The story appears on

Page A7

December 9, 2019

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Opinion

Why some people snap more easily than others

Dear Editor,

My first reaction upon reading “Those tossing objects from high buildings, beware!” (December 3) was “Who in the world throws things out windows?” A little voice whispered in my head immediately: “You, under the right circumstances!”

It is one of the sad features of human life that people, occasionally, can snap. In the movie “Network” from a few decades ago the principal character memorably shouted “I can’t take it any more!” as he rebelled against the powers by shouting out his window.

When I was a younger man I had something of a temper, one that could escalate rather rapidly until it was white-hot! I have never thrown things out a high-rise window, but I do recall doing and saying many things that I deeply regret.

Moreover, in truth, I was also lucky many times in that no one heard or witnessed some of my outbreaks for, if they had, I might have been, at the very least, deeply humiliated by my behavior having been found out. How is that some people seem to be more easy-going than others?

A friend often said of me, “You’re lucky.” He knew me well.

My brother, on the other hand, was decidedly not so lucky. An early indicator was when he fell out of his bed when he was 3 years old and broke his collarbone.

I remember one day, when I was 12 or so, coming home and finding him writhing in pain at the top of the stairs that led from our house’s main floor to the upstairs bedroom.

Turns out his appendix had burst. Luckily, my discovering him in time allowed him to live (for a while longer, at least).

Through the years I have encountered many people like my brother who, but for a mistaken judgment, or just bad luck, suffered for the rest of their lives.

How eager we are to hang a label around someone’s neck for something which they did once but — no matter how much they have changed — are forever known or labeled for that.

What was it that drove that young man in the article to do what he did? Were they circumstances that family or friends helped cause or, alternatively, helped to ameliorate?

How many others are walking around with throbbing scars, physical or mental, that the rest of us can barely guess at?

Recently I read an article from the current New Republic magazine reviewing a book from a woman who had intentionally sought employment in three of the kind of low-wage, high-pressure jobs so prevalent in the US today: working in a warehouse for Amazon, for a call center, and in a fast food restaurant. These jobs are places out of a nightmarish hell: constant pressure to do faster as every movement is timed, recorded, and used to justify continuing or terminating one’s employment; little opportunity for human time to simply take a break, speak pleasantly to a co-worker for a moment, or to eat without hurrying.

Such conditions leave one exhausted physically and emotionally at the end of the work day (in the fast-food business, the “work day” may actually consist of two widely separated periods of time in which one has to hurry to accomplish what “living” requires.

It is truly a wonder that we do not see more people “freaking out,” crumbling under such pressures.

It is truly one of the evils of the American laissez-faire capitalist system that government at all levels does not step in to insist that such “work” is beneath the dignity of human beings.

People fear being replaced by robots.

In truth, even when they can get work, they are increasingly expected to behave as if they were robots themselves.

I hope we might all be more aware of what we are doing to others.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend