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Sarcasm and Resentment
I was born in the USA. I lived
there till I was about 42. Since then I haven't spent
much time there. But those 42 years were emotionally
toxic for me. My family might have been worse than
average, emotionally speaking, or it might have been
better than average. I don't really know. But I would say
that either way, the average family in the USA is
What I want to write about though, is not the average
family in the USA. Instead I want to write about my own
personal experience. I titled this "American Sarcasm
and Resentment" because I learned to be sarcastic
and resentful in the USA and I think a lot of what I am
writing about applies to many American families and many
Americans. No doubt there is also a lot of similar
sarcasm and resentment in other countries.
Here are two small stories from my life.
From my Journal in 2005
Last night I was walking with
my partner Laura. She was walking more slowly than I
wanted to. This happens a lot. I thought to myself,
"Can you walk any fucking slower?" lol
I can laugh about it now. And I can
see that it would not have been a very helpful thing to
say. Obviously, my thoughts were a product of sarcasm and
resentment. Resentment can sometimes be helpful, when
used in a productive way, but I can't really see how
sarcasm ever is. It is deliberately being hurtful.
This reminds me of the day Laura asked me if she knew
were her shoes where. I said, "I don't know, it's
not my day to watch them." She gave me a surprised,
confused look. She didn't understand. And it wasn't
because of my Spanish. I explained to her that this is
the kind of thing that I learned when I was young. I
explained to her that this was sarcasm and resentment. I
explained that when someone is tired of something
happening again and again, they say something sarcastic
like this in the USA and probably other countries.
All too quickly she learned from this little lesson.
Later when I asked her where something was she said,
"I don't know, it's not my day to watch it." We
laughed but it's really not very funny. Fortunately she
has never said that again and neither have I.
I feel pain now from all the self-destructive and
relationship destroying things I learned when I was
young. I am continually becoming more aware of them and
trying to unlearn them and re-learn new, healthier ways
of managing my emotions.
While my experiences are personal and it is possible that
they are not representative of life in the USA, I would
say they are all too typical. Look at the success of the
TV show, the Simpsons, for example. The show is not only
popular in the USA, but in many countries around the
world. Here in South America it is so popular that there
is a Spanish version of it. When something is not very
popular, there are just sub-titles in Spanish. But for
the Simpsons, it has all been dubbed with Spanish.
Last night Laura said to me, "Look at how much
concentration that little boy has when he watches the TV
set." So I looked. And I saw that he was watching
the Simpsons. I said to her, "I feel sad to see that
he is learning American sarcasm as he watches it so
intently." She understood, but only a little, since
she hasn't lived in the USA and doesn't know how much of
a problem sarcasm and resentment is.
I think it is fair to say that in South America the
people are more open with their feelings. They are less
likely to keep things guarded away. Perhaps this helps
explain why there is less sarcasm. I'm not sure, but it
would make sense.
Anyhow, the USA is a land of what I call emotional
pollution. The movies and television shows from the USA
are watched around the world, so the emotional pollution
is being spread around as well.
It took me a very long time to start to learn about
things like sarcasm and resentment. One of the first
things I remember reading about sarcasm was that it was
"anger in disguise," or we could say it is
resentment in disguise. There is a lot to learn about
resentment and sarcasm. A lot we could be teaching. This
reminds me of the difference between emotional
intelligence, emotional knowledge and emotional skill. It
also reminds me of something I heard about related to
awareness and consciousness. It was something like this:
First we are unconsciously incompetent. Then as our
awareness increases we become consciously incompetent.
The next step is consciously competent and finally
unconsciously competent. In other words, we do healthy
things without having to think about them before doing
I am probably at all levels at different times. Last
night when we were walking I'd say I started out a the
unconsciously incompetent level. My mind came up with the
"Can you walk any f*ing slower?" quickly,
without planning. Then I quickly shifted to the
consciously competent level.
I feel good about what I did next. I realized that it
wasn't iimportant if we arrived where we were going 1 or
2 minutes earlier or later. So instead of either trying
to get Laura to walk faster, or feeling judgmental,
critical and resentufl about it, I simply stopped and
gave her a big hug. She smiled and we kept walking with
our arms wrapped around each other.
These are small changes I would like to see in the world.
As Gandhi said, "Be the change that you want to
see." I am trying to do that. Little by little. But
to be honest I also just write about things sometimes and
don't actually do them!
March 8, 2006
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