eThoughts : Legality and Stewardship

Part of the series It’s All Been Said Before™ (© 2006), a division of Book-In-A-Drawer Publications.™

Before leaving this line of thinking that has occupied the last few postings, I’m going to take another stab at it. Next time I’ll have to find something a little funnier to write about—too much seriousness seems to make for dull reading, or non-reading. Besides, I’m not trying to change the world, just chasing some cognitive cars (that’s as far as I’m taking the canine metaphor, so just let it go).

One of the problems in our lack of consideration is that we confuse our legal rights with our ethical and moral rights. Look folks, we own things as a legal convenience—the paper trail keeps the possession thing cleaner. But owning something is not the same as having some kind of James Bondian carte blanche license to do whatever. C’mon, haven’t we noticed all of the laws governing ownership—good grief, it’s not a big secret. Once we own something and we have the legal rights to that property or idea or whatever, we now have incurred responsibility. The moral and ethical basis of legal ownership is stewardship—we are responsible for what happens, and we’re responsible to see that what we are responsible for, comes out well.

Owning a car means taking care that others are covered, whether you like your car or not. This means that you might have to wear seatbelts because if you don’t have insurance, the state—which is other people’s tax money—will have to foot the bill (this is why I support the motorcycle helmet law, though I initially didn’t like it). And don’t give me this crap about the idea ends when you buy insurance. No, it doesn’t. Who needs to see someone’s body thrown through a windshield (don’t like that—then how about just seeing someone who is plain dead because they weren’t safe?)? If you think your life is your own, you’re delusional. Your life is only partially your own, your life affects others. So back off, get a grip, and take care of business like you actually care. By-the-way, that’s called consideration and civility, something other than our egocentric, holier-than-thou notions of how much we need to protect individual rights by making sure we can do whatever we feel like with whatever we own.

If you own or even rent property (think motel rooms, etc.), you have an obligation—a stewardship—to take care of that property, and to make sure your stuff doesn’t trespass onto other’s stuff. So don’t talk too loud or play music extra loud or long, or store old cars or animals. Line of sight is part of the consideration, there’s visual trespass as well as auditory trespass.

You don’t own, except in a legal sense, your dogs or cats or birds or whatever animal you decide will be better off with your ego in their life. You’re obligated to care for them, which, God forbid, means your attention, not just some animal chow. And you’re obligated to make sure that those animals are not interfering with other people’s lives. It’s your obligation, it’s your stewardship, so most of you (not all, but most) need to get off your lazy ass and start paying some real attention to those animals and to their effect around them.

And so on and so on—see all the stuff I’ve covered before. So, commensurate with the title of this, and at the risk of repeating myself some more, here’s a thought: There are the sounds and sights of life and there are the sounds and sights of irresponsibility. If you want to know the difference, know what your stuff is doing and affecting. If you want to honor individual rights, quit worrying so much about yours and start by honoring others. This does not endanger individual freedom, it enhances it. And for those who don’t give a damn about others, because what they own is a license to infringe, then let’s have the backbone to bring that lack of consideration to an end—legally, and without dehumanizing anyone. We all make mistakes and we all need some help learning.

This consideration, this civility and this humane enforcement are not the little fleabites of life, they are where life begins. Let’s begin. As I already mentioned (I’m on a repeating kick it looks like), I’m guessing that a lot of what we consider more important issues, like murder, theft, terrorism, etc., would never get to the level it has if we learned to do simple things before we try complex things.

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