House Sitting But Dancing

Authors Notes:

Screen shot 2010-10-20 at 21.04.21

I am sorry for the delay, but it seems that moving and then Portland took much more time than I thought. Tobe honest, it wasn’t really the moving so much as that thedetails involved made it much more difficult to be

analytical. I’ve had lots of thoughts in the meantime, but not enough clarity for it to make it possible/ fruitful to write it down. I know that it’s a pretty serious lapse, but back now and hopefully less crap in future.

Also, and I know this is a really sucky excuse I’ve been having difficulty accessing iWeb from my laptop…


I was reading an article today in the Oregonian (actually it was an op-ed) piece about the suicide of a supporting character on a reality TV program. The gist of the article was that we, as watchers, should be ashamed of ourselves for trafficking in and being entertained by this man’s (and other’s) difficulties in life. I was interesting because there was a report on the BBC news last week that researchers have found a difference in the choices children profess about intended employment/ dream careers. Previously children often chose to go into caring professions (doctor, nurse, policeman) while today they mostly want to be famous with careers that match (football/ movie/ popstar. The researcher blames the media endorsement of the glamorous lifestyle and exciting events in these peoples lives for the shift.

The two are, of course, related. At least I think so. But there are more pervasive and problematic correlations as well.

The op-ed blames us for watching, while the media industry blames them for signing up while simultaneously telling them they should. But the real issue comes from the individual shift in perception and the accompanying societal impacts. It seems we are failing to connect the dots between these things and that’s the mentality of blaming someone else. True, we could choose not to watch, true also those stars could attempt to anticipate and choose not to participate. At this point I don’t think its possible for them to say they had no idea what it might be like (although I think no one can ever really know what it would be like). But I think that’s somewhat the point. Although they couldn’t know exactly what it would be like, its possible to attempt to understand based on historical evidence of what its been like before.

This also seems linked to the riots. People’s inability to future the consequences of their actions. There has been a lot of talk, almost since the beginning of the riots of the culture and context that created the conditions conducive to their happening (sorry for the excessive alliteration). But based on the evidence in court many of the individuals were already members who had chosen to take criminal action before. This is not to say that there is not widening disparity in society (there is) or that it need not be addressed (it does), but to say that individual’s themselves still must bear responsibility for their actions.  I know that this is easier for me to say sitting in the privileged position that I do, but it is the same sentiment expressed by many people in the same communities from which the rioters hale.

Upholding the rule of law is about more than simple protection of property (although many think that’s its basis). From my perspective law is about organization of large groups in densely populated areas to allow people structure to understand how they can expect their neighbours to behave and give them codes of behaviour as well. The real crime is not the taking of things, but the unconscious thought that an individual’s desire for something is more important than the codes themselves. My father asked about the difference between the Arab Spring and the London riots and my answer is simple- in the former the long-term consequences and the collective were the point and in the latter they were not. The professed goals of all demonstrators in the Middle East is the introduction of democracy, a system that allows for the establishment and orderly maintenance of codes of conduct, allowing individuals within that society to make choices as to the balance between their freedoms and responsibilities. To be fair, once established those codes will favour those in power at the time of establishment and this undermines the premise of total equality. Democracy is not totally fair and not totally equal but it is an attempt at fairness and equality while maintaining the malleability for society to adapt to changing social conditions. At the point when individuals decide that system isn’t working for them to the extent they must ignore it it does raise questions. The question is, as many people have said ‘why did they do it?’. Many already have various politically charged answers, largely based on their ideological positions.

Rights/ Privileges/ Responsibilities


There is something wrong with the statement ‘they work for us’ when applied to government. The reality is that they work on behalf of us, as a public good, codifying, overseeing and enforcing the codes we all choose to support. Even if we don’t agree with each thing, we agree with the system that has currently approved whatever it is they are codifying/overseeing/ enforcing and thus, in maintaining that system they are still working on our behalf. I say that because we are not their boss, just like they are not ours. They are from among us, self-chosen to be sure, and with myriad personal motives to make that choice, but still. The point of democracy is that expectation that everyone has a chance (although some have a greater chance) to make the choice and work on behalf of society and because it is a choice, and they are a member, we believe their work will be more reflective of our experience. But part of that work is to be informed about the consequences of their choices for all the people. Much of the disquiet with Washington is the perception (real or not) that those we have chosen to govern for us are making their choices either uninformed or unwilling to see the consequences of their actions.

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