Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Society of Mean People

My daughter-in-law is a very gentle soul; not that she doesn't have her moments, as do we all.  But she recently had to quit a job because one of her co-workers had become so outrageous in her attacks.  The coworker not only was abusive verbally to Shelly, but refused to answer any questions or offer any assistance (Shelly was new on the job) and then left threatening messages on Shelly's cell phone after Shelly talked to the supervisor about the communication problem.  Shelly said she felt so vulnerable to attack that she didn't have a choice but to move on.  It's too bad.  We all know how hard jobs are to come by.

The point is, people in the United States have a mean factor I don't really see in other cultures, and I travel a great deal.  Some people are just mean, and they seem to relish in their obnoxious behavior.  They smugly interact with people they deem of "lesser" value than themselves.  They are quick to point out how superior they are to people with less money, less status, less ______ fill in the blank.

The more successful people are, the meaner they seem to be.  Perhaps the biggest indicator of how mean a person is would be how judgmental a person is.  Those narrow minded souls see things from one perspective, their own, and if another person's behavior varies from what they deem "appropriate", it seems to give them free license to be mean, rude and disrespectful.  I don't know how they elected themselves "God", but they have and you're basically screwed if you try to intelligently disagree with them.

What's particularly worrisome is that this meanness extends to their own family members.  I grew up in a mean family, and I think I've finally outgrown it, but it took years of self-examination and insight to get here.  My mom was very mean, especially to me.  I guess some parents have to have one child they don't necessarily like, but it bothers me to see this behavior repeated with two of my sisters and their own daughters.  It seems to me a little honest historical review would highlight the reasons for, and hopefully resolve the issues and how they arose, but mean people are very incapable of self-examination.  They just believe they're right and incapable of wrong.  They seem to live in a vacuum of self absorbed and painfully inaccurate views of reality.  And they do so much damage.  The withholding love and refusal to apologize keeps them so enmeshed in these toxic behaviors.

Mean behaviors can be tied in to mental and/or emotional illness.  I worked with a woman whom was so toxic that we finally had to transfer her out of the department.  Her dysfunction was legendary among her peers and one never knew what would set her off on one of her many distasteful, outrageous and sometimes utterly bizarre tangents.  It was an enormous relief to not have her in our workplace anymore.  The voices in her head were so loud, the rest of us could almost hear them.  She continues her dysfunctional behavior in her new department, and because she is so obviously disturbed, no one takes her to task.  For some reason, America thinks its alright to tolerate this behavior, rather than treat the underlying illness that causes it.

Mean people are disturbed people.  They want to be well-thought of, but it just doesn't seem to ever work out that way.  They're driven by their meanness, by their judgments and ultimately, by their illness.  Since mental health care is so important, but so lacking, very few mean people get the psychological help they truly need.  And this is evident all across America.

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