For some reason yesterday I was thinking of a spring from my childhood. I was probably eight or nine and playing with a friend a few days before the start of Spring on an unnaturally sunny and warm March day. We lived in a planned community in Rochester, New York that was an isolated network of side streets encompassed by a main road that closed off the community in an elongated oval. The most common methods of transportation were walking and biking on the community’s many closed off paths serpentining around houses and apartments and connecting cul-de-sacs and roundabouts to one another.
That’s what we wanted to do that seventy degree March Day. We wanted to ride bikes because on a lot of warm sunny days that was the best thing to do.
We could not.
It wasn’t because my friend didn’t have a bike, it wasn’t because he was incapable of riding a bike, it wasn’t even because there were no adults around to supervise us riding bikes. It was because his dad had a rule that there was to be no bike riding until the Spring.
I don’t fucking know, because he was an idiot I guess. So we set fire to some churches and fucked prostitutes and stuff because we couldn’t ride bikes.
I guess the lesson here is that sometimes the world is arbitrary and stupid and you just have to deal with it or tell it to fuck off. I got a lot of lessons like that in my childhood, whether they were from my own parents or someone else’s. The prevailing theme to discipline in my house was “if you do something wrong, you get punished,” which is the prevailing theme in American law.
It’s why so many take the “punishment” route instead of the “make amends and rehabilitate route.”
We have the death penalty even though life incarceration is cheaper (not to mention less morally repugnant).
We resign the less fortunate to poverty, ill health, and homelessness even though government assistance, universal healthcare, and temporary housing are all cheaper (not to mention less morally repugnant).
We like to see fines and suspensions for wrongdoing in our sports, but not stricter rules or more education.
It’s a difficult, maybe even a losing fight because we are emotional, arbitrary creatures, but we don’t try to fight that enough. We go with what feels right and cling to that, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of what is right whether it’s in regards to data with wide ranging implications or in dealing with our own kids.
We also have a hard-on for justice and for asserting our authority, regardless of whether or not they actually do something useful. We like punishment and we like orders because they give us a tangible return, a quantitative value we can use to evaluate what we’ve done. Prevention, if effective, gives us nothing. Logical decisions often leave us with nothing. At times they seem like chaos because many of them admit that the world is chaotic.
When is it the weather suitable for riding bikes? Spring gives us finality. The truth is fluid. But it scares us to think that in some cases there is no answer. We should fight that.