Choice, vice, and the Protestant ethic for the 21st century…

Note: The following is loosely based on a recent conversation and nicely sums up what’s probably at the core of my life philosophy. It has been sanitized for your protection, or ribbed for your pleasure, or whatever…

Look, if you want to kill yourself, have at it. You want to whore yourself out? Go forth and do great things. Want to chase that high six times a day? You do you, kiddo. Want to escape from the world and go live in the woods or under a bridge somewhere? Help yourself. I don’t have any business telling you how to live – or rather it isn’t my business right up until how you want to live starts having an out-sized impact on those around you who are just trying to live their lives too.

You see, the thing is, I don’t really care about what are commonly called “vice” crimes. Drugs, gambling, prostitution – the old classics. As long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, why the hell do I care what they choose to do with or to themselves? Experience tells me that trying to save someone from themselves is almost the textbook definition of a losing proposition. I’m fully prepared to let people go on drinking and drugging and whoring and gambling to their heart’s content if that’s what they want to do.

Here’s the catch. When their decisions start interfering with other people who are just out in the world trying to do their own thing, I’m perfectly willing to see society crash down on them like the clenched fist of any angry god. When they start killing and thieving and generally making civilized life impossible for others, my level of sympathy with their “plight” drops to damned near zero.

When the drunk climbs behind the wheel or the addict breaks into a home or the gambler starts embezzling from their employer, I cheerfully advocate a policy of zero tolerance and swift, harsh retribution. In life you make your choices and the consequences should naturally follow. It’s not my job to shelter you from those consequences. It’s not society’s job to pick up the tab and bail people out because they’ve made shit decisions.

Some people call me misanthropic. They’re not wrong. Based on a lifetime of observation, I like to think my general misanthropy comes from a place of reason. Couple that with a firm belief in self-determination across all circumstances, and well, there’s a pretty high risk of sounding like an asshole. Of course just because you sound like an asshole doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
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I feel like I’m on to something here. Do the work. Be responsible for yourself. Basic guidelines for life not spent as a complete and utter drain on society. Maybe I’ve stumbled upon the Modified Protestant Ethic for the 21st Century.

No worse critic…

It has come to my attention that there may be a feeling that I have a tendency towards being too critical of people and things. I’m told “mistakes happen.” They surely do… except that what most people call mistakes I’ve found to usually be caused by failing to plan, not training hard enough, lack of attention to detail, or just generally being sloppy in the way you execute your day to day responsibilities. Negative consequences resulting from any of those things are not so much mistakes or random accidents as they are direct results of some general failure to adequately prepare or perform.

I don’t say that to cast dispersions upon anyone. Legitimate mistakes do happen from time to time. Random chance sees to that. I’m perfectly willing to admit it. If it seems, occasionally, that I’m overly sensitive to such things or that I’m living with unrealistic expectations of others, I can only ask you to rest assured that I also live with those standards for myself. I know instinctively that I will never have a worse critic than the one that lives inside my own head. I feel every honest mistake intensely – and every consequence of personal failing or inadequate preparation like a body blow.

In our daily endeavors it’s a fool’s errand to demand perfection. There’s simply no way to control for all possible inputs. Even knowing that, though, I’ll make no apologies for expecting good order and discipline to prevail. All I can promise you, and I swear this before the gods, is that I will never hold another to a standard higher than to that which I hold myself.

It’s Darwinian…

In the case of the angry gorilla versus the ill disciplined four year old, I tend to side with the gorilla. I tend to fall on the side of the animals in most cases, except when it involves issues of the ones western civilization has proclaimed tasty when flame broiled.

The case at hand seems relatively straightforward. The youngster was repeatedly told by those who allegedly care for his well being that he was not going into the gorilla enclosure. He failed to follow those instructions and received the opening salvo of what would surely have been an epic beat down for his efforts. It’s a most pure example of action and consequence that we’re likely to see this week. It’s downright darwinian in its simplicity – except that we stepped in rather than letting the gene pool cleanse itself a bit.

But surely, someone will say, you value human life more than a gorilla’s? Yeah, except I generally don’t. From a purely numerical standpoint, there are only a few hundred thousand gorillas in existence versus the more than seven billion humans. The death of a human, while tragic to that individual and the immediate group of family and friends, simply doesn’t make that much difference to the world at large. The death of a single gorilla, because their population is so small, is orders of magnitude more important by contrast. Of course that analysis is only true when we’re willing to look at humans as just another animal wandering around in the wild.

There’s plenty of blame to go around – the kid for not doing what it’s allegedly responsible adult guardian told hime to do, the allegedly responsible adult guardian for doing whatever seemed more important than keeping their kid from taking a header into a gorilla enclosure, and the zoo for not making their enclosure more idiot proof than the greatest of village idiots. The only one in this scenario I don’t blame is the gorilla who was just doing what gorillas do and ended up getting killed because of this long string of failures on the part of the “more intelligent species” involved.