Friday, July 12, 2013

Is it cowardice or conformity?

I got hungry...

So being the kind of single guy who doesn't cook anything that doesn't have "tuna" or "ready in minutes" on the label and not really having anything in the house that met that criteria I ventured out.  My destination was of course an experience that always involves the phrase "want fries with that?"

No I don't exclusively dine at restaurants with a drive-thru window; it was just too late and I was too tired. 
I'm also a car guy and I know how bad regular short trips can be on a car.  Considering it cost me $130 for a battery last week because of a car that rarely ventured more than 5 miles from the garage, I  tend to make my errands take the scenic route these days.

My motivation was hunger and a desire to not repeat last week's unscheduled surprise that left me stranded in an intersection for 2 hours. 

So after taking a long leisurely trek around my chosen bedroom community I came to a stop at an intersection. 

This was a special intersection with those nifty Red Light cameras.  I've been aware of them for years and done my utmost to avoid being captured for posterity.  Like most people I'd rather not suffer the cost of that "special moment"

So as I came to a stop awash in the crimson glow of the stop signal I felt a sense of trepidation.  This particular intersection was famous for extracting the contents of many a Mesa citizen's wallet.  Be it fair or foul these camera's offered no quarter to the guilty even if they were innocent.

Knowing this, I proceed through a carefully measured right turn when it happens...

A Flash!

I'm blinded, disoriented....guilty....

Or am I?

I've made this turn a thousand times without incident,  I tend to be overly cautious about such things but still I felt that sense of dread.   I knew I didn't intentionally do anything wrong but instead of the courage of my convictions I instantly felt the cowardice of false guilt.

We all know the stories of how such traffic sentinels are nothing more than revenue generators that prey on a guilty conscience.  Far from the purported catalysts for driver safety they're more like a cash cow for starved local governments looking for an easy buck . 

And they're not alone...

It got me to thinking.  Was this the only time I felt guilty for the sin of nothing? 

It wasn't. 

Think about that time you saw your boss stomping around the office like a charging bull.  You knew to stay out of his way till the storm blew over.  I'd even wager that for a split second your mind leapt to recall what you possibly could have done to cause his tirade.

Never mind that your boss was angry because someone backed into his brand new Lexus in the parking lot.  In that split second you felt false guilt and began devising rationalizations for your defense.

Are these the wages of a civilized society?  What's so civilized about living in fear that can spring forth at any moment over nothing of consequence.  It makes me wonder how the species ever achieved the ability to walk upright considering how much time we spend with our heads down.

Maybe it's because most of us occupy lives that aren't reflections of our true selves but instead walk a delicate balance between survival and peril.   That's just life, right?

I consider myself more rebellious than most people and generally eschew false pretense.  I'm not getting any younger and don't have the time to waste on cloudy nuances.   It's never served me to be enigmatic; in fact it scared people away. 

"For well, you know that it's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder."  Hey Jude, The Beatles

Still, I'm living in the same condition as everyone else even if I don't agree with it.  Not able to embrace my true self and be confident in my own convictions.  Just like you I don't want to make too many waves and make a difficult life even more so. 

I just can't take any more conflict when everywhere I look I already have more of it than I care for.  I don't profess to be any more encumbered than the rest of you I just know how my encumbrance feels.

That's the problem with flying under the radar like most of us do.  We drown our true selves and embrace the cowardice of complacency.  It's just safer that way, right?

Then we either admire or hate those that seem to have it all.  Funny though, both are actually opposite sides of the same coin.  We just can't accept that the only difference between them and us is that they rolled the dice.  If they lost they just tried again instead of condemning themselves for even making the attempt.
Which brings me back to my burger run.

I'm fairly confident that the 3 cars I vaguely remember blasting through the intersection while it was still bathed in that crimson glow were the likely culprits for the brilliant flash of the electronic accuser.  Still, I felt that doubt and it disturbs me.

I don't advocate suddenly throwing your life into chaos tomorrow by upending your belief system.   I just ask that you start to be a little more honest with yourself.

Are you everything you want to be or is it just good enough to get by.  Not everybody is meant to realize their fantasies but we are meant to be the best "us" we can be.  That can't happen if "getting by" means your better self is compromised for the sake of nothing more than preserving a faulty status quo.

It takes small changes but small changes can reap astonishing rewards.  We're never as productive as when we're in harmony with what we know to be right.  Not what we're "told" to be right but what we know from refusing to be subordinate to the whims of those who don't have our best interests in mind.

A police officer is never as valuable writing a speeding ticket as he is comforting a lost child.  Teachers  never as valuable as when their lessons come from a desire to inform instead of an inadequate curriculum.  
Small changes that come from who you really are can change the world.  That's not fluff, I've seen the proof  but you've got to be stalwart and that's hard. 

Oppressors come in many cloaks some more subtle than others. 

Voter suppression, traffic cameras, mandatory health insurance, H1B visa abuse, student loans, credit scoring practices.  All of them egregious in varying degree but all of them tolerated.  Some for the sake of the "greater good" some only mentioned in passing for a juicy sound bite.   

Look more deeply at any of them, however, and even the seemingly virtuous becomes something less when we find out who their advocates are. 

Yet we accept it assuming that this is just the way of the world.  It's not and it's a questionable society that tolerates the assertion. 

Which makes me question everything.  To do any less is cowardice.

So I wait...

Will I receive an undeserved ticket for an offense I know I didn't commit?  Who knows?  I honestly hope not but that's the coward in me.  The one we're all expected to embrace. 

It doesn't serve anyone to blindly accept the corruption of ideals for the sake of the cowardice of conformity.   What we accept as reality frequently crushes any hint of our ideals.  I can only be aware of it and try to resist the" quick and easy path."

I mean look how Darth Vader ended up!

By the way,  Mesa may be ripping down the Red Light cameras next year due to public outcry and cost concerns. 

Way to go but still such a ways to go.