Complicity


"Life amounts to endless lessons in humility."

In his book Seeing Systems, Author Barry Oshrey describes what he calls The Blindnesses. I am unavoidably blind because I'm here, not there, like you are inescapably blind because you are there and not here. We're also mostly blind to the fact that we are blind. In my Seven Ethical Responsibilities, I name Conscious Blindness as an ethical matter. I believe that I hold the ethical responsibility to not space out the fact that I cannot see everything around me, and to remember that nobody else can see everything surrounding them, either. This reminder encourages a certain generosity of spirit. I cannot credibly hold anyone responsible to be fully clued in, including myself, not to make whiny excuses, but to better understand and appreciate.

All that said, I'm coming to a renewed recognition that to live is to be complicit.
As a citizen in a representative democracy, I must live with the acknowledgement that my government, our government, sometimes acts in ways that I find personally abhorrent, and that any distant observer might well feel justified in holding me personally accountable for those acts, as if I was complicit in committing them. In the chilling light that comes just before dawn, I cannot credibly disagree with any who might seek to indict me, for while I might not have personally committed those acts, my government, which was constituted to be of me, certainly did. My citizenship renders me complicit.

I'm complicit in more ways than the default sort that comes with citizenship. I catch myself in little complicities every day. The choice to discard or recycle seems common enough except when I don't experience it as a choice. Recycling's as close to an imperative as I hold. I recycle everything I can, except when I don't. I think back on the poor choices I made in the past, justifying them as we all do, to walk away unscathed. Does everyone obsess over their carbon footprint? Does everyone feel complicit just living?

I feel furious about half the time. Furious about stupid bureaucracies, sure, but furious at myself for my own, often tacit, complicity. Perhaps complicity is just another one of the blindnesses, a feature we might whole-heartedly try to overcome but dare not expect to ever completely out-pace it. I would if I could but I cannot, so I am complicit though hardly entirely responsible. I make my share of noise. I write my letters to the editor and text my representatives and try to jinn up my neighbors to make their share of noise, too, though all of these efforts seem destined to fall somewhat short. Even after the wrong gets righted, I can't help but carry the tool marks of my earlier complicity. I suspect that I must get better at understanding how to forgive myself for my own trespasses.

Some mornings, my complicity overwhelms me. I sincerely wish that I could just turn off the damned machine that keeps spewing out abominations. I produce my share of the garbage that adds to the accumulating smelly mess out on the edge of town, a testament to my own short-sightedness and my complicity. I personally spew tons of carbon into our atmosphere every year, mostly without even thinking about it. I "consume", by which I mean that I contribute to the degradation of this space we share. I tell myself that at least I'm not an unapologetic Republican, convincing myself that I am lord and master of all I survey, but I'm still complicit as Hell. Always was. Always will be. Life amounts to endless lessons in humility.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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