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Submitted in part for Chicago Ideas Week, coming up the first week of October!
GADGETS AND GUNS: REDUCE THE NEED, CUT OFF THE FEED!
(Part of a working book titled YCY: A Primer on Personal Responsibility.)
Two dead and six wounded in gun violence in the Chicago area between Friday evening and Saturday afternoon………….
And here we have the latest version of the “I-want” device, made for someone who wants a bigger this and a faster that…………..
The candidates raked in fifty million dollars for their campaigns this past month, taking contributions from big business………….
And then the media spin becomes a run-on sentence:
togotoschoolorplayintheparkpoliticalcampaign spending chit-chat
spin…blitz…vague corporate big talk……
PHEW! Does that leave a bad taste in your mouth and a feeling of your brain being filled with trash and noise pollution? It might, because that is all we are hearing now. Tired of the “if it bleeds it leads”? Sick of the concentration on “foreign affairs” and “party politics”, “the latest version of the smart technology” and “gang/gun violence” taking the headlines around here? And then, are you tired of walking in your community and seeing shuttered storefronts, vacant and unkept lots, un-shoveled sidewalks, kids too frightened to go across the street to the local park for a game? Tired of there not being jobs for your local town or community? What can you do and how can you do it?
For now though, as Chicago Ideas Week nears, our focus will be on gadgets and guns and drugs, why we (seem to or want to) need these things, what we do with them, and how the use of or distribution of these items affect others.
Our premise is built on the abdication of personal responsibility, the behavioral pattern that arises when someone makes a decision, no matter how large or seemingly insignificant, that affects someone else in a harmful, crucial, or abusive manner. It is the neglect of our duties toward each other that later contributes to delinquency, to drug use, to suicide, to the abuse of a child or spouse or co-worker; the neglect that leads to cutting corners in the workplace, to fouling up criminal investigations, to wasting tax dollars and to so many other problems plaguing American society this very day.
Thus is the inspiration for the subtitle of our article: reduce the need, cut off the feed. You can look at this from a literally quintessential point of view that takes in the who, what, where, when, and why of a situation. It is critical that we step back and think about our actions before plunging headlong into our instant-we-want-it-now social herd instinct the moment someone says we need to have or do this or that, before we run out and get “the latest thing”, the device with the “bigger screen” or the “faster network”, before we decide to go to that street corner and put our money down on a bag of harmful drugs.
You are taking a big risk; you could harm yourself and your family. You could get so rapidly involved in something that you will regret later on (or not too much later on if that meeting on the street corner turns out to be a trap and someone is waiting with a gun to kill you or anyone with you), that you will have little or no time to react and get out-of-the-way of destruction. You could end up the target of an undercover procedure that will land you in prison for life, or you could end up the target of a foreign drug cartel that wants you out-of-the-way quickly and will spend a great deal of time and money to ensure the job is carried out.
So why do we feel the need for the gadgets, the guns, the drugs, and joining gangs? What do we want from that? Do we want to escape some aspect of school, home, or work, that we can’t seem to cope with simply by asking someone else for help? Do we want to take our feelings out (those same feelings that possibly could be smoothed out simply by finding someone you trust and saying, “I need help with this, it’s been bothering me….”
Do we want to fit in or stand out (or do both at the same time?) by thinking that having the most recent I-something is going to make a difference?
If we didn’t ask for it or feel the need for it, there would be no need for the airwaves to be full of ads for the escapism devices that are so fast and so clear all ready, and the slight revisions to them that make you want to pay more for that bigger screen, the extra apps, the risk of your every move and communication and purchase being tracked. Nothing but trouble waiting in the wings there! Isn’t that device fast enough for you all ready, and the screen large enough to fill a city bus seat and the millions of apps plenty for making just about any choice you want during the day?
Also, what is the reason the mass media lead with those stories? What is their purpose for filling your home with pictures and sound bytes of violence, rage, harm, reality shows, police shows, court shows, people fighting and shooting all over the place? They show that stuff happening here, within our borders, and from other nations too. We have seen enough, we have had enough of leading with the bad news and the cruddy news and the violence, the pictures and the videos. If we quit watching the news and tuning in to every little news network and segment that comes on, if we shove the ratings into the proper receptacle and send them on their way to the bottom of the box, we will do ourselves a favor.
You have responsibility for others yes, but for yourself and your own actions first. Forget the blame game; you take account of and for your own actions and considerations before you go off the mark and blame someone else for something you say, think, or do. Stop with the “he made me do it” or “she made me do it”. Some circumstances might “force” someone to take a harmful course of action (to lie, cheat, steal, engage in an improper physical act in the hope of saving a life); but for the most part you DO have choices. You do not have to force someone to take such a terrible course of action in the first place; you do not have to pick up the weapon or the drugs or ball your fists in a threatening maneuver or shout some abusive word.
Just make it easier in the first place and do not bother with the harmful action. What will it benefit you to harm another person? What did they do to you that cannot be resolved simply by sitting down (with a mediator if necessary) and talking it out in a civil manner?
How will you be better off by injuring someone else, taking a life, selling drugs, sneaking drugs into a treatment facility thinking that you are helping someone get over an addiction?
Now is NOT the time for you to be selfish. Do not engage in the abdication of personal responsibility; you are neglecting your own set of better motivations, ethics and principles by doing so. You are going against the grain of being considerate, helpful, beneficial for society and for others. You are neglecting your duties toward nation, state, and community, toward family and colleagues, toward someone whose life might hinge on a decision you make – be it cutting corners on a test, forgetting a safety check at the store, corrupting evidence, or acting out of self-interest and taking money meant for a charitable community project.
What if you cut off someone in traffic, or stop to gape at a serious crash? What happens if that drug deal goes bad and you end up as a target of another gang member? What if someone who looks like you is targeted instead, and an innocent person dies because they resembled you? Would you want on your conscience the fact that an innocent person suffers or dies because of something you did?
And that means did from start to finish: you made the deal, you agreed to distribute the drugs, you went to get them, you staked out that street corner. You were not there on time and the goods were not the quality the buyers expected, and you are made a target of the dissatisfied people. You are then made the subject of the police looking for you, and you make a mistake of going out one day for shopping or just out and about the neighborhood, and those same angry people are waiting in a car for you to show up. But what if it isn’t you? What if it is someone who dresses in a similar manner or looks rather like you in the shadows or on a cloudy day or thinks you are the person who killed one of their family members in retaliation for something you did during the bad deal? The people in that car or on the rooftop will shoot at “you” and think the deed is done. Then on the news will come the whole sordid business and the “lead story” will be “…innocent teen shot and killed in an area plagued by gangs and drugs in the erupting turf war between the P’s and the Q’s…. Police believe it is a case of mistaken identity and are still looking for the person who murdered “x” and set up this terrible tragedy….”
We have not concentrated very well on taking care of our own, right here in this country’s borders; we have invested our tax dollars very poorly and many people have lost a sense of pride, patriotism, national interest and helping those in need in their own communities. We think, “What difference will it make” What difference can my little work on cleaning up a street corner or planting a garden make for me or my family or my school?” You DO have duties; you DO have responsibilities. You have response – ability, too.
You have the freedom to speak or not to speak, to pick up that rake and get to work or to sit by and watch the lot accumulate more trash, maybe even drug paraphernalia like bags and needles. You can watch the kids get in harm’s way when passing that lot, taking risks that their curiosity could lead to injury or even death. You can respond to the call to contribute to the building of a community center, or you can keep on being greedy and hoard your money to spend on a luxury dinner while others are starving. Well after all, it is your money and your appetite to do with as you please. But are you abdicating your responsibilities to your fellow citizens in the name of satisfying your personal demons of arrogance, visibility, gluttony, pride or greed?
Reduce the need, cut off the feed… applies to more than just realizing that you do have better choices and turning off the media feeds from the noisy reporters and video people.
Now you have the freedoms of speech and the press and to do things in private that you want to do; you can decorate your home, paint it, have whatever car you want and dress in many interesting ways to make a statement. You can play your music, hang your posters, have what you want on your desk and in your kitchen. Your home is yours, your property belongs to you and should not be violated. But outside of your own brain and your own private property, your duties are then public and observed and known. You must take charge of your actions and words and thoughts when around others; you must consider them before you leave your personal space and enter the realm of others.
Taking up the gun – what good will that do you? Going to push the drugs – what good will that do you? Raising your hand to your child – what good will that do you? How will these actions affect others? What will that co-worker do but report you? What will that neighborhood watch volunteer do but report you? What will the police do other than come and arrest you and search your once-private property and take you “downtown” and write-up a record? What else will your child do but remember that deed (if they survive your attack) and come after you later on with violence and vengeance simmering and waiting to explode on you alone in a deadly manner? And then what – your child will end up in prison (perhaps like you were once) and will have a life sentence and misery from then on.
No matter the child’s age, he or she will be in trouble with the law. Can they pull a trigger and be angry and take out revenge, then they can be arrested, charged, and put in the slammer. No second chance; zero tolerance for murder and violent crimes. The record will be there for life and will affect everything they try to do, from going to school to getting a job. Life will for them be a proverbial obstacle course… and you will be the cause of all of that because you hit them, shouted at them, or neglected them. Are they bad? Then it’s YOUR fault!
As for the hyperactivity in the gadget world, the same principles apply. Spend too much time on the little smart device and what happens to the rest of your day, your social contacts, your education, your family life, your workplace principles? Trolling around looking for more of those smart code boxes and scanning labels could take up so much of your time that you might be late for a very important meeting, you might be tempted to cut corners at work in order to go out searching for the better deal or the comparison shopping network. The electronic mass market run-on sentence could be trouble for anyone caught in its web and tempted by every little app and offering that comes along. It is full of temptations and deceptions waiting to catch those who are distracted, disturbed, worried, or tired, and to draw them in to “try this app” or “look for the better version of…”
Boils down to this: abdicating personal responsibility leads to a lot of trouble. Thinking about your actions first is the way to solve many problems our nation is facing.
Will you be part of the problem, or of the solution? Think about it.
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