Tuesday, May 25, 2010

At church last Sunday, I was enthralled by a message our pastor was giving. A question he repeatedly asked us was that when we meet a new person, do we see them as a friend or as an enemy?

For me, I was brought back to different environments that I have had exposure to where I have seen people as friends, and others where I seemed to react to an air of competition or hostility. I think that our reaction depends on several things: our personality (natural tendencies), our previous experiences and our perception of the environment that we are in.

The first school that I attended, from Prep class, was welcoming. I developed natural relationships with one or two close friends, a few more tenuous links with the rest of my class and only experienced minor animosity towards who was perceived as the 'class bully' (in hindsight, he was quite soft). After moving from South East Melbourne to the more rural North East, I discovered the dynamic of my new school was very different. It seemed to be natural for people at this new school to be outwardly friendly, however when it suited them, they would take every opportunity to humiliate you to extent their own place within the social hierarchy. Individually, most of the kids were genuinely kind people, but when a group formed a pack mentality ensued. The most vulnerable member of any group was victimised and made the butt of all and any joke; they were treated unfairly in any games that were played; anything they said was scoffed at and ridiculed by every member of the pack. For me, the scariest thing about this experience, in hindsight, was that in a very short time I became a fully fledged subscriber to this social culture, despite continually falling victim to it. I became malicious, manipulative and I mistreated vulnerable people. My previous disposition was to see new people as genuine friends; I learned to see other class members, new people and even teachers as enemies, or at the very least friends of convenience.

I am reminded of "The Great Gatsby", where Jay Gatsby invited people to his property every week for a Saturday night party, including the protagonist (Nick Carroway), but no so that he can see them as friends, but for his own ends: to find a link to his old lover, Daisy. Gatsby seems to approach anyone he meets with the 'What can I get out of this?', rather than the 'What can I give?', attitude. In addition, the parties that ensue are a fascinating melting pot of drunkenness, debauchery and hostility [see the YouTube clip below].



Characters at the party start fights for the simple purpose of creating something to do...

[more to come later]

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