“That was a stirring reply, Citizen G’Kar. Unfortunately, while all answers are replies, not all replies are answers. You did not answer the question I asked. What do you understand now that you did not understand before?”
Ta’lon to G’Kar in Babylon 5: Point of No Return
Quote Copyright © J. Michael Straczynski
What is the most common trait society exhibits?
This answer is an easy one: it’s the inability to listen to another point of view, to really listen, and to hear, to absorb the words of another human being who probably hasn’t really been heard for many decades; if at all. In conversation, we rarely hear or concentrate on what the other person is saying as we prepare our own sentences for reply. Sometimes, there are actually two conversations going on in parallel and only occasionally do the two streams intertwine.
Conversations ebb and flow. Conversations follow an unknown path as they meander around topics, off topic and then back. Conversations sometimes struggle to end as you become fully involved with the subject under discussion; hours passing in what seems like minutes. Conversations help you to grow and evolve as you gather more knowledge about the person, their opinions and their beliefs. Conversations are there so you can learn valuable clues about human interaction rather than spending hours following Facebook or Twitter feeds on your computer or mobile phone. Learning to communicate face to face is the most valuable resource we have.
Listening is vital as you need to be able to see the space you can say your piece. The moment you interrupt, the conversation is blocked as you have given a value judgement that your point is of more importance than theirs. Not only does this devalue their opinion it also, by association, devalues them.
The greatest gift you can present to a person is to listen, to hang your attention on their words, to focus intently on every part of them, watching their body language, their face, their eyes, to empathise if not fully understand. To be able to walk in another’s shoes is the rarest of gifts.
We give the appearance of listening and sometimes even interrupt before the other person has been given the chance to complete a sentence. It breaks the thought processes before they’ve had a chance to gather coherently. How annoying is that!
And how many of you start talking to a person from another room or from within the shower cubicle when they aren’t in ear shot only to get frustrated when you have to repeat yourself because they haven’t heard the start of your conversation. How annoying is that!
Politicians are the epitome of ignore-ance. They give the appearance of listening, speaking many words in replies that in reality have very little substance. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a politician answer a question without travelling down a long path of verbiage designed to confuse the obvious. And mostly they answer a question with a question or deflect it to blame someone else. It’s almost like the ‘art of deflection’ and ‘talking shit’ are two of degree subjects at university.
Having been ignored myself, rejected as broken by many people who believe Trans people are not worthy of their time, I created barriers to try and stop the pain I felt as I experienced torrents of verbal abuse from a so-called friendly society. And don’t forget that society is made up of people like you. The barriers I built eventually broke as the dam burst flooding me with the poison of their venom.
One changes with this experience. I changed with this experience as it dug deeper and deeper into a fragile psyche made even more delicate and unstable. When this happens we develop hatred, bitterness and anger towards ourselves for our perceived unworthiness but also feel the same towards family, friends and colleagues, and society in general. However, something very different happened to me once I found the courage to look within at all that pain.
Yes, I developed all those traits but with it came an understanding of human nature and the way people operate inside and out; their modus operandi. Where people hadn’t heard me, I started to hear other people. I began to listen, developing an awareness of people but also hearing them, really hearing them voice their pain and their difficult journeys in life. I have always been empathic but the experiences of the releasing process seem to magnify my ability to tune into people and sense on a conscious level their distress, and as a consequence, help them find a way to resolve it. In watching people I became an excellent student in the language of the body and of understanding what it means to be human with human emotions and human frailties.
You see, it wasn’t my pain, bitterness and anger that transformed me but the willingness to transcend them that shifted my awareness onto another level entirely. I was, I am, prepared to find a way in, to fall into the abyss of agony I was harbouring all this time. In transcending the pain, I found many things were different and so were radiating vibrant hues, some parts of me had vanished as if no longer required and many things remained the same. The outer coating we all carry, that I carried for decades, melted away to leave a sparkling, creative, empathic, unfettered centre. This is my naturally compassionate soul that sees everyone regardless of any label society prefers to paint us with.
Many people don’t listen because it doesn’t fit with their agenda, with their beliefs, or the echo chamber they prefer to inhabit. Living in an echo chambered world stops all evolution of the individual, their ethical and moral understanding of life and knowledge of their fellow human beings. They only hear voices that agree thus providing a safe environment, a cocoon shaped land where they see only what they want to see and hear only that which matches their beliefs.
The unintended consequences, or perhaps intended consequences, of living in that safe, echo chambered world is that those outside are marginalised, left to feel unsafe, unsupported and fragile, living lives that constantly and dramatically limit their ability to advance and progress out from their current situation.
Yes, it’s fun being in the echo chamber of life as no challenges arise. Nothing moves you to experience something new, or something different, as sameness breeds monotony and tedium. It’s like surfing on a smooth sea with no wind or waves pushing you on; you are trapped, stationary; motionless in every way. It’s the peaks and troughs that create the change and without them you go nowhere.
Yes, it’s fun being in the echo chamber of life but the consequences are dramatic as you try to break the dreariness and boredom by finding an interest, a way of discovering significance in your life. That interest comes from looking for value, worth, importance.
Many of us choose the easy way and find scapegoats and stooges, someone we can devalue or victimise so we can feel superior. We line up our victims so we can step on them to climb higher and higher in life, to feel better, grander, exclusive. When you demolish another so you can rise, not only do you damage that person, you seriously damage yourself in the process, perhaps more so, as you still have to carry all that internalised pain and are forever trying to discover new ways to satiate the pain and the emptiness you feel.
As a society, we are fixated on financial riches as though money will give us value. Any gratification can only be momentary as it falls through to the bottom of our pockets. Many pockets are infinitely deep as we try to fill that gaping hole with coins and notes of every denomination.
Many of the richest still fight for more riches as they think more will satiate their thirst. Many of the richest will choose themselves over their employees and the general population, siphoning huge sums of money from their business to support their very extravagant lifestyles, saving it rather than allowing it to trickle down to those more in need. Money can never fill the empty hole inside them; only turning to look at the hole and what formed it will.
We are not born greedy or in pain. We learn behaviour through our experiences and it’s these that form our beliefs about ourselves and others. We are not born with a gaping hole inside that needs filling; it’s something that shapes after many negative events that conspire to take away our esteem and our inner sense of being a valuable person.
I spent a few days in hospital after an operation and had the chance to talk to the many doctors, nurses and housekeepers that crossed my path. I listened to their stories while they listened to mine. A nurse who was taking me back to my bed after a test was relating his tale of how his spirit is naturally compassionate and healing. He had always wanted to do this kind of work and trained for many years racking up eye watering debts to gain the qualifications to see his dream in action.
After the government gave the nurses a derogatory one percent pay rise, he felt undervalued and belittled, feeling less as a nurse but also as a human being. Compassionate at heart, he felt unappreciated and wondered why he should keep giving when others, those in society, cannot give to him. It all seems very one-sided. As a result he is now considering changing jobs and leaving the NHS. Will he change direction in life and consider another career? No. Since he is a compassionate soul and caring is in his genes, he will simply move into private hospitals where he is not rushed off his feet, is valued more and gets a slightly better salary.
Certain flavour politicians are very happy with this turn of events as their agenda is being fulfilled; a creeping privatisation of the NHS by stealth. Not able to be open about their plans they just choose to demolish people’s esteem and perceived value to force a change that no one wants. This action is a deliberate one. And just because these politicians live in an echo-chambered world they are unwilling or unable to listen to others, to walk in someone else’s shoes even for a moment, to feel, really feel, what it’s like to line up at food banks and the strain to find the money to heat their home. Most of the time politicians are completely deaf to the struggles of people who dread waking up every morning knowing their life will never evolve.
And don’t think this is limited to the NHS. Education is being torn down, health care in the community is being demolish gradually as those whose needs are the most are being left to pick up their own pieces, left to fund their own care when they have very little. It seems we are heading for a dystopian society that mirrors the Dark Ages of Kings and serfs; a survival of the fittest, or dare I say the survival of the richest. We are becoming slaves again to the super rich. Has no one noticed?
Are people so unconscious, so unaware and so numb to their community and those in it?
Are people so taken in by rhetoric and spin in the newspapers and television?
Are people so selfish and so greedy that they are willing to close their eyes and ears to those are unable to care for themselves?
Are people so brainwashed that they are persuaded to vote for the very politicians who will do them the most damage?