Saturday, August 18, 2012

Don't Be A Lemming: or Mob Mentality Leads To The Extinction Of "The Common Good"

In college I learned that some cultures were shame-based while others could be honor-based. If I remember correctly, shame-based means you don't do things that the majority shuns because you don't want the shame and if you're shameless and do it anyway, you lose all your friends. So then honor-based means that you do what is right to maintain your honor because no one wants to lose that because then you're shunned. The Puritans, I think, started our lovely shame-based society many aeons ago (I think some parts of Asia, and maybe the Klingons, are or were honor-based). But now we seem to be both shameless and baseless. Today, anybody is allowed to do whatever they want whenever they want and there ain't nothin' you can do about it. Apparently laws, shame, common sense, and honor are completely ignored.

Bike riders who switch from vehicle to non-vehicle and back again when it's convenient for them. Hey, people on bikes, when you're on the sidewalk or in the crosswalk, you're supposed to be off your bike and walking beside it, not almost running over pedestrians, taking unfair advantage of your ability to traverse crosswalks to create a shortcut and beat the cars, and For Shame, riding blissfully through red lights as if they don't apply to you. Because you can. It's not right and you should be ashamed. But you're not. And I'm NOT supposed to judge you. So...I find your behavior despicable, especially when my life is in danger due to your lack of kindness towards others. And bikes are not allowed in the house! Or on the elevator next to others dressed in their dry-clean-only office clothes. You are dangerous and just because your motor is human doesn't mean that you or an unsuspecting pedestrian can't get really hurt. And if you accidentally knock over an older lady in your haste to get...somewhere, stop and help her instead of leaving her in the middle of the crosswalk with a broken hip (hoping that someone else will have the time to help her or convincing yourself that a woman in her 80's is probably okay from that brush-by that left her on the ground).

Peeing in public. Fortunately for me, I have never been around when someone does this. I *have* seen, though, that someone or some people like to urinate on the flower boxes outside the office building I work in. You can be partially shielded from the street, I guess. But I have two things to say 1) Ew. and 2) EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!! I have to step over those darker spots (because they head towards the drain nearby) to get into my building. I also do not enjoy stepping over human excrement just lying there on the sidewalk, or, horror of horrors, the "gift" someone left at the midway level of an escalator. Gross. And WHY?!?! It's possible any of these people were inebriated or otherwise chemically-altered, but that really doesn't make it okay. If you're so drunk or high that you don't know it's not appropriate, well, there are no words. Stop drinking or doing whatever makes you unaware of proper waste evacuation etiquette. If not for your own health, then to prevent the recurrence of the Black Plague that ran as rampant as the human waste that everyone emptied into the streets and gutters. Let's not go back to the Dark Ages. Really bad things happened then. And it was dark...and apparently stinky.

Smoking where it boldly says "No Smoking." I get it. The world has decided that the doctors are right and smoking really is bad for you. Now you can't smoke inside, there are less ashtrays for you to throw your cig in, and, hey, who cares about other people who may have breathing issues who have to walk through your cloud of smoke that's being puffed way too close to a building entrance, right next to the air intake for a building, or anywhere where it clearly states that your smoking habit is not welcome. By the way, open grates may seem very convenient to throw your butt into, but you don't know where it the electrical vault of the building you work at and enough trash thrown down there can start a fire and damage the building and maybe you'll be liable if they find your DNA on the thrown out butts. Maybe. (Also, grates are not good trash receptacles for your fast food remnants that you can't walk 20 feet to the trash bin to throw away in case you might miss your bus that you can see coming from a mile away.)

Cussing in public. Please stop. Please. It's really not okay and have you ever really thought about what that long string of words really means? You don't make sense. And your mind must always be in the gutter. And it's usually hateful.

So, what happened? Why is it okay to behave badly just because other people are doing it and you aren't alone in (usually) acting foolhardy? I fear that our society is leaning towards a new base: mob-based, that because enough of us act a certain way, then it's okay. It's been slowly creeping into our society for centuries, I guess. Perhaps it's part of the "base" part of human nature, to be out for one's self and to ignore the needs of others. I think we all tend to the selfish sometimes and being nice and good can be hard. It reminds me of that movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when Spock sacrificed himself to save everyone and both he and Kirk say the lines "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one." Come to think of it, I think Gene Roddenberry made Vulcans honor-based, too. Of course Captain/Admiral Kirk had to go save a resurrected Spock in the next movie...but that's beside my point.

Too often we allow the needs of the few to outweigh the needs of the many. You can still love people and be disappointed in their behavior. Isn't that a lot of parenting right there? Again, I'm not a parent, so I'm just guessing. But today it's not even okay to say you're disappointed in someone else's behavior because that's not "right." Well, what you were doing wasn't right and not enough of us are standing up and saying either "for shame" or "you are without honor." Making something legal doesn't make it right, even if a lot of people think it is. And the mindset of wanting it to be right so that you're not doing wrong and being offended at the slightest whiff of someone else not agreeing, well, didn't your mom give you a time-out, spanking, or wash your mouth out with soap for behaving naughtily with no thought for others? And now you're an adult with no authority figure to answer to. Note to self: keep trying to be good, even when it's not popular, even if I know my mom isn't going to fly out and give me a time out. To mothers who follow through with threats of punishment: thank you for teaching us rather than just trying to be our friend. Children need boundaries so they realize when they're adults that those boundaries do exist and are necessary. Society would be better for it. Needs of the many, people. Needs of the many.

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