Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Petty Despots and Freedom to Pursue Happiness

This posting runs the risk of sounding like a rant. But I see a trend in this country that is disturbing. I know I have addressed it before, however having recently traversed the country 4 times in the last month, I find that the number of “rules” we all passively live under has grown to the point that I am starting to feel like a lion in a cage.

There are the now “normal” irritations of having to take my shoes off in airport lines or standing there with my zippy all full of hand cream. But what is worse is that they now have screens flashing all the rules along with TSA employees all along the line blaring, “Have your lap tops out”, "Get your ID's ready." "Don’t put your shoes in the same bin as your coat.” You grumble to yourself or your fellow travelers hoping to ease, just a little, the irritation you are now feeling. That is the only form of protest you get to make. Then your bra clasp sets off the machine and you get to do the spread and grope. It is reminiscent of East German guards or those former Soviet party officials who would eyeball you from across the street. Only in both of these cases, you expected that treatment. You don’t except it in this country, or at least you didn’t just 6 years ago. If they ever catch Osama, before they do anything else to him, I hope they make him travel on U.S. airliners at least 20 times so that he can experience the fun and games he has made for all of us. And now that we have radio active aircraft floating over Europe, just wait for what comes next.

Once you clear the security hurdle, and you are in the plane, you get, “make sure your seat belt is visible at all times.” “Don’t stow your laptop in the seat pocket.” “Don’t form lines at the lavatory.” “Madam, you aren’t allowed to wear noise canceling headphones during take off and landing.” Whaaa? And then the Nurse Ratchets, mother superiors walk up and down the aisles during the entire flight staring at your lap each time. And get this, if your are lucky, your wardens on some flights are a little more "liberal" than on others. And the words "please" and "thank you" are dispensed with compeletly in all of this.

You get back to your office where they have just changed the garbage collecting contract. Now the hired help won’t pick up recycling. So, you organize a division wide recycling program where you place boxes for bottles and such in a community area and offer to take them to a private recycler and use the money for an office party later. Then your are told by the facilities manager you aren’t allowed to do that. If you want to do it, it you have collect the recycling from each office. No community bin. When you ask who you can petition to request a re-negotiation of the contract, you get no response. I thought French functionaries were bad! Thank goodness I don't live in a condo association! That would be a whole other thing. My friend does, and the her rule book is 800 pages long!

So you see the pattern developing. The whole thing from airports to offices to public parks, (where cracking a beer at a barbeque will get you fined if not arrested) is frought with "rules" that lack adequate justification. It is more than irritating, it is the arbitrariness and lack of reasonableness that lies under all of these rules.

In airports, line workers suddenly have the authority of princes, or think they do. The same can be said for anyone who wears any type of tin badge. When you question the logic or reason behind any of these things, if you get an answer at all (usually your are deemed to be a problem which only ratchets up their suspicion of you and brings on more troubles), you find that it is for “insurance reasons”, “security reasons”, or some other non-answer that is meant to remove responsibility and balme from the person you are confronting. And when you try to fight these rules or find a way around them, you are asked, "Why do you waste your energy on such things. It isn't worth it." My answer, "Because it is one being eaten alive by guppies and quite another to be eatn alive by guppies and TO KNOW IT IS HAPPENING while trying to maintain some sense of autonomy and self."

I find that rather than the once confident American citizen, I am now darting glances around places, looking for written signs permitting me to be there, allowing me to do my business in the way I would like. Or the signs that instruct me to do what should have been taught me at home long ago, such as turning off cell phones in theaters or washing my hands before leaving the restroom. What is more depressing than the constant feeling of big brother is that we don’t protest it enough. Like sheep we put up to get by. We adopt the subtle psychology of tyranny. This makes it all too easy for "officials" to use fear to control and to stop people from thinking independantly. And we all know where that road leads. So I say QUESTION AUTHORITY!


Anonymous said...

Behold! I give you the "Libertarian Democrat!"

US West expresses views that are increasingly important within the Democratic party. The resurgance of Democrats in the Mountain West has been largely due to this kind of approach within the party.

It is exactly this world view that will win votes for the Democrats in suburban districts and even some rural districts outside of the Confederacy.

What's more this point of view (institictively anti-government interference in daily life - what US West refers to as our freedom to pursue happiness) represents the median American point of view.

Now, is there a candidate out there who represents this? None of the Republicans really do. They are all security hawks (so they would like to make airports even worse) and many of them also want to legislate our most personal decisions (who may and who must have children, when to stop life support, who to love etc).

Is there a Democrat who can take the point of view US West expresses and present it in an optimistic way? Edwards wins on optimism but I'm not sure he'd be convincing as a new bread "Libertarian Demcorat." Interestingly, I think Dean might be able to pull it off but I haven't heard anyone talking about him as a Presidential candidate. Vilsack MIGHT pull it off but he's not the most exciting guy around.  

// posted by RBR

Anonymous said...

Ha! I was recently told that I was "radical". I never thought I'd see the day when I'd be a libertarian radical!  

// posted by USWest

Dr. Strangelove said...

USWest wisely avoided ranting in her post, but I'm not going to be so conscientious in my comment. I'm pissed off too. I'm tired of getting hassled at the airport. I'm tired of being ordered to do ridiculous things in the name of "security". I'm tired of being treated as a suspect all the time. I'm tired of being treated like a goddamned child.

USWest is absolutely right: we are regularly subjected to arbitrary rules and we need to question them. How many hijackings have they REALLY thwarted by making us take off our shoes? How many bombings have they REALLY stopped by denying us water bottles on the airplane? Would we REALLY be any safer if they patted down every passenger?

I once refused to take off my shoes, and in the end they just swabbed them and let me go on my way. That was a couple of years ago--but they have been emboldened now, and I feel afraid to refuse. The tyrants have become emboldened because of the attitude USWest pinpointed: many people have given up and just say, "Why do you waste your energy on such things. It isn't worth it." Those who protest maltreatment are now portrayed as foolish, as whiners, as "the problem."

We Americans are a good-natured people and we have tried hard to accept the new security regulations... but enough is enough. The next time you are confronted with an idiotic order, ask, "Why?" It's time we stand up for ourselves and demand that our government go back to treating us with respect, as honest adults.

Anonymous said...

Clinton, our dear front runner at the moment can't present what RBR suggests would win votes. Obama might be able to.

And thanks to Dr. S for doing want I couldn't. ;-) 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

In a recent airplane trip, I said to the person next to me in the security line, "You know, there's about a 1 in a billion chance I'll be a victim of terrorism but there's a 100 percent chance I'll be really annoyed by the people up there at the front of this line. Frankly, I'm willing to take my chances." 

// posted by RBR

Anonymous said...

I first prepared a long ranty response about Patty and Selma TSA, people who didn't get the memo about zip-top bags, and strollers the size of Volkswagens 'parked' in the middle of narrow airport corridors. But enough about my recent business trips.

I think the response every single pointless "security" official wants is not conformity, it's immediate obedience. On one airline trip, you can accidentally leave your lip gloss in your purse, breastfeed your child, drink a bottle of water, or read a book in a foreign language without any problem. But as long as Mr. Truly Super Agent has had a bad day and doesn't like the look on your face, prepare for the worst. You'll be shouted at, be forced to give up the offending item, and generally harassed.

-Seventh Sister  

// posted by Anonymous