Archive for April, 2015

Think of your house as a cell, with membranes (walls, roof, windows) and channels (doors, pipes, windows). You’re the immune system of this cell. In general this cell is quite appealing to other living things, due to temperature regulation and sources of food. Most of what makes it through your house’s membranes (via channels) will go undetected. However, sometimes you will detect unwanted invaders. For example, mice might go undetected for a while, but eventually you might notice mice feces or that they’ve eaten food you’ve left out.

You could ignore the mice, but to some degree that is only inviting more mice. In addition, most people don’t want mice in their houses (or bugs, but we’ll stick to the mice example). Another option is to try to kill the mice. However, mice are cute! You will probably feel mean if you kill them. Instead, you could catch them and let them go outside. How sweet.

Consider the letting them go scenario. The mice will likely either die or find another home. If they find another home, someone else is stuck with deciding between killing them or catching them and letting them go. You have basically passed the problem on to someone else. The mice will likely still die (either from cold, starvation or a mouse trap). However,  you get to feel like a good person.

Every system has membranes, channels and immune systems to patrol for intruders. This appears to be a universe universal (or, literally universal). Attaching morality to it is a difficult, questionable business.

I see this pattern a lot, where people make something someone else’s problem and look down on them while feeling good about themselves.

Think about many of the jobs that seem very unpleasant. As an example, consider the people whose job it is to write parking tickets in large cities. Parking meters are intended to prevent people from parking in one spot for a long time. Because of this, when you drive to a city, you are far more likely to find an available parking spot. Someone needs to enforce the parking meter rules, or people would just park there for long periods of time. If you like this system, then you should be thankful for the people who write parking tickets. However, I see a lot of anger directed at them. Of course it doesn’t feel good to get a parking ticket, but getting angry at them only makes their job worse. I think most people want parking meter enforcement, except when they get a ticket. The people who have better job options don’t have to write parking tickets to pay their bills. They can reap the benefits of parking meter enforcement, while acting morally superior to the people who do take on these jobs. It’s like making mice someone else’s problem, and then judging them if they kill them.



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