Posted by: Ms Morris | July 22, 2009

This Selfish Society

Posted on behalf of Martin:

 There is one factor that links many of the miseries we inflict upon one another, e.g. anti-social behavior, bullying at work or our encounters with each other in public places, and that is our lack of respect for others, coupled with the need we have to be treated with respect ourselves. Furthermore, the less respect we encounter, the less prepared we are to offer any to anyone else. I don’t believe that most people aspire to having good manners; many just want to protect their egos in every social encounter. Conscious of the sensitivity we have to any slight, we go out into the world armed only with our own willingness to be aggressive or oblivious in response. Culture was, of late, often defined as “the way we do things round here”. I would suggest that we live in a culture where putting self before anyone else and its satisfactions is the be all and end all. My Bermudian father-in-law would say…when did the “we” become “me”?

Marketing people bombard us with messages daily, telling us that we should have what we want because we’re worth it. As consumers, we are kings and queens. We know that we have rights, that as long as we can pay we feel powerful, and we crave that sensation. It is seductive because it is so at odds with the reality of the rest of our lives. As a society, we are under more pressure and feel more insecure than ever before. Our private lives are increasingly unpredictable; our financial futures more uncertain. There is almost nil respect for mundane lives, however well lived, in today’s culture that celebrates wealth, beauty, celebrity, notoriety and youth. This conflict between our sense of entitlement and our shaky sense of self-worth also makes us angry. At work many of us bolster ourselves by struggling to assert our superiority to others. We have managers who crave the respect of their staff, but realize (or at least fear) that they don’t have it. To compensate, they create the semblance of it, therefore, by frightening those underneath them. They are concerned with maintaining their status, and are far too concerned to think about the damage they are doing to their subordinates. Employees in service industry’s who often feel their jobs are beneath them, often make their disdain clear by doing them as gracelessly as possible. Does “service really equate to servitude”? Those we would probably describe as minor officials, take pleasure in exercising obstructive petty authority.

So, why does this behaviour matter? It is simply because we are social animals, and we are very dependent on the reactions of others for our well-being. As a species, we can tolerate a lot, but it is held by many that the one thing we cannot tolerate is being treated with contempt. We have lost the understanding of the word ‘deference’. The old social codes have gone and with that, we are reluctant to show respect to almost anyone, in case it appears to diminish us. If, as a child, I wanted to ensure I got slapped, the easiest way was to show a lack of respect to someone else, be it an elder or not. It was ‘the cardinal sin’; the second slap was for embarrassing my parents. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, but then good manners as we called it cost nothing. These days, we accept invitations only to withdraw at the last minute when something more desirable comes along. At formal events, some people are ruthless about ignoring a neighbour in favour of a more ‘useful’ guest. The old idea that one had a social responsibility towards one’s host or fellow guests is beginning to be replaced by a determination to maximise one’s individual satisfaction, regardless of the emotional injury caused to anyone else.

We have political leaders ‘neutralising’ their fellow party members in a public arena. The examples are easy to find in this and indeed any society. The people in any society that are most vulnerable to being hurt, are those whose self-worth is already undermined by those around them. Those with the least money and the least authority are made continually aware of others’ contempt. We have lost our way. I have a sneaking suspicion that if we put “respect” back into our daily lives we could, at the very least, manage some of our other issues more easily and produce more workable solutions, to the benefit of all. The good news is that Bermuda is small enough to bring about change.

Just a thought.


  1. This is another fine musing, Martin. Society here seems to have devolved to the point where consideration for our fellow men and women is evaporating rapidly.

    We’re then defending such behaviours by claiming that we’re “keeping it real” or “not being a wuss”.

    Showing humility, politeness and refraining from being spiteful is now seen as being weak instead of strong. And it’s seen at every level here.

    Respect for others is key to reversing these trends.

  2. Well said, Tryangle.

    The loss of community is also partly to blame. During our childhood, the neighbourhood was your community. Everyone looked out for each other, each other’s children, and pulled together in times of need. Now, it’s everyone for themselves, and the IGMFU mentality.

    It started with the political leadership about 20 years ago, and has steadily declined since.

  3. Ah…Someone is getting the message. See, even ole Rummy…can…

    Mabe my rants do do something.

    Gotta run…..Meeting with Cunard…QE Too Bring it back too Bermuda, Little Sound, first deck …Prison, Second deck, Activities, Third Deck, Gambling, Fourth Deck, Lion Fish and End it all programe…….

    Gotta run..(2)….Breaking News….Tim Jones from ITT/MSN just reported that Three cruise ships have collided and run aground off of Devonshire Bay. A spokesperson for the Farrakan party at a location we cannot reveal says and I quote…”Those employees on those ships don’t have to work as hard as us”..

  4. Rummy…

    Allow me the opportunity to be very clear about certain things.

    It may not matter to you, but it does to me, that my thoughts above took quite some time to pull together. I don’t expect great responses on this type of thread, but then I put these things together because they are important to me and because I hope (just hope) that it will ring a few bells somewhere and society might benefit as a result – if only a little.

    Now – I am not sure who your “someone” is that you mention above. But – I really wouldn’t want you thinking that my thoughts are even remotely influenced by your rants.

    Your rants do influence me, but only in so far as to sharpen my thinking about disappearing off the local blog scene completely. I will not be missed I am sure, but that is beside the point.

    Perhaps you could respect the fact that posts take some time to come together, and that simply ranting about ITN, Third Deck and Cunard, is really out of place given the point I was trying to make?


  5. We are a selfish society because we are wealthy. We are victims of our own affluence. I tend to find the more improvished countries have much more sense of community. I have seen examples in Cuba and jamaica. People are much more materialistic now than they were 15 yrs ago. When you place more emphasis on objects, you do not value human beings.

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