Editorial – “What Have We Become”



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More than a year ago, I changed the theme of my blog to be predominantly about poetry, my great love. But I have not lost the desire or need to write in a more editorial fashion. I simply do not use my blog as a venue to share those writings anymore. I am making an exception for today, as a change of pace for my readers and because looking back can be eye-opening at times. I wrote this piece on April 4, 2020 at the onset of the Covid pandemic. Some of the thoughts and feelings I captured then have changed and, sadly, some have not.

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For writers, our words are a catharsis. An opportunity to look at and try to understand our own feelings. In putting our feelings into words, we are able to understand them more clearly and can look for answers to the reasoning behind our emotions. How do we feel? Why do we feel that way? Where does this feeling come from? Is it rational? Is it fantasy? Is it fear?

We are often our own therapists. And with this limited skill and self-centric view, we do the best we can to be true to ourselves and accept what we find. Hopefully, we see any shortcomings as opportunities to improve, and any accomplishments as things to build on.

I sit here now, sadder than I can ever remember being. As my skeptical view of our society is proven true everywhere I look. How I had hoped I was all wrong about us. And, for once, being right doesn’t feel good anymore. There is a strangeness to it that I am still trying to digest.

Somehow, in 2020, an invisible villain has been introduced to the storyline. A small contagion with deadly intentions has come for us all. It has no bias. It does not see race, creed, color, religion, education, wealth, or anything else as a separator. Everybody gets to be just as scared as the next person. It has the kind of social acceptance we hope for from our fellow man, but so rarely see. It is more progressive than us in that sense.

And progressive it has been. Its evil touching on every continent. Its impact on everything from year-long vacation plans to day-to-day existence. It is forcing social distancing on a greater scale than our own recent endeavors at tribe mentality. Now we must maintain a distance from friends, as well as foes.

The immediate response, from many people, to this new scary character highlights my concerns as to who we really are as a society. We are a self-centered, greedy, and uncaring lot. How can I say this about our society? Because actions speak louder than words.

In the early moments of this pandemic, we saw store shelves being emptied of certain items. Not all of them are rational survival essentials, and even if they were, the rampant fear-driven over-purchasing of these items is indicative of what we really care about…only ourselves. Hoarding for our own benefit suddenly becomes acceptable behavior. Until we have taken care of our own irrational needs, we could care less about anyone else. And we don’t want some reasonable amount of these items. We want more than we could possibly use, even if it means others will have to do without. How is this who we have become?

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday, voicing my negative view of how we have reacted as a society, and she was quick to suggest that people are not doing this consciously, but simply out of fear, so they should not be held responsible for their actions. I could not agree. I agree with and understand the fear they feel, we all feel it. But that did not make everyone react in such a self-serving fashion. Somewhere along the way, they stood in that toilet paper aisle and decided buying way more than they could possibly need was rational and right (oddly enough, without any reasonable indication there would be a shortage), knowing full well that it would mean someone else would do without. They could not put the needs of others before themselves, or even on the same level. It suddenly became all about me and mine!

These are not the people who hoarded medical supplies and the like with the sole intent of profiteering during a time of crisis. No, those people are a whole different kind of evil. These are average, good folks, who when the shit hit the fan, reverted to their truer nature. Suddenly, what we care about became blatantly obvious to anyone willing to look. And that is what kills me.

It is what I have always suspected. That in this world of “thoughts and prayers”, those are the only things we can offer in the greatest times of need, because we are not willing to risk running out, even if it means someone else at least has a little.

And this is just the beginning. This situation could improve quickly, although the impact will already last much longer than we can imagine. Or it could take a nosedive into greater shortages, lack of medical care, unreliable government and leadership, climbing death tolls, and be the harbinger to a wide-spread sense of anarchy.

Although the Civil War is seen as the fight to abolish slavery, it was not the moral impotence of slavery that led to years of war, it was the impact that abolishing slavery would have on the southern states economy that fueled their fears and, in turn, the fight. If I use my friend’s logic here, then the south cannot be held responsible for their actions as they stemmed from fear.

In the movie “Men In Black”, Agent K talks with Agent J about why they have not come forward to tell the population that there are aliens living on Earth. His reply was, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.” This is what the science of sociology is all about. As individuals we think and act in a particular way. As a herd, the dynamic changes greatly. Panic, fear, irrational thought, and behavior all become contagions that can skew our actions vastly and spread just as quickly as any disease. The “herd” is the birthplace for things like lynch mobs, riots, and racism.

As individuals, I can still hope we have grown as people, becoming more tolerant, caring, and connected. But as a society, I don’t see that has happened. Yeah, we had a good shine on things when everything was purring along just fine. But when things got tough, we resorted to who we clearly still are. And that makes me sad in a way nothing else does.

As a Marine combat veteran, I am not prone to over-react to situations. We are taught to think, adapt, and overcome. We have fears just like anyone else, but we learn to not allow fear to guide our actions. In a time of crisis, more than any other time, we focus on rational action and constantly remind ourselves of what the purpose of our actions are. Is what we are doing going to accomplish what we want to accomplish? If all you are looking to accomplish is to insure you have everything you could need with little fear of running out, then these shelf-clearing folks are succeeding. If you are looking to come together as a society and ensure that everyone is cared for in the best way possible, then maybe those actions were a bit self-serving.

Oddly, this sadness has made it impossible to write any poetry for the moment. And I don’t find poetry a viable outlet for the overwhelming disdain I feel for us as a society right now. I am hoping, with time, my feelings will change. I am hoping, with time, a lot of things will change. But, for now, I’m stuck here feeling a bit embarrassed by being part of a society that does not reflect who I am or what I had always hoped we would be.

~~~



Comments
29 Responses to “Editorial – “What Have We Become””
  1. Francisco Bravo Cabrera says:

    Great thoughts and well done my friend. As artists, writers et cetera, we’ve a duty to express to others our ideas as well as our views on the things that are happening in the world around us. We’ve been trained, we’ve been educated and we are constant seekers of knowledge so we have a right to speak because we know how to and we can. I hope to read more “editorials” from your gifted pen. All the best,
    Francisco

  2. Brad, this is an excellent piece. I am replying from my iPhone so apologies for any typos that may occur. You were a marine. We all know that you and those like you develop a sense of camaraderie and responsibility for others. However Brad, the life of the professional soldier as Samuel Huntington observed is very different from that of a civilian. Our civil society has different gods that are worshiped over and over: individualism is one of them. Once one makes individualism into a God with little respect for any collective action ( and really I do not want to be political here) one gets exactly what you described.
    Thank you for writing this exceptional piece. It’s a lot to unpack in it. I just touched upon one point. Have a wonderful Sunday my friend 🌹

    • Brad Osborne says:

      Thank you, dear friend, for your wisdom and perspective. Some of the values we were taught in the Marines are well ingrained and now readily slant our view of the world. It is easy to become blind to the bias of our own views. You make an exceptional point, and I can say it is that sense of camaraderie I felt between brother warriors that I have always missed since I have returned to civil society. Thank you for restoring a little balance to my perspective. I appreciate you and, as always, send much love your way!

  3. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember this as a post published well over a year ago. On the other hand, it allows me a ‘first impression’ glance into the words and my perception of them. I’m saddened by reading them now and understanding how little has changed in that time span. And I’m utterly so grateful that you could capture so many of my own feelings with your words.

    • Brad Osborne says:

      You are not mistaken, sis. I never published this before, although I did write over a year ago at the onset of the pandemic. It was interesting to write something that long ago and read it now. In that short year, my perspective on this has probably changed, thanks to people a lot smarter than I am. Glad it captured some feelings you could recognize. Love you big time!

  4. beth says:

    this was so well said, and clearly from the heart, broken or not. I think it’s important for poets to express their feelings and share them, as they play a very important role in society. and sadly, I think much of this has not changed.

  5. yassy says:

    You speak from the heart with a honesty that is rare and unique . Delighted and honoured to be able to read you here, Brad.

  6. kristianw84 says:

    Oh, Brad, I don’t think I’ve ever related to a post more in my life. I went through a similar experience last year, watching humanity turn into monsters. From hoarding toilet paper like it was gold to rioting on the streets because they couldn’t get their hair cut. We truly live in a “me” society, and it’s quite depressing. There’s a quote by the mom in Mary Poppins on regards to males. “Men, we love them individually, but collectively, they’re rather stupid.” I think the same is true for all of humanity, and you touched a little on this in your post. It’s nice reading my own thoughts through someone else’s words. Thank you for sharing. ❤

    • Brad Osborne says:

      Thanks Kristian! I am not sure I feel this way all the time, but it did capture a moment of honest emotions.

      • kristianw84 says:

        It was very eye opening to me. I guess the last shred of hope went out the window. I felt naive for believing that all people are good at heart. It was that George Floyd video. The look in the cops eyes as he took a man’s life was pure evil. I was so heartbroken, and I remember feeling like I wasn’t made for this world, which is nothing new, but I don’t understand the level of hatred that stems from the fear you mentioned. I can appreciate the feeling of fear, but not their reasons behind that fear. It was the first time I felt like my kindness doesn’t matter, that I’m just spitting into the ocean. I still struggle with this from time to time, but I have learned not to let the darkness of others kill my light. I’m glad to have you as a part of my tribe. Thank you for being a light in a dark world.

  7. jonicaggiano says:

    Wow nicely done on many levels. My daughter would understand much of what you have said because she has been places with marines and dug holes to bury her feces to help others. I have never done the brave things she has done including risking her life to help others. Not that she would ever compare herself to a Marine. Her partner is retired Special Forces.

    They looked at everything logically and prepared for their family and went on living. When we had one roll of toilet paper left I went to get some from a little store close by and found a civilian in full camouflage with his gun belt and hand on his gun. I was not expecting that.

    We followed the CDC rules and still do. Sadly I am not surprised by anything or anyone these days.

    We live our lives and try to be kind to others. We generate one garbage bin of trash a year that is it. We live modestly and don’t talk politics with people we know.

    You may wonder what any of this has to do with your beautifully written editorial. My life has not changed that much. I am also not that surprised by what is happening in the world. I am grateful for our blessings and pray for our world. I too have days where I get sad but my life as an adult is still far less crazy than my life as a child/teenager.

    Thank you for your editorial as I enjoyed reading it. We are all unique creatures and I am blessed to know you Brad. Sending lots of Love ❤️ Jonikins

  8. Jim Borden says:

    this was wonderful, Brad; clearly written from the heart. It is sad to think back to those days, and to then realize it got a lot worse before it got a lot better, both the spread of the virus and people’s behavior.

    perhaps what we all need is a bit of Marine training in our schools…

    and as Beth noted, I believe it is people like you, and other poets, to use your gift of language to make us aware of our shortcomings so that we can become better…

    • Brad Osborne says:

      Thank you, Jim, for those kind words! This highlights why writing in a daily journal can be beneficial. It is interesting to look back at how you felt a year ago.

      • Jim Borden says:

        you are welcome, Brad!

        I feel almost the same way about my blog, going back a few years ago and seeing what I was writing about…

  9. One can never leave your site without thinking a little deeper.

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