A few days ago I took a detoured way home through a nearby park, and that’s when one small bespectacled white-haired windbreaker-donning lady brought all my thoughts on our ever present dictatorial authorities and compliant publics into question. Well, obviously not all of them, but she did get a few.
This park was one I had been through hundreds of times usually just en route but sometimes I’d stop to join the tourists gazing at sunsets or boats or maybe even an exotic sea lion. Through tall open gates, you are first greeted with a pleasant knee-high sign warning “no cycling is allowed” or else you can peddle your way toward a hefty $75 fine. Seems like a bit much until you read the rest of it affirming there is also no skateboarding or rollerblading; exuberant singing and dancing are probably excluded as well but for a lesser fee.
Generally a crowded place, the park is proudly perched near the waters of the Puget Sound and is likely owned by the government, hence all the restrictions. On this particular day however there were no curious idle walkers in sight except for one petite elderly woman slowly inching her way past the entrance gates. Nearing her and the obligating sign, I reluctantly decided to give in this time and was just about to hop off when the woman exclaimed “Hey, you aren’t supposed to ride bikes in here” to which I replied “Fuck the po-lice!” got back on my bike and whizzed on by at lightning speed.
Though in reality, I grudgingly dismount and obediently walk the rest of the way as had been my intention before any help from good-natured grandma. Yet, to be fair, had she not been there I would have ridden much further until a new law-abiding citizen came into view.
Proceeding to frustratingly walk my bike through this silly park of un-bikable paths and un-walkable grasses I couldn’t help but wonder one distressing thing after another with each pot of dangling fuchsias I passed. For a childish demand, what gave this park grounds to even be called a park, fenced off with so many white picket restrictions? Sure, recklessly biking through a crowded area may be an obvious threat to others’ safety, but in the same now empty space, why should I continue to follow the rules if their purpose is no longer valid? Did they even serve a useful purpose in the first place; shouldn’t common sense have kicked in and told me not to run everyone over? But perhaps more importantly, why should I have had to fear punishment for breaking a currently pointless rule, and especially under no supervision apart from that of one elderly woman?
Speaking of the sweetly concerned lady, where did all of her concern come from? Was she genuinely troubled by me slowly breaking the park law or was she more anxious that I could have gotten in trouble for it? Either way, I’d guess the mere presence of written regulations was enough to make her believe she should care. I’d also consider that she may have had no vested interest in the particulars of the rules but was simply concerned for my physical and financial safety. Though without actually asking, this is purely hopeful conjecture.
I imagine most people also do not genuinely care for such rules but simply abide out of indifference or lack of indignation. However, one must realize the danger imparted in these types of detached values. If left unquestioned, how do we know where our actual principles end and outside authoritarian influences begin? Left unquestioned and therefore unopposed, authorities win. Politics win. Rules win. And perhaps even worse, conformity, the result of relentless unquestioning indifference, wins. Conformity, in regards to social and political affairs, provides a great hindrance to beneficial societal development, and can only help contribute to the death of true originality and a pure sense of control over our own minds and bodies. If we stop questioning given norms, not only of society but also of ourselves, maybe one day we’ll be the ones who end up telling the youth what they should and shouldn’t do, but only as it accords to what we’ve previously been told. For me at least that is a scary thought.