Every now and then I stumble across something that makes me wonder how on earth we got to this state. Admittedly, this does happen more often now than it used to when I was younger; and I would grudgingly admit that I have recently become more grumpy about things that would have passed me by completely a decade or two ago.
Today’s double-take moment came with a Tweet that referred to today as “World Kindness Day”. Initially, you think : ‘Oh! That’s nice’. But then you think : what sort of world are we living in that it’s necessary to designate a special day to remind people to be kind? Surely kindness is as natural in the human condition as breathing? Who are these people who spend so much time being unkind that we need to have a special day to remind them that courtesy, decency and looking out for one another might be worth a try?
But then I thought about it again and it suddenly all became very clear. So much of our public discourse now is mediated through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like, and so much of the content on those platforms is nasty, brutish and short. It is much easier in 280 characters to launch an ad hominem attack on someone with whom you disagree, than it is to attempt to engage that person in debate. And the lack of forums in which people can properly engage with ideas rather than rubbishing the people who hold those ideas, has percolated into our wider public discourse. Worse than that, the ubiquity of social media and our obsession with it, means that all too often we walk around with our eyes fixed on our screens, so utterly self-absorbed that we miss out on the chance to see opportunities to be kind.
Anyway, I hope that you have had the chance today both to do something kind, and to be on the receiving end of a kindness.