Monday, November 22, 2010

Looking Both Ways

Today as I was crossing the street to Tin Roof at 7th and Broadway, an old man crossing perpendicular to my companion and I said something along the lines of, "So red lights have gone out of style, huh?" Feeling defensive already, I replied in an annoyed tone of explaining something to a small child, "There were no cars coming." In retrospect, I wish I had said, There were no cars coming, dumbass. He in turn responded by saying that it didn't matter, the point was that its illegal to cross at a red light. The conversation quickly became a three way argument, my friend and I trying to point out to him that the whole point of lights is to keep traffic flowing smoothly, and that when there is no traffic, its ridiculous to wait for a light to change before crossing the street.

I felt riled up and exasperated with the disgusting degree to which this man had conformed his decision making to the structures of laws, rather than actual functionality. He raised his voice over us, saying something about how we'd rather argue than be 'correct' (or maybe 'corrected', which is what my friend heard). As he disappeared from sight, I yelled after him, "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery! Don't be a robot!"

This situation pissed me off. To use NVC terms, I felt pissed off. I feel enraged. I need a shared reality, and functionality. And since anger comes from fear, I think on some level I am terrified at how deeply people have entrenched the forms of laws, rather than their purposes, into their psyches. I am really scared that anyone would propose for a moment that you should wait to cross a street when there are no cars coming, unless there was a blind curve (which it wasn't, we could see for blocks). This isn't just about the red light, although the actual situation alone is enough to aggravate me. Its symbolic for all the ways in which people conform mindlessly to society's rules and expectations.

Of course, this was an old man, I could rationalize to myself. He comes from a bygone era, in which the government was always correct. No one our age would agree with his ridiculous time-wasting conformity. Although I doubt that's completely true, regardless, there are plenty of other examples of ways in which people follow rules simply because they were taught them at a young age, when they were impressionable, when adults could answer the magical question "Why?" with, "Because," or, "That's just the way it is." And eventually most people stop asking why, stop asking and just accept orders from anyone above them in the hierarchy. This is what allowed the Holocaust to happen. This is what makes prison guards abuse prisoners and get away with it. This is what created Abu Ghraib. This scares me. I am very afraid.

One of my favorite quotes goes, :"Rules are guidelines for people who can't make decisions for themselves." I don't know who said it, but a lot of people have thought of it independently. I read it recently in a book, or on Facebook. It doesn't matter if I cite it, because that's just another rule. I was thinking about anti-copyrights today. It's something that anarchists often put on publications. It'll say, Every sound, word, thought, and idea you hear is free for you to use as you please. I like this. All our ideas are shared anyway. Like when you think of something new, and then you google search it and get 3 million hits. It's all shared consciousness. And if you don't get any hits, now someone somewhere else is gonna think of it independently of you. Who gets credit? Whoever copyrights it first? How is that fair? Its not.

Not that I don't think anarchists and hippies shouldn't copyright their shit. I think we should. Because if we don't, some capitalist will. Might as well copyright or patent it, and then let the public use it for free. Only sue the big guns when they try to make money off your idea.

I digress. The point is, lets liberate ourselves from the forms of things, and remember the purpose of social agreements. If the purpose is important, we can all find our own way to make it work. Like looking both ways before crossing a street, and then crossing if no cars are coming, even if it is a red light.

And fuck you, old man. I feel sorry for you. Its too bad you were so easy to indoctrinate. But don't push your mechanical way of living onto me. I'm alive, and I can make decisions for myself.

1 comment:

  1. First rule of anarchy: Think for yourself.
    Second rule of anarchy: Follow the first rule of anarchy.
    Third Rule of anarchy: Dont ever mention the three rules of anarchy because anarchists won't like it.

    I think that this is the cleverest thing I've ever thought up. I am such a clever asshole sometimes.

    Great blog though. I was very intertained and inspired to think.