Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lying Vs Discomfort

Three middle paragraphs of the original introduction went:
...Science fiction and fantasy can shine a light on oppression versus democracy. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four showed an established regime; his fantasy Animal Farm showed how a regime starts up. After Adolf Hitler was lawfully and legally put into power, he did not need to Nazify Germany overnight, not when time was on his side. Every dictator knows: A conscience is malleable.
Does a sex trade worker, being urged to do act C, still remember how once she never thought she would do act B? Does a businessman who smokes marijuana, being tempted with cocaine, still recall how once he had felt wrong doing marijuana? Pimps, dealers and dictators: They all know.
In David Gerrold's Chtorr War series the narrator, as a high school kid, learns to say no to a dictator's very first attempt at transgression. The defense against oppression, as my feminist friends would say, begins with an awareness, for both the political and the personal.

Lying Vs Discomfort

Today I observed human nature.

Also today I learned that to walk from the Tim Hortons coffee shop doorway, out in the town of Lake Chestermere, into my own doorway, just inside the city limits, takes ten minutes driving at the posted legal speed. As I pulled out onto the 1A I could see that a long ways ahead of me was a white cube van behind a bunch (key term) of cars.

Today I observed two cars pass me. One took illegal advantage of a turning lane at the edge of the town; one crossed a solid white line into the emergency shoulder lane. Both were, utterly predictably, still behind the white van, merely two seconds in front of me, when we all crossed the city limits. Did I mention that highway 1A is two lane? With lots of oncoming traffic?


These two drivers were obviously kidding themselves that by passing me illegally they would "get to the city faster." I suppose their self-lying stemmed from stressors like grandiosity, impatience or entitlement. To be free of lying, to myself and others, means having a determination to be self disciplined enough to face reality, to be honest, even when it means temporarily feeling uncomfortable. (Sarcasm: Some find it just too uncomfortable to face the agony of enduring less than ten minutes of "only" doing a swift 100 kph speed limit.) 

For example, suppose I let my girlfriend down in some way, such as by being late. Do I bite the bullet and admit why I goofed? Or do I make up a lie, "traffic was bad," and continue to tell lies week in and week out? And what happens to my character over the space of a year if I fail to build up my tolerance for the truth, and for the discomfort of honesty? At some level my wimpish character will show to others: I'll end up attracting the girlfriend I deserve.

A lack of backbone explains so much in life. Suppose I wanted to sell stolen goods, or marijuana, out of the trunk of my car in the parking lot of a roadhouse? I would do well to have a radar gun set up down the road: I would have a far better "sales success rate" selling only to those who break the speed limit. Such individuals would be more likely, statistically, to wimp out and rationalize, "Everybody does it" or "I need my dope."


"So, you claim to "need" dope, eh?" Attend a few "open (to the public) AA meetings" and you will find middle aged people who "need" alcohol not only for the discomfort of everyday life but even for fun stuff. They "have to drink," for example, before they even arrive at a party. They had found as teens that parties were not only joyful but also anxious. So they drank in advance. Back then the rest of us were anxious too. We'd overcompensate, we'd laugh a bit too loud, but in time we toughened up; we moved on to being cool. Those no-longer-young alcoholics never lost their crutch. 

There is a reason why the age limit for using legal substances is set as high as adulthood: People deserve a chance, before they take that first substance, to gain a little discomfort tolerance and a few coping skills... (I will never forget watching a man let his fresh hot supper get cold because his marijuana was more important to him. I was the cook.)

Today, observing those two drivers, I understand a little more why sometimes certain recovering alcoholics are advised by their sponsors to "practice rigorous honesty." If I do so too, then I must look in my kitchen mirror and admit there is at least one honest man in the world. (Bang goes my excuse to be paranoid and manipulate others) It follows that not everyone lies (or speeds). If I rationalize "everyone does," so I too can take the easy way out, then I will never know that life can be any different. I will never get to know the fine people who, in addition to their discomfort, have the serenity of being self-disciplined.

...I'll try not to kid myself until next week. That's when I take the 1A, driving at the legal speed, out the other side of the city going 45 minutes out to Cochran. Once I get there surely I can somehow justify eating way too much flavored ice cream!

"... Now if you want to be free, then get this: freedom is not about being comfortable. It's about seizing and using opportunities—and using them responsibly. Freedom is not comfort. It's commitment. Commitment is the willingness to be uncomfortable. The two are not incompatible, but there are damn few free men on welfare.
The free man, class, doesn't just survive—he challenges!"

A schoolteacher for Global Ethics in David Gerrold's Chtorr War series, book one, A Matter For Men, page 30

Sean Crawford

prudishly licking an ice cream,

all over, with my tongue, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Hello Sean,
    I enjoyed reading your essay. What's the right thing to do and why seem to be issues that challenge us all.