MANDATES, Penalties & Incentives

Something there is that doesn’t like a mandate,
being told what to do, penalized & fined.
Doesn’t matter (much) how good the reason.
If good enough, it should be easily choosable
without being forced, shoved down throats
that question it, provoking the urge to push back,
overwhelming the part that thinks things through.

Good mandates make good states, say some,
often enough with good reasons, sometimes the best,
everyone’s got to pitch in for all to benefit,
sometimes the worst, too–children conscripted
to fight & kill each other, little lives sacrificed
to please bigshots playing Risk with other people’s lives,
the emperor’s flunkies, mafia dons, ward bosses,
goons & enforcers, local bullies & hard-nosed Uncle Sams.

On the other hand, self-sacrifice isn’t always an easy sell.
Alas, the same can be said for chipping in, paying dues & taxes,
the skim it takes to keep the systems running, the schools & roads;
hospitals, safety & emergency services; currency, market-place, exchanges,
integrity of financial institutions, power grid, communication & delivery systems,
defense & intelligence, safety net, public health & environmental protection.
(What good is any of the rest if the air & water make you & your loved ones sick?)

The same can be said for the social infrastructure & cultural atmosphere,.
both of which are major players in the human ecology, like air & water,
subject to pollution & renewal, essential elements in healthy relations.
Even in relative solitude, we’re not separate from the air we breathe,
the water we drink, the thoughts we hear, think, imagine &/or repeat,
the attitudes expressed with feelings, partly apart from what’s said,
the emotional points-of-view of the partisans, whether us or them.
There is a difference, as between gangland turf & ladies auxiliary. 

In many cases, humans self-organize to meet an emergency,
a challenge critical to one becomes a focus for all.
A building collapses–people outside will dig with their hands,
if necessary, trying to rescue others still trapped inside.
An advanced society has special technical resources
available to meet the usual challenges held in common–
natural disaster, dangerous humans, all sorts of threats.

Alas, the struggle to control these “special resources”
does not always produce better services in common.
Sometimes it’s better services for some at others’ expense.
Sometimes it’s less service that’s delivered than servitude.
It is easier to diagnose a corrupting influence or infection
than it is to effect a systemic cure. Call a grand pow-wow,
a council of elders, a community feast, with rites & dance.

The worse critical systems seem to function,
the more resistance to paying for them grows,
even when that resistance & lack of support
cause the system improvement to lag.
Those who profit most from systems & resources
have corresponding influence in writing the rules
Is it surprising, then, that those who profit least
end up paying a significant surcharge in lost choice?

What makes the us-ness, what makes the developed I?
No one has fully mapped the over-lap–across the many
dimensions: ecological, psychological, social, cultural…
including spiritual, philosophical & political in this last).
On the one hand, there’s the hermit, writing for all yet to come;
on the other, the fraud artist targeting one sucker at a time;
on the other other, more hands than fingers can count.

[Sorry about that. Got carried away on the breeze of a muse.
The following is more to the point of what triggered
my anti-mandate, pro-good government rant,
questioning whether this government– of the people,
by some people, for some people–shall perish from the earth….

It makes a difference whether that government is trying to
conscript you, take control of your whole life, & send you off
to Vietnam, say, or just asking for your fair share of what
a healthy health care system fairly well accessible to all costs.
Nevertheless, I tried to identify with contrarian views.
The following rant goes a step further.]

Jack-booted government thugs

I have just received my third notice from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, Official Business, Penalty for Private Use, etc. in an envelope the largest, boldest type of which announces:“YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.”

The notices have been sitting on my desk for long enough, I’m starting to think of the poor shlubs at Ruby Ridge, misguided as they may have been, no less so than the “officials” who set them up & then attacked them. My back is up, in other words. Besides the confusions & uncertainties raised by the questions in the 10+-page questionnaire, that bold-faced implied threat makes it extremely hard, really impossible, not to resist.

Being the Commerce Dept., rather than an agency like the ATF or some maximum shock strike force, I probably don’t need to stock up on siege food & ammo, or even turn the Bod Library stacks into an escape maze with book-tower booby-traps. Come to think of it, in fact it’s not even addressed to me, but “To the resident of…,” with the street number for what is currently a studio annex with no resident for the winter. (I own the building but can probably beat the rap, if charged, not being the “resident.”)

However unclear some of the questions seem to me, as far as I can tell there’s nothing in the content of the survey in the least self-incriminating. Nevertheless, I plan to hold out as long as possible against the high-handed pushiness of Big Brother, on principle–given what I presume to be no actual cost, & the ability to prevail, if only on a technicality. Nevertheless, the lesson–though often missed–ought to reveal something quite basic about the American character (&/or human psychology more generally), something that transcends party, political philosophy, & administration theoretically in power.

Rather than encouraging movement in the intended direction, some kinds of pushing more likely trigger pushing back & other forms of resistance. The lesson ought to be made all the more clear for my being a quiet, peace-loving librarian with no automatic weapons. I imagine some other recipients, with households off the grid, might just feel, “Come & get us, suckers, but better bring your armor.” [Continues in “Avoidable Healthcare,” below.]