If you are the CEO of a bank, you may “know” that traffic exists but never experience driving through it. If you’re an urban intellectual, you will “know” how farms work, but have no concept of the actuality involved.
All of us “know” many things about daily life and yet have never analyzed them except in that detached academic method where we consider them as if they were sitting on a laboratory table. They do not exist except in that moment, to be tested and then forgotten. They are not part of life as we know it.
In this same way, we are completely oblivious to those around us and their needs.
As you drive through the city, or navigate a grocery store, go to the library or even hit the convenience store for a half-gallon of ice cream, you encounter other people. Very often they are pushy, even rude, sometimes cruel, usually oblivious to you and whatever needs you may have.
What makes people behave in such a way? None of these people are having their needs met. It is important to distinguish these as emotional and social needs, not physical. Very few of us have found ourselves in the unfashionable parts of Maslow’s pyramid for quite some time.
But think about the psychology of someone with unmet needs. They now have a secret that others cannot know, because it will make them look weak; they also have a reason to be hurt and feel bad about themselves. Finally, there is someone responsible for these unmet needs, whether they know that person or not. They take it out on the world.
The next time someone elbows ahead of you at the store, cuts you off on the road, sneaks ahead in line, zips up in front of you to steal the pizza slice you wanted from the box, etc., turn the cold hard eye of analysis onto these people. What motivates them toward such petty symbolic victories? A sense of having lost, and of being hopeless. They have given up on actually enjoying life. To them, life is a life sentence.
Now, there’s an ugly little secret with a core of pure gold. If they knew the pro-active principle they would be able to escape their emotional paralysis. This secret is simple: even if everyone fails you, and everyone does you wrong, it’s still your responsibility to figure out a solution.
Think of being stranded on a desert island: no government, no other people, no gods and no charities will come to your aid. You either figure it out or become another dehydrated anonymous corpse. Why would your experience in society be any different? It isn’t, but they’ll tell you it is.
They will do that because most of them are bitter. The dream of a bitter person is passive-aggression. They either want to wreck what you’re doing in such a way that they are technically blameless, or to provoke you into wronging them in such a way that they are not the aggressor. This enables them to act as both victim and conqueror, although for dubious microscopic “victories.”
But it is amazing, when you look out over the span of a city that conquers earth from floor to horizon. All of this power, technology and wealth, and yet we have so many bitter and lonely people. Everyone else is to blame. Perhaps that is our society’s dirty secret: for all of our science, we cannot analyze the problems that originate within.