Losing Control of Ourselves

I’m writing this on the same day that an incident happened in a Spur between two angry parents which subsequently exploded and went viral across social media. At this risk of this coming across as a sort of Zen advice piece, I thought I’d give a couple of my thoughts on this incident and the wider trend I see. Ignoring the whole black/white, male/female thing, if that’s even possible for some, what struck me was the following:

When I saw that this happened in the greater Johannesburg area I just ruefully nodded about it. I’m seeing with my own eyes how we’re becoming worse at controlling anger. Whether it’s in the traffic, on Twitter or in this case, in restaurants. People are just . . . angry. I’ve seen similar situations to this play out across Johannesburg in my five years here, and it’s not correlated with ethnicity or gender clashes. I see it more as a chronic failure of emotional intelligence. People seem to have a very hard time controlling their emotions and it’s like so many people have this simmering fury under the surface constantly threatening to boil over. They’re happy to go on raging tirades in public at the smallest of differences with someone. I used to think this was a Joburg thing, and although I think it is worse in a bigger city it’s something that occurs all across South Africa. I’ve see videos of Port Elizabeth people fist fighting in the street over a road rage incident in which not a single car was scraped or touched. The friendly city eh?

As a fairly new parent, the one thing I know more than anything is that the example you set is more important than any teaching, advice or instruction you give a child. Unfortunately the example being set in this particular Spur was deplorable. What is even more unfortunate however, is that this isn’t an isolated incident. Our lack of calm, self-reflection and self-awareness is busy spilling over in a new generation, and we only have ourselves to blame for being a fuming, impatient society constantly on edge with each other, and possibly with ourselves. Is this a symptom of a world that’s become tougher, scarier and more demanding? Or is the general emotional capacity of society in general regressing?

As parents, we are the leaders of our families. Perhaps then we need to remember that leaders who do not have control of their own feelings and reactions, and act as creatures of emotion rather than reason, will get very little respect, from a child at home or from an employee in the workplace.

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