are created to punish those who are weak, like my school’s drop policy.
There are opposing views as to why this is. I read in a lot of psychology books that it is because we hate our own weakness so we attack it in others. But who taught us to hate our own weakness? It is not innate because we can be taught to not hate our weaknesses. We could blame religion, which generally teaches that everyone is out to get you because everyone is born evil.
In my case, I just like to recall that we came from animals and, despite our obvious cognitive evolution beyond that, society has adopted structures that it likes to enforce that enable us to behave like animals instead of the fully sentient beings we are.
For example, there is ample and overwhelming evidence that most mental illnesses and other anti-social behaviors and criminal activities have their roots in child abuse of one form or another. But you can’t get the people who control the society to admit it. Instead, they scream “personal responsibility” from the rooftops, or in the case of the Surgeon General, from the podium.
Personal responsibility is just a code word for “if anything bad happens to you it’s your own damn fault.”
We are in need of a radical shift, the kind that causes upheaval and overthrow of the current system. As with all other systemic issues, legislation can begin to help, it can make people aware of the problem. As it stands right now, though, it is never going to happen.
Homo sapiens sapiens has great potential, but collectively we would rather drive our entire species to extinction rather than show kindness and compassion.
*My son has been diagnosed with Autism and has a 504. The teacher said a lot of other things that showed he really doesn’t get it at all, like, “by now he should be able to ask for help from his teachers.”