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Monday, October 03, 2005
Absolute Societal Compliance
I often wondered when I was growing up, 'What would America be like if everyone followed the rules?" OK, so maybe by "when I was growing up" I mean last week, but it's still a valid question.
We are a nation that loves the Gotti's, Capones and Dillingers of the world. We think of Bonnie and Clyde as a sweetly murderous Romeo and Juliet.
In that vein, we had no problems cheating on our taxes -- millions of children 'vanished' overnight when the IRS said social security numbers had to accompany any deductions for our kids -- speeding on our roads -- why ELSE would the speedometer have 140 miles per hour on it? or calling in "sick" to our jobs in myriad creative ways.
Why? The simple answer is because we wouldn't be caught. But, technology is starting to change that. We have 'cameras' that can look through our walls and computer systems owned by utility companies that can tell if we're growing "some hemp for our smoking" simply by our energy consumption.
The latest frenzy is to have cameras follow our cars' movements and have tickets issued based on those pictures.
I coined a phrase -- ASC, or Absolute Societal Compliance, to understand these things better. I mean, there have always been ways to keep tabs on the citizenry -- especially when our population was much smaller. What I'm feeling is a growing pathological insistence that no one get away with anything.
Forget the technology for a second; on a very real social level, we have empowered our governors to demand absolute compliance from all. What I fear is being lost in this mad scramble to ASC is that compliance demands norms. And, who sets those norms?
I'm not allowed to speed, or operate a vehicle without a safety belt or smoke weed or drink and drive or declare more than a 50% deduction on my expenses for my home office... OK. But, we are also encroaching on a mindset that says one can't end one's life, no matter what the circumstances and one can't criticize government.
This amazes me because I was brought up in America where, when you were speeding down the highway, you threw your trash out the window and smoked and drank at 75 miles per hour. Call it an evolution from that point, call it positive, but call it a day -- soon. I don't want to impart my mores onto anyone who doesn't want them. I'm fine that there are people who hate me because they are hate-filled bastards; I feel bad for those who feel their biggest aim in life is to control their fellow humans. But, I don't want to wrest the controls from them. What I'd like to do is use our 'bad boy' and 'bad girl' genius to make this hugely messy, imperfect American experiment continue on its merry way. Collectively, individually and everything in between. A healthy relationship, like a healthy government, adapts to its times without (in my opinion) resorting to nuclear options at the drop of a hat. Your kid sneaks off once -- you don't get to lock them in a cage. You don't.
If I have to say "Yea" to societal compliance, let's make it the big things: don't kill people; take care of our least fortunate when you can; try not to be a complete ass and understand that cooperation is what makes a society work.
That said: no photographs (of me running a red light) please!
link | posted by Jae at 5:40 PM |
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