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Posted by gustav at 01:01AM, Sunday, December 08th, 2002

They say you get back what you put out. I think that's a crock.

People continue to disappoint me on an almost daily basis. I don't think it's because I'm an inherently cynical person -- I think people are just irrational and untrustworthy and duplicitous. Some people, anyway. Intellectually, I know this. Why, then, doesn't my behavior reflect such knowledge?

First off, let's address this get back what you put out thing. I think that may apply to vibes -- if you act to please people, they're more likely to be pleasant in return. But I don't think it's a cardinal rule. People surprise me all the time. Sometimes they behave much better than I have any right to expect; sometimes much worse. The premise that you only receive what you give has a mercenary flavor to it of which I don't altogether approve, and which I think is actually much more cynical than anything I believe. I was reading this post yesterday on Craigslist -- Missed Connections -- by some woman who was unhappy on her T ride home from work, and was blown away that this cute butch girl asked her if she was okay. There's someone who puts out negative vibes and gets care and concern back. That happens. And then there are all the employers for whom I've worked earnestly and dilligently, only to get laid off, or to get the promised raise postponed, or get shot down in other ways because all the work I did threatened people. I'm certainly not getting back what I put out in that case.

These glib little pick-you-ups are good for the superficial New England types who really mean "don't be negative, because you're making me unhappy." Which is fine. I just wish they'd say what they mean instead of couching it in some pseudo-philosophical line to feed me. People are irrational and unpredictable, and they do things exactly contrary to what they've promised. The vibes you put out can effect how they behave, but there are no guarantees. Some people are just evil, and are going to screw you no matter what, while saying anything they can to get you to behave the way they want. And some people don't trust you, no matter what, and end up pulling stunts that make you not trust them. And some people are just irrational.

So no holier-than-thou deep-thought koans, please. Human behavior is tough to sum up, and everyone really is different. There was a period where I thought people, underneath, were more similar than not. I don't think that any more. Part of it is watching the way the people in power in this country have behaved. Part of it is seeing how people I've slaved away for have behaved. There are lots of people out there who do things I never could have predicted, and who behave in the most selfish and manipulative manners, tricking and bullying people as I could never envision myself doing (yes, I'm talking to you, Robert, John, George W, Rummy, Tom, Tina, etc.). Despite years of experience to the contrary, I still expect people to basically behave as I would, and I can't change that behavior. That's a bad thing, because it very often gets me burned. Not that I'm a paragon of virtue, but there are a lot of scumbags out there. I value self-consistency, but most people are hypocrites who don't, and because I can't understand that, I'm surprised when they behave as they do. And still there are a few people who are kind -- not because they expect a reward for their kindness per se, but just because they have empathy for their friends, and like it when everyone feels good (yes, I'm talking to you, Denise, Steve, Brian, etc.). Don't try to paraphrase the diversity of human behavior. It doesn't work like that.

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