Why is it that the misery of others tends to soothe our own? Yes, yes – we grant the common and appropriate responses of heartfelt empathy and facial frowns and perhaps even some tears; but in the end, is it because of the resulting comparative analysis – of a cold, rational and logical methodology of responsive behavior – that we appease the gods of fate in some primitive form of sacrificing others, knowing that so long as the traveling karma has not yet noticed our own plight of devious accord, we are safe for another day?
Or is there some false paradigm upon which most of us operate – that economic prosperity is based upon a limited “pie”, and we must take a set portion before it disappears, or protect the leftovers we have salvaged against the ravenous predators who seek to deprive; or that chance and statistical ascription of proportional divides mandate that there is only a predetermined reach of human misery on a macro-level, and so long as that preset number is satisfied, such tragedy of suffering will leave us untouched?
We certainly have a history of such mythological adherence; whether of man’s historical conduct by religious fervor and slaughter in the name of heavens unreached (which has still not quenched its thirsting pinnacle of folly, as current epics attest to), or in the silent quips and prayers uttered to protect ourselves from nature’s fury; we believe, somehow, that but for the grace granted by an unfathomable other, we would experience the plight of those whom we would rather avoid like the plague. Or is it much more basic – somewhat like the epidemic which takes the life of another, and the thought is, so long as the infectious predator busily devours and destroys the next guy, you are immune to its distracted attention?
We certainly find relief, and even enjoy the consternation of discussion, in other people’s misery; to stand around and about gossiping of trials and heartaches inflicted (with the distinction appropriated that, because the point of such exchanges are meant to be “helpful”, so the difference between “malicious gossip” and what we engage in must by definition allow for the momentary lapse from decorum) upon “poor Joe” or “Aunt Emma”, all the while making sure that the concealing mask bordering upon frowns and distraught distractions would not betray the sense of relief felt that it is the “other” guy whose misery remains.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties, the thing that must be known and recognized at the outset is that the human need to embrace, discuss and “do something about” other people’s misery, is that the “other” person is you. Thus, whether in a small department or a larger agency where anonymity prevails, or in a small post office or larger postal facility, the gossip which runs throughout will be like an untamed fire where no amount of extinguishers will control the spreading of it.
Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is the only way to control the discussion of that which once was the subject of another, when the “other” of other people’s misery becomes the object directed at you.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire