Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Absolute Freedom. 08.04.15

Once upon a time, I had the joy of sharing a house with a fella who believed in absolute freedom. In theory that meant that he believed that everyone has the right to live in any way they want, following their hearts and souls, free from social diktats. In practice that meant that he was a complete asshole. We're talking about a guy who refused to wash because "our obsession with hygiene is a socially-imposed construct", then would throw a hissy fit when nobody wanted to eat with him for the simple reason that they could smell his feet over their food. 

Nothing with him was negotiable. Everything was an ideological issue. If you asked him to do anything, like rinse the sink after shaving, or to stop doing anything, like leaving the fridge door open, you were being oppressive. The guy was, well, somewhat tricky to live with. However, having survived a variety of bothersome housemates and being an old-style liberal myself, I did my level best. 

Things started to degenerate when he started to bring in his fishing gear. Although fish-bothering is not something I'm interested in, I don't have any ethical aversion to it. What I do have an aversion to is opening the fridge at breakfast time and finding it crawling with maggots. Asshole had not only decided that the fridge where I kept my food was a splendid spot to keep his bait, but had also not bothered ensuring that his container was secure. Words (well, shrieks) were exchanged. I didn't think asking for my food to be left maggot-free was unreasonable, but, lo and behold, it was. I was "imposing my living standards blah blah blah." What was I, some sort of fascist? He had the right to do whatever he pleased. I could not stop him.

That little conversation was the turning point in our cohabitation. You see, once I stopped fuming, it occurred to me that what's good for the goose is good for the gander. If he had the right to do whatever he pleased, then so did I. And if I could not stop him, then he could not stop me. 
Absolute freedom worked both ways.

I didn't act upon my revelation until a few days later, when Asshole decided to dry his nets by draping them over my camping gear, soaking it in pond water and mud. I decided to exercise my freedom by flinging all the offending items as far as I could throw them. That turned out to be as far as my not-so-carefully-tended gooseberry patch. If you are not familiar with them, gooseberries are one the reasons Nature is called "a mother", their fruit being protected by thorns sharp enough to inconvenience a rhino.

When Asshole returned home to find his gear gaily strewn upon the shrubbery, he was perturbed (going puce is a sign of perturbation, isn't it?). However, as I was a. still angry enough to punch a panda and b. subscribing to his cherished and oft-repeated ideology, he found himself unable to complain. Off he went to retrieve his gear.

(If you've never had the pleasure of watching someone you don't much like trying to disentangle nets from a large and overgrown gooseberry patch, I heartily recommend it. Make yourself a cup of tea, grab a chair, and enjoy the show.)

That was a turning point in our cohabitation. I agreed with him completely: absolute freedom was the way to go. So when I found that he'd left his fishing pellets out in the garage and caused a rodent infestation, I exercised my freedom by throwing the lot in the garbage. Asshole was unimpressed, but, hey ho, that's freedom, right? The next time I found maggots in the fridge, I upturned the container out the window. Asshole was pretty angry, but come on, freedom! Mine and the maggots'! When I started mixing my equestrian gear with his laundry (his allergy to horse hair being nothing but a social construct, I'm sure of it), he finally decided to move to new pastures.

So the moral of the story is: there's more than ethics to creating a utopia. You need to think about practicalities, too. You need to consider what would happen if your ethics were applied to their full extent by absolutely everyone, including people willing to be bigger assholes than you. Otherwise, you might discover that the line between utopia and dystopia is a very fine one indeed.


technogypsy said...

This punching pandas thing has got to stop. They are endangered. Apparently by small Italian women too.

Charles James said...

I am in awe, this is priceless, totally awesome!

God's Bastard said...

Grinning like an idiot now.
(Yes, I'm a sucker for compliments, what of it?)