My Daughter tells me that I don’t care about anything. I can’t argue with her, because I do often proclaim not to care. I care about her, I tell her, and I care about the rest of our lovely little family, but not much else. I genuinely don’t see the point; it is very rarely any of my business for a start.
Other people seem endlessly fascinated by the need to care about all sorts of things in the world around us. I can see why the little Swedish girl cares about the environment so much, but not why millions of people care about a bunch of vapid overly affluent people on a screen / field / bench.
I don’t care what other people’s children do: everything I remember, and everything I have ever heard about them, makes them sound mean and cruel, their actions based on the lies of people who should know better. I care about who she is and the person she is going to grow in to. It’s not top of my agenda whether she is happy, either; more that she is safe and well, and true to herself. I certainly don’t care what other people think about her.
Is any of this a common sensation? Is any of this ringing true with you? Am I a monster for having these kind of thoughts, and for expressing them on a barely read website? Yeah, whatever.
My daughter likes to stare at people; my mother does it too. My mother also comments on the things which they’re doing, regardless of whether those people are in earshot. My mother’s partner flies in to fits of apoplexy at the thought of what footballers earn, and worries deeply about the ills of the world, to the extent that it affects his health. I tell them that other people do not exist.
I am far from a deliberate advocate of solipsism, and I do understand that even though I regard other people as not being real, they are not a figment of my imagination. The idea is that that is how I act in the world, and that that is how I like it to act towards me. I want to be left alone, to get on with my own existence in the ways I see fit without the eyes of the world focussed on my failures.
(I don’t think that anything I am doing is a failure, but it does seem that the more we stand and stare at a person with whom we have absolutely no earthly connection the more critical we become of them, and the more we pick apart the methodology of what they are doing. That is my problem with commenting on how frail someone looks as they cross the road: it is needlessly hurtful to them.)
Is this the point at which I spin off some half thought through musings on the ills of social media and reality TV, citing that the world was a better place before they came along? No; I never planned to.
I don’t think that, just because I take issue with something, that I want to pinpoint a source and wax all poetical about how that source is the root of all ills. I think most of this is simple and inescapable human nature and, chances are, we have been doing all of these things since the very dawn of time.
My comments about caring about the actions and the behaviours of strangers are just a talking point here. I talk about them because they make me feel uncomfortable. I know a person who will stick her nose in to the needs of any and every person she passes in the street, because she thinks that she is helping them. I am all for helping people who need help, but I rarely see evidence that they do.
I feel that it is beyond intrusive to strike up a conversation with a stranger, just because you have observed something about them which makes you believe that they need your help. And yet, that is precisely how humanity governed itself for millennia: cooperatively. What on earth have I become?
I have blogged almost endlessly about my embarrassment with any number of different things. Just a few days ago it was the prospect of turning down a job I no longer want; now it is helping someone in the street. I’m not talking about someone who has fallen over and clearly needs medical help; I’m talking about someone sitting in a chair. They might be minding their own god-damned business.
Anyway, that was that and this is this. Is it even necessary to care? I have already bandied about enough examples to show that I am not talking about your nearest and dearest: they are the people with whom you have shared business, and so their continued prosperity is a factor in yours. I am talking about complete and utter, rank strangers: should we care one iota about any of them?
My take is no. I’m not saying that we – if we were confronted with such a situation – should not attempt to prevent a crime which is being committed: that is an emergency situation. It is, therefore not what I am talking about here. I am talking about invading the personal space – both physical and emotional spaces – of another person because you think you have the right to care.
I am talking about taking the problems of the world on to your shoulders, at the risk of collapsing under the burden of problems which are far from yours. You may think it sounds a little cold in the heart, but I think it leads to a happier existence all round. We need to be the focus of our own attention at times; it is nourishing to look inward and to see what it is which is causing us issues.
Looking outward draws attention to people who may not want attention drawn to them, and that is not our decision to make. We have no right to expose someone to the cold hard glare of public opprobrium simply because we feel that we are caring about them: that is our own vanity at play.
Worrying about things we cannot change takes our attention away from the things we have at our very fingertips: the things which we have the ability to radically alter. The problems of the world will not be solved by our stresses; the problems of our own lives are far more important for us to tackle.
I still don’t care, and it sets me free. I am open about the fact that I don’t care. It may seem callous to you, but I couldn’t care less. I care about the things which are real to me, and that’s what I like.