So, today I am really missing my friends and colleagues in Kabul after two aggravating incidents. Yesterday an entitled and aggressive man sat next to me on the subway and expected/demanded I move over so his companion could sit where I was sitting. I was confused and wanted to move away from him, so I moved. Then today, I am walking down the street and another man rams into me and shoves me over with his shoulder. (This is in Queens, too!)
Ugh … and they reminded me of what I loved about my interactions with people in Afghanistan.
- No one raised their voice to others. Everyone spoke gently, softly, and with respect and kindness.
- People weren’t pushy and urgent with each other.
- If you smiled and said hello, people smiled warmly and said hello back.
- When you had a conversation, the person you were speaking to was fully present. Listening, attentive, engaged.
- No one had a sense of superiority or entitlement over others. We shared and cooperated.
I think these are markers of a “developed” and “modern” society. And so what does that say about the alienation so many people in the “developed” world feel? We who seem to be deprived of such simple courtesies? Does it mean that industry has developed, economy and capitalism has developed but somehow our sense of neighborliness, kindness, and connection has moved backwards? With advanced technology, capital, and industry, have we not managed to deepen and expand our sense of human rights, connection, solidarity, and cooperation on an everyday basis? We trust each other less and take comfort in our “goods”. We cling to our known circles and don’t bond with new people. While part of me knows that there are so many people fighting to build real connection, respect, and love in our society – sometimes it feels hard to see and touch.
We all know that amassing wealth isn’t the answer and that the free things in life like human laughter, friendship, and trust are supremely valuable. So what do we have to do, as individuals, and as a society to foster community building over capital building? Ideas welcome!