January 1, 2007

Showing Consideration

Living in modern civilization entails a few compromises. The freedom of the individual is balanced against the welfare of his or her neighbors and the larger state. This is necessary because complete freedom entails the freedom to harm others. If my free act is to hurt you, your rights are jeopardized, and so we all have an interest in surrendering some of our freedom to insure that the social order is maintained.

Suppose for a second that you are a devout Christian, doing your best to raise your children in a world which you perceive as suffering from the decay of sin. You do your best to be tolerant of other viewpoints, and you are not one to push your religion on others. Although you are firmly convinced that those who do not accept Christ are doomed to burn for eternity, you do not go around telling them about their likely fate. In fact, you are reasonable well liked and get along with others fairly well.

I move in next door to you and occasionally blast Satanic heavy metal on weekend nights until around midnight, keeping your family awake. I don't do it often. In fact, I probably only do it 6-8 nights a year. But when I'm at it, you can hear my stereo well past midnight. As if that weren't bad enough, it is not uncommon for you to find garbage in your yard the next morning. You don't know for sure that it was me, but you aren't sure who else would do it.

You try to be tolerant. You'd prefer to avoid conflict, and you try to resist passing judgment. However, one conclusion seems inescapable: I am being inconsiderate. Forget the content of my music and assume that I might not be the one littering your yard. By blasting my music late at night, I am disrupting your sleep. You could buy earplugs, but that really isn't the point. When I blast my music that late, I am clearly being inconsiderate of your family. This is a fact which is simply not debatable.

Are you with me so far? Okay, now I am going to change the scenario a tiny bit. Everything is the same as I just described with one difference: it is not just me blasting my stereo like this; many other neighbors do exactly the same thing on exactly the same occasions. It is as if you've had the misfortune of moving your family into a twilight zone where several neighbors conspire to celebrate some obscure holidays by blasting music throughout the night 6-8 nights a year. This compounds your predicament. Even if you could somehow convince me to stop, you'd then need to move on to several other houses to try your luck. Am I still being inconsiderate? Of course. In fact, it now appears that several of your neighbors are doing so. The new circumstance I've added (i.e., that several people in your neighborhood are doing the same thing) does not change this. You are now in a minority, but that doesn't mean that you don't deserve to be treated with respect.

Long-time readers probably know where this is heading. I'm closing in on one of my pet peeves which I bitch about several times a year. There is no loud music. I am the one trying to sleep. What kept me awake until 1:00am last night against my wishes? What results in garbage in my yard? Fireworks.

Does this change anything I said before about this behavior being inconsiderate? I don't think so. The fireworks were worse last night than they've ever been. The way my windows vibrated, I swear someone must have been using dynamite. I'm not asking you not to celebrate. I'm not even asking you not to use fireworks. All I'm asking is for you to show some consideration.

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