On Jaywalking

 

I’m a jaywalker. This isn’t something I’m proud of but I am not ashamed of it either, and I am prepared to support my decision to live the felonious life of a criminal crosser. Firstly, because my methods are pure: I always look both ways to ensure that no cars or bikes are coming, and always cross quickly so that no one else is inconvenienced by my choice. Also, I generally abstain from jaywalking if children are watching. Not because I have some OCD need to impose rules in the absence of those that I am breaking (in this case, the law) but because my intentions are pure as well. I jaywalk not to fulfill nihilistic desires or scratch a rebellious itch, but for the simple sake of expediency. I am an efficient walker, and I see no reason why roads should inhibit my direct path as long as I am safe and respectful while doing what I want.

So why do I hide my crime from children? If I believe in the purity of my actions and harbor no shame for them, why then do I not flaunt my illicit activity in the young faces of those most impressionable? Why don’t I preach my doctrine of crosswalk abstention? Why don’t I take my message of street crossing to the streets? And the crossings?

The answer is because I believe in the laws governing roads and pedestrian behavior. I am glad that jaywalking is illegal. I think if it were not, there would be many unnecessary injuries or deaths, and a much greater disruption of the order of our cities and towns. What’s more, I do not believe there is a discontinuity in logic between my support for the law and my disregard for following it. Because I jaywalk intentionally—after rational thought, an empathetic regard for those around me, and consideration for the safety of all.

I suppose that mean’s I don’t believe in the law entirely. The ideal law in this case would be: “crossing at anywhere other than a designated crosswalk is illegal…unless done safely, efficiently, with good reason, and respect for those around you.” Laws should have a good person caveat. But the problem is there are too many not good people—too many people who are selfish, or thoughtless, or reckless, or otherwise undisciplined in their ability to control their base human tendencies. So even a caveat on the books would be taken advantage of and lead to a degradation of the law itself. So, again, I fully support the law, flawed as it is, because it governs people, flawed as we are.

My father tried his best to instill in me the fact that no one is better than anyone else or above the rules. I don’t disagree, and fully intend to teach my children the same lesson—for the same reasons. I want my children growing up believing that rules are meant to be followed, until they are able to critically think each rule out for themselves. And then, if they are able to rationally articulate a reason that a certain rule need not be followed, I would hope that they would do so with respect for the fact that not everyone will have given the issue as much thought as they have. The policeman who issues the ticket certainly will not—it is his job to enforce the rules, no exceptions, and he really can’t be expected to assume that you’ve given the issue as much thought as it necessitates. The children—or impressionable people of any age—walking down the street most likely will not have. Think through all things thoroughly, but do not assume anyone else is.

Rules are not meant to be broken, nor should they be followed blindly. Like all truths, the answer lies somewhere in between these extremes. Everyone should follow rules—even those they feel are unfair—until they are able to rationally articulate a reason not to. And even then, rules should only be broken with adherence to that rationality as well as respect for everyone around you. Think on the consequence of your actions—and not just those that directly affect you. Truly this should be done all the time, but it is especially important when deciding to break a rule (a building block of society) that had been previously thought out, rationalized, and agreed upon. Many rules are faulty or outdated, but they should be given the benefit of the doubt; innocent until proven guilty.

So jaywalk if you will, but do not curse the law that prohibits it or the policeman who enforces that law. Break rules with intention, rationality, and respect. Be a rebel with good cause, and create a revolution of the mind before attempting revolution of the world.

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