November 13 is World Kindness Day
The latest mass shooting in the California bar horrified both pro-gun and anti-gun advocates alike. Is there something about our culture that generates such a profound disregard for human life? Multiple factors contribute to mass killings in the US but what if one’s mental health mixed with cultural and societal issues exacerbates a desire to mass murder? That it is not just easy access to guns. If the guns were taken away would they use cars and trucks?
By Chuck Woolery (the Activist, not TV Host.)
There are nations and cultures where gun ownership rates do not result in an equivalent mass killings and high rates of gun suicides. Or, it is done with hidden explosives.
Isn’t it odd that last month the experts seeking a motive for the gunman that killed over 50 people at the Las Vegas concert (the largest in US history) found no motive. Now, officials are still seeking the motive of the former Marine suffering from PTSD who killed 11 people in CA. We think that explains it.
But some war veterans diagnosed with PTSD don’t like the “D”. Is it really a “disorder” if you are profoundly disturbed by war? Perhaps it is not the exposure to combat that makes us go anti-social, but our cultural honoring of war itself. We honor the patriotic duty that requires people of all faiths (and the faithless) to mass murder on command. Sure, good soldiers do their best to avoid killing innocent people. But it happens. And we unconsciously judge soldiers who are not bothered by it as normal. We don’t consider THAT a “disorder” in them or us. Add to the soldiers rational unwillingness to talk to others about a troubling war experience for ‘professional’ reasons, and that sense of aloneness could be debilitating.
After the mass shooting at the public HS in Florida last year most students chose to join the call for a school ‘Walkout” in protest of gun laws. Barely covered in the media was another much smaller group of students at the same school who organized a school “Walk up”. They were encouraging students to walk up to others who were alone in an act of kindness.
Too many of our nation’s students know the anguish of not fitting in or being ostracized by social clicks, bullying, or being downcast for some quirk. It was no surprise that last year the U.S. Surgeon General called ‘loneliness’ the most serious public health threat Americans face. Our nation’s worsening antagonistic political climate is one thing but is it a cause or consequence of our epidemic of loneliness. How do we explain over 20,000 early deaths by gun suicides and three times that many deaths from opioid overdoses just last year.
In a WebMD health report last year this growing danger of loneliness was recognized.
“Loneliness may be more hazardous to your health than obesity” and researchers say Americans are at a growing risk. According to AARP over 42 million American adults over age 45 are believed to suffer from chronic loneliness. Julianne Holt-Lunstad (professor of psychology at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.) said “Being connected to others socially is widely considered a fundamental human need — crucial to both well-being and survival. Extreme examples show infants in custodial care who lack human contact fail to thrive and often die, and indeed, social isolation or solitary confinement has been used as a form of punishment.”
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Suicides are now the second largest cause of death for school aged youth. The first? Death by “Unintentional injury”. What is driving them to be texting while driving or using chemicals to feel good or experience something different?
Cyber technology was supposed to connect us and improve our relationships. But, according to recent to studies (and anyone observing American life) it’s done the opposite. Why? We have never felt less connected to others and the important things we need for a healthy, wealthy life. Friends, loved ones, healthy food and our environment.
Could it be that our mind’s default programming, having been created and heavily reinforced by our culture to look inward to our immediate feelings and cultural concepts instead of outward, is dominating our bodies feelings? Then we wonder why obesity, smoking, and opioid addiction now dominates as the cause of so many unnecessary deaths.
Our mind, instead of looking outward to solve problems, becomes addicted to looking inward and acting according to our immediate feelings (hunger, lust, avoidance of discomfort, fatigue…) and or immediate thoughts (we are entitled to feel good and be safe without doing anything good for others). Even the word “socialism” is demonized though we are biologically, fundamentally social creatures.
Without much thought we distance ourselves from people, nature, and thoughts that don’t make us feel good. We desire immediate comfort all the time.
Betsy DeVos may have had horrible solutions for our nation’s education crisis, but she had a genius observation about people. She stressed that our technologies and laws have provided us with unprecedented comforts. “But that’s not what we were made for. We were made for greatness.”
Our greatness is not a result of our selfishness and looking inward. Our greatness is a function of the generations that came before us, who valued others, and other things more than themselves.
Our physical, mental, economic, political and environmental health are a function of the degree to which we see ourselves connected to other people, nature, past generations, our children’s future and the survival of our species itself.
We can do phenomenal things as individuals. But, in the long run humans will only survive if we learn to love one another despite our differences, appearances, mental and geographical/political divisions.
It appears that our mental, physical, spiritual and environmental health problems are a product of our minds worship of individualism and ‘independence’. Our mind’s thoughts have effectively disconnected us from our bodies and our minds original purpose of solving problems in order to ensure our tribes survival. Because of our addiction to comforts our minds, instead of solving problems, now create them by defending concepts that divide us and weaken our capacity for survival.
Being kind to one another is a communication of love and a recognition of our interconnectedness and interdependence. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get mad. Anger has a place in drawing attention to things that don’t work and should be changed. Expressing anger at genocide or the intentional murder of any innocent person is a natural expression of the true kindness that all people deserved. Having compassion for those venturing up from south and central America is a kind of kindness. But is it being kind?
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” ― Henry James
November 13 was designated World Kindness Day in 1998 by The World Kindness Movement and was intended to be celebrated annually with the purpose of making the world a better place. There are currently over 28 nations involved in the movement and it is not affiliated with any religion or political movement. Individuals, organizations, and even nations promoting good deeds and doing kind acts is a good start. But creating a kinder world will take more than just being kind. It will require a profound shift in how all nations, religions and humanity itself operates.
If nationalism, populism, or even patriotism becomes an obstacle to the progress of kindness we can only expect a future of inhumanity, barbarity, and brutality. Cruelty, heartlessness, and even savagery will continue to be our path to oblivion.
What should be shocking is the fact that in a world of 7.5 billion people our nation is threatened by loneliness, and some are fearful of immigrants who have walked a thousand miles.
Today (November 13) try something new. Disconnect from your phone or computer to do something positive for someone else. Smile at that stranger on the street, compliment your co-worker, pay the toll for the person behind you …the day is yours to make a difference.
And if you want it to make the biggest difference, find some like-minded/like-hearted people and schedule a face to face meeting with your U.S. Representative. Kill them with kindness! And urge them to do whatever they can to fund the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Your kindness is only limited by your mind’s perspective of your personal power. And unknown to most is your greatest personal power as an American citizen. And it’s NOT casting a vote. It’s your inalienable right to petition your government.
Our mind, avoiding responsibility for our elected officials, believes we are separate from the government. We think it’s in Washington DC. In reality, it is a government ‘of, for, and by the people’. Or, that’s what it was intended to be, before Americans became so selfish, individualist, and unfriendly.
United we stand to make the greatest difference. That’s what will make our nation great again.
Consider the current rapid evolution of weapons, war, pathogens, and human relations in a world lacking kindness.