Archive for London Riots

…you don’t realize, or don’t care, that society is a conscious choice, not a system.

Posted in All, Illiterate, Inconsiderate & Rude, Pop Culture with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2011 by oooranje

Don’t let the man hold you down, goes the cliche.  Fight the power, stand up to ‘the system‘, get your own however and whenever you can.  Lie, cheat, and loot when ‘Big Brother’ isn’t looking, and take every shortcut because the system is against you and you have to fight it.  

What an incredibly bitter, short-sighted worldview.  What an appallingly brutal, atavistic mindset.  It not only misses the point, but it punishes the very people who dedicate their lives to making things just a little better, not only for themselves and their families, but for those around them.  Consider: on any given street, on any given morning, shops only open because people come to work. You can only buy your coffee at Starbucks because the people in that store decided to do their jobs instead of going on welfare/unemployment and sitting on the couch, getting their own. You can only read a newspaper because someone wrote, edited, published and delivered it.  And so on down the line – every single last creature comfort came from the hard work that someone did, not from some faceless system or shadowy government agency dead-set on prying every last penny from your fingers. The fact that you have declared yourself entitled to those things and much, much more isn’t just silly and myopic, it’s brutally rude to those who have given up their time to make them possible.

Society, if you really boil it down, isn’t about what you deserve or don’t.  It’s not some grand scheme to hold you down and exploit you.  Society is about being part of something larger than yourself and giving your time and effort in little ways so that everyone’s life – yours included – can be better as result.

Take potholes. Potholes are often used as examples of the economic conundrum of the common good. A pothole on a road to ten houses inconveniences maybe thirty people. All it takes is one or two people to fill that pothole with gravel, and everyone benefits. In economic terms, the fact that two people work but thirty benefit is considered a disincentive, a reason for the people on that street not to act, because of course they will not be adequately compensated or even thanked for work they have, in essence, done for others.

In reality the opposite is true, and much more than you might think. I’m not talking about a dream world of altruism, but rather about the fact that people choose, most days, to live and work within a set of rules. The immediate benefit of not stealing rampantly isn’t immediately apparent: after all, if you can take a sandwich or an apple (or $5) off the counter unseen, you are obviously that much better off than you were.

But the reality is that, it everyone steals, everyone is impoverished. Why?  Because no one will put out merchandise, or if they do, they’ll have to hire added security to protect it, and charge you that much more. Look at the failed states of Africa, or the rampant corruption in certain parts of the near east. These are places where everyone looks out for him or herself, and what has it achieved?  Goods are shoddy and scarce, services several times more expensive than they would otherwise be, and the infrastructure literally crumbles all around. Society – what you angrily call a system – is a conscious choice and a juggling act; it takes effort to keep the balls in the air.

Now go back to the potholes. When you run riot, when you steal, when you demand rights and privileges that you have not earned nor paid for, you’re worse than someone ignoring a hole in the street. You are the ignorant cretin who digs up the work of others and picks at the hole. Little by little, literally and figuratively, the road is wearing away. Before you destroy things, try building them first.