I wonder if there’s anyone among us without some characteristic they’d either like to change and have been told a time or ten thousand; “stop doing that.” Being late, not paying attention, or being told “speak up” is reflective of some traits. An occasional instance of not being on time is not the same as making a practice of rarely being punctual. Habitual tardiness can be called carefree freedom from convention, but if you are the one on the receiving side of such exercise it’s apt to feel an inconsiderate habit. Do know someone (and I think we all do) who runs late so often that you immediately adjust 3:00 to mean 3:45 or later. It’s an interesting and in ways inspiring side of humanity that we will often make allowances for others. This suggests many of us will put keeping group harmony above our individual concerns. I like that in humans but I still wonder how beneficial it is when a person or society agrees to being taken advantage of. At the risk of seeming insufficiently free spirited (a peril I accept) I suggest that routine accommodation of correctable human flaws amounts to acceptance of bad habits as a norm. Let me re-speak that as an easier image. When does easy-going tolerance turn into getting treated like a floor mat others trod without thought or care? There’s a line there somewhere, but we likely don’t see it until things have gone the proverbial “too far” and we just can’t take any more heel marks on our foreheads. As a longtime lover of irony I find it rather delish to say intolerable can be reached by an excess of the tolerable.

I doubt it will make any register with free thinkers on the small side of the big picture that at times past in this society traits were dealt with conventionally but also seriously. Though done in black and white, a cow person hero did not un-holster a six shot weapon (I’m trying to use terms inoffensive to the delicately minded) to magically destroy a room full of ill doers. Disabling or disarming of bad men (no problem with using “men” is there) for them to stand justice was a common theme. An early instance of culturally acceptable mayhem came in 61 with the Japanese movie YOJIMBO where the hero (mostly off camera) slaughters a batch of bad guys. In that case however the hero (a Samurai Ronin) is violent to free a town of oppression by rival gangs. The difference between an ethic of socially justified mass violence and the same done as individual revenge is worth considering.

Too bad (or perhaps luckily for you) I can’t give a neat pathway to explain why I wander from human traits to speculations on views of cultural violence. I can’t explain what I see or sense in the culture, but I certainly feel what might be called changes or trends where one standard or view goes down while another rises in its place. Being on the North Shore where nothing seems to change much (the reason many come here to get away) the one thing this is certain is change. Change is constant and relentless. Like everything, change has its good and bad. I don’t mind that the word icebox has passed away as a feature of daily life. On the other hand I do mind the rather glib way the significance of changes are shrugged off. So what? It doesn’t matter to me. I know the feeling quite well. Part of me says that with so much change happening so rapidly in an expanding society there’s bound to be some exhaustion or overload along with a sense of being swept along as individuals. It’s much easier to go with the flow. We also recall the old proverb that none of us can hurry the river. In a heap of cases any philosophic side won’t make a diddle of difference; that is until the river ideal for fly fishing has to be shared with flotillas of kayaks. They could alternate days or sign up for day/night shifts. I bet that would work out just swell wouldn’t it?

Ah, here’s a tale. The starter for my gander at traits began with a comment about stubbornness with my humble self in the crosshairs. Despite there being more than a tiny meal of truth in the assertion I made (as was expected and wholly justified) immediate objection. This is where open speech and civilized discourse come into use because individuals see, experience, and express things differently. Is it accurate to as stubbornness questions raised by someone asking “Why do you propose that” or “Is that true?” You know darn well there are people who get fussed being in any way balked or questioned. When such person accuses others of being stubborn for having asked a question the fault getting in the way is likely stubbornness on the part of the one raising stubbornness as another’s fault. Likewise, if I admit reluctance to agree, need to ask questions, and insist on knowing what I’m being asked to agree to when in fact I’m a habitual nay sayer then the story is different, isn’t it? It’s worth remembering there is value to be found on both sides of divides.

I didn’t welcome a criticism. Few of us do. But why see as criticism comment that is equally a useful reminder? Would I know on my own I’d slipped into habitual balking and nay saying or am I aided when another whacks me on the nose with the news I need to hear? Discovering how to learn and change is a lifetime process. In ancient Rome a worthy person was one seen as able to govern both reason and emotion. You think that would happen automatically and unaided? We need as individuals (wouldn’t hurt social groups either) to look at traits and habits with an eye on ways to improve. If I shy from being critical so as not to offend I’m committing a greater offense of saying others are too stupid or fragile to learn from others and change what they can.