The demonic in everyday life

Richard Beck starts by reflecting on an interaction with a Utility worker sent to shut off his electricity, continues by asking himself about why it is that he had trouble seeing the humanity of prison guards and then suggests that perhaps the pace and lack of human interaction of modern life is leading us to dehumanize one another.

“I guess that description might seem wildly overblown. But over the last few years, after engaging with the work of people like William Stringfellow, I’ve been thinking a great deal about how the bureaucratic structures of the world dehumanize us.

[…]The point of all this is that I’m coming to the conclusion that one of the demonic forces in modern life is how we are increasingly interacting with each other through bureaucratic systems. When I find myself yelling at the person in front of me it is very likely that I’m not really mad at this particular person. Rather, I’m yelling at an agent of the system. An agent who, after work is over, will go home to his or her family for dinner. And maybe he will stop off at a liquor store to get a drink to take the edge off. It was a bad day after all. Particularly that guy who was yelling and rude because his electricity got turned off…

Everyday we are in a battle to hold on to our humanity within a system that is dehumanizing us. Can we crack through the bureaucratic fog to see the flesh and blood people standing in front of us? The waiter. The manager. The return clerk. The bank teller. The secretary. The umpire/referee. The police officer. The bag boy. The financial aid officer. The tax agent. The coach. The school principal. The church staff member. The guy shutting your electricity off…”

More here.

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