July 27, 2020
Tacit Societal Obligation*
- However the scale and focus may differ, societies have certain purposes in common.
- Behaving as though you can pick and choose which parts of society you accept makes you self-centered at best, and arguably a predator at worst.
- If you chose to embrace the benefits of society, have the decency to contribute as well.
We benefit from the existence of society every day, in countless ways. There is a public-school system in place to educate our children. We have libraries, where anyone can go for entertainment, or education. We have grocery stores, where we can procure anything from basic staples such as sugar and flour to fully prepared meals. We have parks for both our children and our dogs. We can drive to each of these places on roads funded by taxes, aka, our financial contributions to the common good. If we don’t own a car, whether by choice or circumstance, we can take advantage of public transportation. If we are in danger, we can call the police. If we are injured, we can go to a hospital. In both of these instances, help will even come to fetch us if necessary.
Societies vary in size, and makeup. There are societies within societies. America is a society, run by elected officials. Gated communities are societies run by a Homeowner’s Association. There are bird-watching societies. There are historical societies. There may be secret societies, but we don’t know for sure. However the scale and focus may differ, societies have certain purposes in common. To provide certain aspects of care for the members, and to enforce policies, rules, or laws for the protection of those members.
Your HOA will most likely provide such services like landscaping upkeep, or pool maintenance. And it might prohibit your neighbor from painting their house fuchsia, or forbid the keeping of a pet tiger. And no matter how many times you express your outrage over not being able to express your inner Tiger King, your HOA will not allow you a tiger, and if you flout the restrictions because, well, who doesn’t want a pet that can kill you, there will be penalties. Because these restrictions exist for the good of the entire community, just as the services that are provided are to benefit the entire community.
The same goes for larger societies. Once again, and now officially blue in the face, I am speaking to those super free citizens of the United States of America. You benefit from society. That means you are obligated to do your part for that society. By following the rules. By adhering to social mandates. Which right now means wearing a mask. Physically distancing. And not whining about it. This is about the good of the whole. Behaving as though you can pick and choose which parts of society you accept makes you self-centered at best, and arguably a predator at worst. Because what is predation if not taking what you want while giving nothing in return?
The choices seem to be these: be a good member of society, be a terrible member of society, or go be a society of one. But the truth is most of us are not readily capable of living off the grid, of sustaining ourselves all alone. And it can be argued that no human ever has done so. We survive as a species not because we are the strongest, or the smartest, but because we cooperate, we share information.
Hunters hunt with guns designed and produced by someone else. Composters and gardeners learned those processes from another human being whether by direct communication or via the written or recorded word. Those who think they are off the grid and self-sufficient, aren’t truly. They are using methods and inventions that they have access to because of the human inclination to live in societies. Taking what you want and leaving isn’t exactly carving out a life on your own.
Most of the knowledge each of us possesses came from a myriad of other people, and the knowledge was passed down to those that taught us, because we live in a society, which obligates us to take care of one another. Taking care of one another is the basic purpose of society. It obligates even those of us who eschew children to contribute taxes that support schools because educated children become adults who contribute to society. And one hopes, adults that understand the ethical imperatives associated with doing so as well as the financial ones.
So please, recognize that whether your butler brings you breakfast in bed each morning, or you make a monthly pilgrimage to the grocery store that’s an hour away, or you live off the land with a gun that someone else designed and manufactured, that you are part of society. And if you chose to embrace the benefits of society, have the decency to contribute as well. And the contributions being asked are so minimal.
Distance. Wear a mask. Do so gracefully.
If not, fare thee well. But if you’re going to be honorable about it, don’t take anything with you.