Today if you mention LCDs most people think of the bright lights that run on very little energy. As good an invention as they are, that’s not what I’m talking about. What I want to talk about in this post is how it’s human, and even primate nature, to quickly sink to the Lowest Common Denominator — and I’m talking about thoughts and behaviors here, not math.
It has been well documented by many studies that even monkeys, apes and bonobos will get upset when they feel they are begin treated unfairly When a monkey does a trick and gets some raisins, he may be happy. But then if the monkey next to him does the same trick and he gets a much more desirable banana, it’s been shown that the first monkey is not going to do that trick again unless he gets a banana, even though he’s depriving himself of a few raisins.
That’s what is going on today, all over the world, and I’m not just talking about income and wealth disparity, although that certainly plays a big part.
I read a few things in the paper the last few days that were upsetting to me. One is that junior high and high school students are asked what they felt was more important: personal achievement, their own happiness, or helping others. 22% said helping others. That’s not good.
How many times in this space have I asked the question: “What’s So Funny about Peace, Love and Understanding??”
Here is the answer, and I certainly don’t blame the kids who gave their answers. They have learned, based upon the world they live in, and I think this is true for kids from Palo Alto to Mumbai, that there are too many people who are just looking out for themselves, and if you offer to help, they will take advantage of you, and treat you like a fool for letting it happen. If you put an orange on the table and say lets share some fruit, the first person who comes along is likely to run off with the orange and not leave anything behind. After this happens a couple of time, no one leaves an orange, or even a grape.
What makes it even worse is that this kind of behavior is totally unnecessary. Perhaps for the first time in this earth’s history we actually have enough food, air, water, housing and video games for everyone to have a reasonable amount. But the idea of helping others to attain a reasonable quality of life is almost unthinkable because too many people are grabbing everything they can for themselves.
Once this behavior gets started, even if it is just by the small minority that I call the Lowest Common Denominator, then it doesn’t take too long before everyone learns to be defensive. Everyone is taking and no one is giving.
You can see it in traffic patterns. Drive along nicely and cooperatively. Then a person cuts you off, and then another, and even though it might delay your drip by 1/3 of s second, it just doesn’t feel fair. So the next time someone tries to cut in right before the off ramp, you don’t let them. They should wait their turn and get in line with the rest of us, especially if they’re driving that $55,000 SUV.
Drive carefully my friends. And maybe next time blow them a kiss instead of flipping the bird. At least they may be confused for a second, and the denominator may get raised a couple of points.
So much stress, so unnecessary.