Why You Should Always Respect the Dustman

I have been a dustman for a while. And even though my stay in the ‘dustman-community”’ was short, I was long enough to become overwhelmed by the disrespect these people receive from their fellow species members. People are yelling things at them. People are telling them how shitty their job is. People treat them like the true pieces of garbage. I was wondering what the dustmen themselves were thinking about their profession. Were they also disgusted about what they were doing? I decided to ask them.

And this is what they told me: they absolutely loved what they were doing. They were proud of being the dustman of district x or district y. They took care of the streets that fell under their supervision. These were after all their streets, and their streets should not be dirty. One of the dustmen told me very proudly about his dustmen-crew. He said that, within the dustmen-community, his crew could be compared to FC Barcelona; that’s how well they anticipated each other’s actions. Dustman A knew exactly that, when Dustman B grabbed on to a new dustbin, he should be in the process of taking away his bin.

So it seems that people differ, to say the least, in what they like and what they don’t like to do for a living. And that’s a good thing, right? Of course it is. Because the fact that each one of us wants to do something different for a living makes that all the jobs that are required to keep our society functioning are filled. If everyone wanted to become a big time actor, no-one would be cleaning the streets of Hollywood. At least, not for a while. Because the demand for dustmen, and therefore the wages, would increase sooner or later thanks to the ‘beautiful’ mechanisms of the free market.

Also, the fact that people appreciate different ways to make their money provides you and me with the opportunity to make a unique contribution to this world of ours. And – I believe – it is only if you do what you like to do that you are likely to put the most effort in doing it. And, subsequently, it is only when you put serious effort into doing something that you are likely to make a difference. And it the ambition to ‘make a difference’, whether it is by cleaning the streets or by writing an article, that gives that feeling of happiness and fulfilment we are all so desperately longing for.

The moral of this story should be clear: never disrespect anyone or feel pity for anyone because of what they do for a living. Remember that (hopefully) most of us are doing something that we like to do. Be thankful for whatever their contribution to society might be, since it is because of their contribution that you and I can do the job that we like to do. Whatever that might be.

But what do you think?

The Digital World is The Real World

What’s the difference between a human and a tree? Well, frankly, I don’t know: at least not by looking at the manner in which we act around each of these objects. I mean: don’t you notice that most of us, whenever we cross another person’s path, whether this is on the street or in the park, just plainly ignore him? That while you are walking the dog, and there is no-one but you, the dog and the person you pass by, that you don’t even make the effort to say hello; not even to watch the other person in the eyes? What is going on here? Where did it all go wrong?

I might be exaggerating, but if so that is because I find this to be a very sad observation of the way our society appears to function. I find it sad that we as a species are too drowned in our own little worlds to open our mouths or eyes to validate the existence of a fellow species member. That we rather send an extra WhatsApp message, than that we nod generously to the old lady living next door.

But the truth of the matter is that we are all living on our own little islands. We are living in our own little worlds, and it is within these little worlds that we are king. And despite the smartphones and technologies, the Facebooks and the Twitters, the gap between our outer and inner worlds is becoming wider and wider. Today’s 14 year olds have never lived in a world without social media, a world without Facebook and WhatsApp, without likes and group chats. And even though our isolation might reach its peak in our real lives, it is in the digital world that every form of privacy, autonomy and deliberation has been extinguished. The boundaries have blurred, our real lives have switched. Being ‘AFK’ has crossed the boundaries of the World of Warcraft, and entered the real-world human domain. Connection equals life, being plugged out equals being dead. Having a friend has decreased in value, and the fact that we get hundreds of them in return can’t possible make up for that.

But maybe this way of living is the only way for us to live together, for us to be around so many of our own kind without losing our minds; without being scrutinized by real-world physical eyes reminding us of our mortality. Facebook makes us in charge of our boundaries, of our identity, of what we want to share and what not, of how far we want others to invade in our wolds, to let them know about our victories and our losses. Artificiality empowers us. And given this huge amount of power we have in the digital world, why would we even want to interact with non-digital people? Everyone we want to know, we are connected to via the internet. And that’s enough. We can’t manage two worlds at once, not the digital world and the real world. That would be too much. So let’s shut down the real world, let’s put it offline, and focus on our really real words: the World of Warcraft, the world of silicon chips and the world of tweets.

We are one step removed from total connection, from chips in our heads rendering superfluous any face-to-face communication. The ‘we’ that we once were are dead, the us that we have become are born. Happy lives to us all.

But what do you think?

Why do People Enjoy Talking about Themselves So Much?

Do you know those people who always seem to interrupt you when you are talking? Those people who always seem to find a way to make the conversation go about themselves? Or maybe you consider yourself to be just that kind of person? And if so, how does that make you feel? Personally, I get very uncomfortable around people using the word ‘I’ more than five times per minute. It makes me feel like I am attending a lecture instead of having a conversation. But do you know what bothers me even more? I am that kind of person.

Too much using of the word ‘I’ can be an indication of either of two things: (1) a lack of empathy or (2) a disproportionately large longing for validation. Let’s start with empathy. Any human being living in this world of ours has a need to socialize with its fellow species-members, whereby socializing consists of keeping an adequate balance between the giving and taking of thoughts. It is an endeavor that allows us to live together in the dense populations we have. However, whenever the balance between giving and taking gets distorted too much, we don’t consider ourselves to be engaged in a conversation anymore. By talking about ‘I’ too much, the conversation has stopped and the plea has begun. By talking about what ‘I’ believe too frequently, you implicitly take away the right of your conversation partner – or even his duty – to contribute to the conversation. And that is what we usually consider to be anti-social behavior.

The other reason for using the word ‘I’ too frequently is that you might have a disproportionately large need for receiving validation from your social environment. This need consists of a sense of ‘wanting to be listened to’ that is significantly larger than what people generally consider to be pleasant. The question is: why would someone do that? Why would someone keep talking about his own ideas while knowing that his interlocutor might not find this pleasant? Well, maybe it is because the person doesn’t understand yet or doesn’t understand why his behavior is considered to be anti-social. Maybe it is because he just started interacting with his species members and still needs to experience the nature of giving and taking which is present in a pleasant conversation. Or maybe the person knows all of the above but still doesn’t consider himself to be anti-social; maybe the person believes that we he says is right and that what the others say is wrong, and that this observation justifies him in talking about his ideas disproportionately much.

However, it often is very difficult to draw the line between what is a healthy contribution to a conversation and what is a narcissistic urge to express one’s ideas. The former is praiseworthy and can function therapeutically, constructively and even emphatically. Speaking is after all the best medium we have at our disposal for us human beings to make others aware of our beliefs. You could of course say that works of art and other human creations also have the capability to pass on their creator’s message. And although that might be true, social interaction in terms of the spoken word still seems to dominate each other medium in making your intentions clear to another human being. Face-to-face communication allows people to absorb the often subtle gestures, facial expressions and tonality that are required in order to truly understand the creator’s beliefs. And, as you might have experienced, passing on a well-intended written ironic statement is much more likely to be misinterpreted than the same message being spoken out loud. The subtleties present in human speech can make all the difference for interpreting a message in either the intended or unintended way.

But although it might be annoying, sometimes we just have to let the ‘I-talkers’ rush out and talk about themselves. Sometimes we just have to let them release the tension that is underlying the painfully unidirectional ‘conversation’ you appear to be engaged in. We might even learn something from it; that is at least what I hope your response will be after reading this self-centric plea of mine.

Therefore the right question to put all the above into perspective would be: what do you think?