Them and us (and Hill With Small Fields contra mundum)

In this post, I mentioned having a “them and us” attitude, in that I resent the nature of some — perhaps many — people, and perhaps look down on them.

The distinction I make is probably a bundle of distinctions that I think tend to run together.

One major distinction in the bundle is how someone responds to a difficulty in life. The `us’ response is to fix the problem or to work around it; the `them’ response is to do something to help themselves feel OK anyway (typically smoking, drinking or other drugs), and ignore the problem.

In fact, a lot of `their’ behaviour is aimed at being happy, or coping, rather than actually facing up to things and fixing them; the central ideal for many who I’d like to think I’m different from seems to be to live life anaesthetized from reality.

A strong tendency to gather closer together (in terms of characteristics) is also very `them’; `my kind of people’ just don’t care about similarity. This may echo different levels of concern about popularity and about truth; I care about truth and am not so bothered about popularity, and I like people who are like that; the people I don’t like don’t care about being true to themselves if they’ll lose `friends’ by doing so.

In other senses too, superficial togetherness is more important to the people I don’t like: for example, forcing everyone to stop thinking and synchronize with the crude beat of pop music.

Overall, the bundle of boundaries seems to centre around a split between dedication to truth, and to making oneself (and perhaps others) feel `happy’, a feeling I see as relatively shallow (after all, it can be produced by chemical or electrical stimulation of the brain).

Understanding and respecting other people’s need for personal space is another variable.

I think some of these factors may be linked to intelligence, and some to social class.

However, it’s not a simple matter of `not liking poorer people’, I have plenty of `blue collar’ friends — but they are all competent at what they do. The people I don’t like tend not to be observably competent at anything. So it’s probably more connected with intelligence than social class or status.

But it’s this `them and us’ view that worries me most about where I’m going in the afterlife, because although I may be good to my friends, I can’t say I’ve done much for either `the poor’, or `the unintelligent’, or `my enemies’. And it’s difficult to know what I could do for them — give them money? Pretend to agree with their views that so strongly conflict with what I believe is important? In fact, it’s hard for me to tell who these people who I should be helping are.

Yet, there is one thing that does seem to be pointing to what I’m doing wrong, where I just can’t cope with doing what I think is right, and that’s when I tend to avoid people in whom I detect emotional neediness or clinginess — the people who would like to corner me into conversations so they can pretend I like them enough to choose to converse with them. A couple of times I’ve even simply turned and ran. But what could I say to these people? If I tell them what I really think, it would do huge damage, like a transfusion of the wrong emotional blood group. As truth is important to me, I don’t like to lie and tell them what they want to hear: “There, there, poor thing, you’re the world’s most severely afflicted person!” But perhaps these are just excuses, and it’s the feeling that something will stick to me, like when I tread on a slug. If someone can come up with some answers to this, or even some good suggestions, please do put them in the comments to this blog post, and if, as is statistically likely, I survive my angiogram procedure, I’ll do my best to take them on board; if I don’t, I can have done something useful by prompting someone to write them for others like me to find.

In writing the previous paragraph, I realized another part of this “them and us” bundle of distinctions, as I used the metaphor of an `emotional blood transfusion’. Because talking to someone when they get something out of and I don’t feels to me (as a strongly introverted person) like giving emotional blood. I don’t mind doing that for an emotional blood transfusion, where what I give joins the recipient’s emotional bloodstream; when it gets hard to handle is when the recipient simply drinks the blood, as food, and will come back for more and more, because it’s supplying running costs rather than building capital. When, a couple of decades ago, I was a major depressive, I suspect I was that vampiric kind of personality myself, so it may, seen in the context of more than just this world, come down to “I have seen the enemy, and he is us”.

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