The Pause That Doesn’t Refresh

We as a species are particularly susceptible to our technologies. Each commonly used technology is associated with a series of behaviors. I am particularly aware of what the smartphone has done—particularly since I have chosen not to adopt this particular technology. (Tiny screens are not kind to my aging eyes.)

I thought I would mention some of the behaviors I have observed, beginning with this basic root behavior:

When using a smartphone, stop everything else you’re doing.

On the roadway, a particularly annoying corollary is the tendency to play with your smartphone when stopped at a traffic signal, yield or stop sign, and to not move until other motorists beep at you.

In the supermarket parking lots in my neighborhood, approximately 30% of the spaces are occupied, not by shoppers, but by smartphone users checking e-mail, FaceBook, or other social media applications. This makes it more difficult to find parking spaces at busy times.

In the aisles of a store, one finds shoppers stopped dead in an aisle while fingering their smartphones. I have to come up behind them and say BEEP BEEP to get them to be aware of their surroundings.

As a corollary of this corollary, you frequently finds smartphone users annoyed to be interrupted in their use of their digital drug. It is as if they now have earned the right to stop dead in their tracks and that people who attempt to “disturb” them in the exercise of this right are being rude.

I am reminded of the bad old days when half the population smoked most of the time. It was inevitable that when I sat at a restaurant counter, a human chimney would sit next to me burning a particularly foul rope. That, too, was a right that was assumed. Fortunately, no more.

Rights vs “Rats”

End Quarantine Protest in Huntington Beach

They are both the same word, but “rats” (R1) is the Southern Confederate drawl version of “rights” (R2). They do not, however, refer to the same thing. R1 people are likely to insist that this is a free country, meaning they are free to do anything they want, even if it causes harm, like shouting “Fire!” precipitating a riot in a crowded theater. They are free to think that whatever they believe is true, such as that Covid-19 is a lie.

Myself, I consider myself to be an R2 person. I have certain inalienable rights, but these stop short when they cause harm. If I fire an AR-15 automatic rifle into a crowd, the possibility of killing multiple people puts a limit on my “rats.” Likewise, going to a crowded bar, getting coronavirus, and passing the disease on to my friends and relatives, possibly killing several of them, is to my mind a criminal act.

Confederate Prisoners Fighting for Their “Rats”

I first stumbled onto the difference in a scene from the 1993 Ted Turner film Gettysburg, when C. Thomas Howell, playing the part of Lieutenant Thomas Chamberlain, comes across a group of Confederate prisoners and asks them what they were fighting for. He doesn’t quite understand their answer, that it wasn’t for slavery that they were fighting, but for their “rats,” making him wonder why they were talking about vermin. It’s interesting to me that one person’s rights could be seen as another person’s crimes.

I see Trump in a difficult position. The disease is a serious one, and at the same time the economy is in dire straits. On one hand, his return-to-work policy could result in tens of thousands of deaths, especially of those misguided people who believe in him. On the other, it could lose him his presidency if his followers get so an inkling of what is really happening.