Cafe Witness

Friday, March 06, 2009

Responsibility Is for Suckers

I have a dog, but I don't have a backyard. Thus, I walk my dog several times a day. So do dozens of my neighbors -- but evidently not all of them carry poop bags, because the neighborhood is becoming increasingly poop-filled.

This makes me wonder about the mentality of people who think it's okay to let their dogs poop on someone else's lawn, or in the middle of the sidewalk, and just leave it there. Clearly, these are not people who buy into the concept of cleaning up after themselves, or being "good citizens," or respecting anyone else's property.

These are the people who've figured out one of life's little secrets: personal responsibility is for suckers.

Why We Reward Mediocrity, Miscreants and Motherf*ckers

Despite what all 78 variations of Law & Order would have us believe, it's actually quite hard to get caught doing something wrong, and it's even harder to get punished for it. The reasons for this include:

* Evildoers tend to be smart, highly-motivated or both
* There's not enough time to right every wrong
* Justice suffers from scalability, and
* Most people just don't care

At the end of the day, after we're done bickering about which heinous offenses are worth our time and effort to punish and remedy, the fact remains that most wrongs will never be righted because, quite simply, there are too many of them to act upon. How can we care about child soldiers in Uganda, corruption in our government AND poop on our sidewalks?

So the mediocre, the miscreants and the motherfuckers tend to get away with murder. Not because we condone it, but because we simply lack the Batman-like vigilance it would require to take each and every one of them down AND STILL HAVE TIME to enjoy the positives in life (if we could even appreciate them after a marathon of righteous ass-kicking).

Plus, practically speaking, what's anyone going to *do* about it? Nothing. If someone else's dog (or child) shits in your yard, you have to deal with it. Unless you know who it was, but even then, what are you going to do? Demand that they clean it up? How? With what? And where's your leverage in that argument?

Evildoers know that justice may be on your side, but our universal avoidance of conflict is on theirs.

If You Can't Beat 'Em...

Last week, someone broke glass all along the sidewalk. The glass is green -- maybe a car window? -- and, initially, was confined to an area between two houses. The problem: one of those houses is for sale, and the other is occupied by people who don't care. So that glass has been sitting there for about 10 days, unattended, scattering itself across the full width of the sidewalk over time. It's reached the point where I have to pick Rufus up when I walk him down that block, because the odds of him stepping in glass are too great for me to risk it.

I know what you're thinking: if the glass bothers me so much, why don't I clean it up?

Because if I stopped to clean up someone else's mess on the street, where do I draw the line? Do I start cleaning up messes in other people's yards, too? Do I carry a broom, shovel, dustpan and gun with me everywhere I go, "just in case"? (Okay, maybe that's overkill; I don't really *need* the shovel...)

All of which means I'm just part of the problem. The person who broke the glass didn't clean it up, the people who live beside the broken glass won't clean it up, and now neither will I.

And why should I? Responsibility is for suckers.

Photo by What What.

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  • I admit it! I'm a sucker...but I feel good about myself for doing the right thing and that's what counts most. And secretly I still believe (hope) some people will follow my example - yup, sucker - moi.

    By Blogger Nicoline, at 9:57 AM  

  • Love the article. In the UK (land of health and safety) we were advised not to clean up the snow outside our houses for risk of this freezing, someone slipping and then getting sued. So it would seem the law is their to punish those who take personal responsibility and clean up - not the ones who don't.

    By Blogger Mark Sage LinkedIn, at 10:11 AM  

  • I live in a neighborhood where most people do not have a dog, which I am very grateful for, since this means I don't have to hear them barking, barking, barking, nor worry about stepping in shit anytime I walk down the street.

    I do, however, live in a neighborhood where most of my neighbors are elderly, and the rest either don't care, or are used to it.

    However, I understand your point about where to draw the line. I get sick of picking up litter in my yard, and then my next door neighbors yard, and then across the street, and then...well, the rest of the neighborhood. So, I joined a block club, and next week we are having meeting, and top on my agenda is to organize a neighborhood clean-up. The more people involved, the more people will get sick of looking at the trash, the more I won't have to do it.


    i hope.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:43 AM  

  • "I always wondered why somebody didn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody." -Lily Tomlin
    I'd rather do something about the stuff that bothers me than wish other people would get a clue. I can't control everybody else, but I can control my own actions. I want to be proud of my choice to do the right thing.

    By Blogger Kelly, at 10:57 AM  

  • At some point your skepticism will cycle out, b/c I think you have a caring heart. At some point it won't matter, because being bitter is a dead end. The trouble is you don't want to feel doped, tricked. What if you play the fool and pick up the pieces? Then you feel cheated. Reading you, I feel like I'm looking at myself 7 years ago. And-You funny as all get out. I love reading your stuff too. If you become the kind of person who does helpful/good things because you want to, not b/c you'll feel like a sucker, you control the situation, not the other way around. If anybody finds that they are angry at people, at how life is, or anything else, for a good chunk of the day, it says more about them then anything else.

    By Blogger wit4life, at 3:21 PM  

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