We woke up today to a story about the people we elected using their knowledge of what was coming — a potential pandemic — to enrich themselves. In every disaster there is the “betrayal stage”. That’s the moment when the realization comes that some part of this suffering could have been avoided. And that the people we imagined were tending to our business were, in fact, rooting around for profits.
I like to think the best of people. In fact, I’ve disciplined myself to notice where you seem to thrive, excel, light up. That’s how my radar works. If you see me giving you a calculating scan, I’m checking your strengths and skills. Being a full time disaster ”expect-er” means I’m doing a constant 360° scan to see who/what there is to work with if (when) it all goes to hell in a handbasket.
But my aha: everybody is not your friend and everybody is not on your side and in-the-same-boat and wanting what’s best, and trying hard to be good for the world. A crusty old boss of mine once said to me:
“You have a lot of talent but two things are gonna tank you. You think everyone cares as much about other people as you do and they don’t. And you’re the only person I’ve ever met who thinks the agenda is the agenda.” I thought he was a bit cynical and he thought I was a bit Forrest Gump and we were both right.
Some folks — not that many — full time just want to be as greedy/mean as possible. Some hide it well and others strut and flaunt their ability to inflict pain and snatch resources. Some will dress up their spite, wrap it up like spoiled meat in a taco, throw some justifying pico de gallo on it and feed it to everyone around them. At their core, there is something a bit rotten and it can’t be covered up by heat. God may save them but I (you) cannot.
In Texas we have some ugly critters and our feral hogs won’t win any popularity contests. Feral hogs are dangerous because they destroy fragile ecosystems. Just trash it all. Rooting around voraciously and reproducing prolifically. Once they show up, it’s a rough time for whatever is in the arena. There was a recent news story about a feral hog chasing a dog and battering a garage door. They’re fierce small brained critters and the only way to stop them is lock them up or shoot them. In Texas people do both.
If you mistake a feral hog for a pet pig, you’ll get hurt. It pains me to say this but some people are like feral hogs.
One of the first spiritual teachings I learned was that humans have a choice. In fact, that’s supposed to be the big deal about being human. Conscious choice. We can decide to be spiteful, greedy, selfish, stingy. And most of us have made those choices from time to time. Just got low enough, weary enough to sling around some spoiled meat. I’ve gone feral at times. There are people that can testify to this. (Recently I was a rude maniac at a service window just because they didn’t accept credit cards without ID. Still feeling kinda sick about it because when I went back to say I’m so sorry — they were gone.)
But if you know someone is on that path in a permanent, by choice kind of way — they hurt babies and hunt while everyone is sleeping — treating them with more kindness makes you prey and practicing empathy just gets you eaten. Don’t ignore information people try to give you and don’t trust the people who knew it was a hog all along and didn’t tell you.
You can’t make people good by being good to them. They get to choose.
A few years ago, Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile came out and he made some species saving points about survival. (Look — the book was deep and I’ll probably Gump this up) Basically systems are strengthened by occasional threats, provoking systems to beef up boundaries and anti threat defenses. High trust systems, relying on principles and moral behavior are vulnerable to feral hogs.
During and after disasters, a few feral hogs always show up. What a good time to root around, pigging out on assets while people are traumatized. Sometimes these hogs are shameless and obvious, sometimes subtle and sweet. You can identify them because they always walk away with more than they came with…with a plumped-up, self-satisfied look about them.
No matter how vigilant you are, some of them will get past you. You may have voted for one. You might hire one. Maybe you tried to love one. Hogs can smell and look strong and if you’re a bit overwhelmed and under protected they’ll get in. Cause you are, at best, a part time predator detector and they are a full time hog.
I wrote this for me and maybe for you too.