I said in my last piece (Civil Disobedience), that there are a small number of things for which I’ll literally risk various types of punitive action, based on the fact that doing or not doing them is sufficiently important to me. In fact, for some, it’s true that I can’t do or not do them, and be within conscience.
In that article, I implied that the majority of things that are required by society on one level or another, are at worst, a bit annoying, and at best, actually beneficial.
I’ll be the first to admit, stopping at traffic signals can be no fun. It’s even more annoying when they’re badly timed, such that you hit every light on a given street as it’s turning red, going the posted limit.
I can think of a number of such mildly frustrating things. The point though is, that’s what they are—mildly bothersome requirements.
There are some others that’re really not at all bothersome. An example would be speed limits.
I know people want to go faster than the posted maximum on many roads, but can I let you in on a little secret? As a rule, driving down the road at ten miles over the speed limit will barely get you there seconds faster than if you had just done as directed.
Let’s take just a second to look at an example.
Say you were going to your favorite burger joint, 5 miles from your house. Imagine you were on a roadway where the speed limit was thirty five miles an hour for the entire trip for the sake of simplicity. If you went the speed limit on your drive, you’d reach your destination in just under nine minutes.
Now let’s say instead, you went 45 miles an hour. It would take you almost seven minutes to get to the same place.
Wow! Going a full ten miles an hour (the ticket for which, if you’re stopped, being pretty substantial) faster than the signs tell you to go saves you a whole two minutes and change.
Since most people don’t drive that kind of distance on their average trip and most don’t drive ten miles over the speed limit—though I see that more and more these days—the chances of your saving two minutes on most any trip you make are next to zero.
Yet the average person in my home town, thinks nothing of speeding from place to place.
The funny thing about it is, when I drive any kind of distance, the speeders will roll by my like I’m stopped only after I’ve gotten up to speed. Leaving the same light, they’ll invariably be behind me until that happens.
Then at the next signal that’s red—even if it’s two or three down the road—I’ll generally either pull up even with them, or be no more than five car lengths back from them.
So in reality, how much more quickly do they get to the place they’re going? The simple answer is, “Most often, we’d be stepping out of our cars at almost the same time.”
Then there are the people who rush up to lines various places to be in front of folks. For the most part, when they do that to me, I’ll just let them do as they’re doing, since it typically means no more than five minutes longer to get what I’m tying to do, done.
Of course, this habit on their part, means that others who suffer the same intense competitiveness, will cause them to be always jockeying for position.
In the end, the net effect is almost nonexistent. They wind up more or less where they would’ve been anyway.
Such is the regular fate of people who refuse to abide by the simplest common rules of safety and decency.
In the process, you can be sure there are people quietly taking note of their behavior. For the most part, that makes no difference, since:
- The people looking on will typically take little to no action and
- Smart folks realize that acting as these folks do is not in anyone’s best interest
In rare cases, people will actually make noise or take action of some kind, making it so some sort of argument or scuffle occurs. Thankfully, this is seldom true.
Have you noticed though, that accidents seem to consistently occur on the roadways? I’ve been in just three accidents where I was driving in probably 35 years of doing so. None of them were particularly serious.
Based on the damage I see to cars on the road these days, I would estimate that one in five has some sort of damage that resulted from contact with other automobiles. That figure may be slightly high, but if it is, it’s not horribly so.
You may think you’re getting ahead, or saving time by disobeying laws and rules for safety and security, and norms designed to help create an environment of politeness and courtesy.
To begin with, you should be fully aware, others are paying attention. Additionally, considering how little you gain, and often, how much you stand to lose, the benefit of what you’re doing is questionable at best.
By no means am I trying to imply there’s no situation or circumstance in which civil disobedience is reasonable. As I indicated in my last work, that doesn’t mean you won’t suffer consequences for performing such acts.
When you do or don’t do something because conscience dictates it, and you’re punished for having done it, things are bad enough.
When you choose to do things that result in some sort of remonstrative activity with far less cause, how much worse is it?
You may’ve saved a minute, or a dollar. You could’ve gotten your groceries checked out less than five minutes sooner, but the question in the long run—considering the potential actions against you—is, “Was it really worth it?”
I maintain that, in general, it’s not.
So you may believe adhering to societally normative standards is some sort of waste of time, but in reality, that’s what makes it easier to live in our little communities. If you honestly think the extra two minutes or less, or other meager benefit you get from most acts of civil disobedience is worth it, I suppose nobody can convince you otherwise. As for me, I’m going to work to make myself as polite and adherent as possible. In doing so, at least I, and people like me will hopefully help to make the difficulty one experiences at times living among others, more tolerable.
Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.