Life and Times – What An Example!
A short time ago I was trying to park my car in a shopping area near where I live when things didn’t entirely go to plan. What happened is explained in the message that I subsequently posted on the local community Facebook group I’m a member of. My post read as follows:
Most readers will know that local community Facebook groups are normally populated with messages about lost pets, badly parked cars, yoga classes, street lighting, rubbish collection, activities in the local park, etc. My news was a little bit different, but it still seemed a good forum to let the local community know about a fantastic example of human togetherness unsullied by the idea of gain or material reward. It was also a way of my thanking the Car Wash fellow for being such a decent individual (and also maybe giving his business a bit of publicity).
But what I didn’t anticipate was what happened next. Within less than half an hour of my posting, there’d been over 70 replies – either ‘likes’, ‘loves’ or messages. After that the numbers only multiplied and by the following day there had been over 600 responses from people expressing approval, admiration, and various other kinds of thumbs-up. Examples of the various things people wrote were:
I will take my car there next time, just for his kind gesture
Next time I need the car washed I’ll go there too. What a brilliant man!
My chariot is long overdue for a wash, I’ll have to bring it down
A little kindness goes a long way
Yes, I was nearby and witnessed the incident and was struck by the decency and generosity of the people involved. Surely a great example of how wonderful humanity can be when we choose to cooperate with each other. Thumbs up to the young man
There is kindness around us. We just need to look
Aww how lovely …. my next car wash will be there too!
Nothing compares to human kindness, well done young man x
What a lovely story, and what a kind person. When I need a car wash, I’m goin there!
What a great outcome,,,made me a bit tearful
What a lovely thing to do
I witnessed yesterday, wow I’m impressed
He is awesome
There are still lovely humans in the world
Gives such hope in our fellow human beings. If only it was normal behaviour
The Car Wash man responded too: ‘Thank you for your kind words. It honestly meant a lot. I could see the situation was getting a bit stressful, so I thought I’d help the situation. More than welcome anytime’.
What to say about this? Well, the fact that around two thirds of the 900+ members of the Facebook responded in this way was nothing if not heartening. How strongly it militates against the view we often hear expressed that looking after number one and the greed, selfishness and competition that goes with it is somehow all there is to ‘human nature’. That’s an idea expressed in a lot of what has been said, written and published over much of human history. Yet the tide seems to have definitely turned now with many studies coming to the opposite conclusion, ie, that not only are human beings capable of manifesting peaceful and cooperative behaviour rather than being hostile and competitive with one another but are more likely to behave in that way if conditions allow it. It all depends on the circumstances. This view sees humans as eminently flexible beings who will prefer to make common cause with their fellow creatures unless they are pushed into doing otherwise by conditioning or situation. Of course empathy and cooperation may not ‘make news’ as effectively as negative, selfish or uncooperative behaviour, but that’s largely because caring cooperative activities are so everyday, so common, far outnumbering negative behaviours, and so tend to get taken for granted and go unmentioned.
All this was borne out by a recent study (2021-22) based on online questionnaires (‘The Kindness Test’), carried out by psychology researchers from the University of Sussex in collaboration with the BBC. Its ‘take home’ was that, despite the competitive ethic of current society, human beings are fundamentally a kind species generally prepared to cooperate with and help one another in their daily lives and activities. This was manifested in apparently banal but obviously important findings such as most people being readily prepared to do favours for others, helping strangers to pick up things they’d dropped, or having concerned feelings for people less fortunate than themselves. A further finding was that people who regularly carry out kind acts or even just notice that other people are carrying out kind acts also have higher levels of well-being.
And doesn’t the ‘Car Wash’ story back this up? A person who was prepared to do what he saw as ‘the right thing’ to help total strangers. And most other people, as shown in the Facebook responses, admired him for behaving in this way. Isn’t the implication that, in a society organised in an entirely different way from the current capitalist one (the one that we call socialism), people would not have the slightest problem in operating in a harmonious and cooperative way most if not all of the time. In such a society, one of common ownership, free access to all goods and services and democratic organisation, the natural human tendency to share and cooperate will surely come into its own.