Good people annoy me
Phoenix -> Seattle flight. Some laptop battery left. Now you will pay the price, which is my writing another long and complicated but poorly-thought-out blog post.
One of the most annoying bumper stickers I see is the one that says
If you aren’t completely appalled, then you aren’t paying attention.
Admittedly, there’s a point to be made about complacency. “Things are peachy for me” doesn’t mean things are great for everyone. It’s good to think about whether we have a responsibility to other human beings, and what that may move us to do.
But the other messages of that bumper sticker are:
a) I’m in the know and you are not. I am clued-in, aware, and wise. I pay attention while you are oblivious.
b) I am more socially conscious, and a better person, than you are.
c) I judge the world by my standards and I find it wanting. I know what should be happening in the world. I know what bad things other people do, and what they should be doing that they’re not.
d) You are wrong for not having the correct reaction to the fact that other people not meeting my standard.
I’m sure people who buy this bumper sticker have honestly-held convictions about moral issues. But I also think they’re unconsciously moved to buy it because it sets them up in the position of being In The Know, and grants them the moral high ground, and they’re completely unaware of that motivation.
Now, it’s normal to judge. It’s normal to have a standard, and priorities, and to argue for them. In writing this blog post, I am judging the people who wrote/display that bumper sticker.
But the difference is that the sticker is so general – it doesn’t address any particular issue; it doesn’t provide for the complexity of real life, for the possibility of someone else having a different view or different priorities or a different idea of the best solution.
It not only says “I know what is best for everyone”, it says that other people are wrong for how they *react* to the fact that folks aren’t toeing my line.
Most important of all, the world is full of appalling things. It has been since… always. Not to be a Negative Nelly here, campers, but golly gee whiz – does anyone *not* realize that right now as you are reading this, someone is being tortured. Someone is dying alone and in great pain. Someone is losing their beloved child or parent or partner to war, hunger, fire, or a wasting disease. Children are being raped and brutalized and maltreated in a hundred ways. People are lonely, hungry, hurting. Everyone who lives eventually dies, and 99.9% of them don’t want to. Most things that live in the forest get eaten by other things, and as often as not the process starts while dinner is still alive. Life is full of hurt, and loss, and brutality and injustice.
For any thinking person, just living requires that one accept and deal with that fact in some way.
Some people pretend it’s not happening. Some people dull their senses and fill their time with potato chips and Jerry Springer. Most of us make a conscious decision to think about bad things in a measure proportional to our ability to do something about them right now; we make a deliberate decision to enjoy the hell out of all the things that are great about life, because nobody’s promised us tomorrow and even our next breath isn’t guaranteed. We learn to accept the good that life offers us, and try not to allow the bad to cripple us and take away our joy at being alive.
And we do what we can to make things better for the people around us, to leave the world better for our presence. We do this in whatever measure allows us to live at peace with our consciences. This is an extremely personal decision, and not one that someone should sit in judgment about with a preachy sticker.
So, bumper sticker person, sorry if I’m not wringing my hands and jumping up and down about whatever you’ve got your knickers in a twist about today, and which you feel you’ve got the inside scoop on. It seems to me that if [insert your pet political issue here] appears uniquely or exceptionally appalling to you, then *you* are the one who’s ignorant of history and oblivious to the state of the world and the nature of existence. And that’s why I find your bumper sticker annoying.
Or maybe it's just that the sticker highlights my privileged life, good health, children, etc, and I feel guilty that I don't live a life of political activism and doing more for other people. It could be that, too.