That fraction of a sentence in 12 Rules for Life stuck out to me this morning because it’s often something I thought about while on my walks. The first time it hit me was a couple years ago when I was noticing all of the cracks in the pavement and the nearly deadly misalignment of sidewalk tiles caused by shifting earth over the years. One spot in my neighborhood has a drop of a foot which resumes with a sheer cliff on the next tile. I’ve tripped and fallen here more than once, though I’ll likely not do it again!
People often talk about problems in the sense that they’re waiting for someone else to solve them. Complaining, essentially. Bitching, when it’s overtly cynical. I’ve tried to live in a way such that if I raise an issue, I offer a solution. If I don’t have a solution, I keep my mouth shut. I say “I’ve tried…” because it’s impossible to maintain this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sometimes we’re just bitchy.
What would happen if people who had cracked pavement in front of their houses had to fix it themselves? There’d be immediate cries of unfairness at having to pay for it, which tosses the idea that taxes are unjust and pointless right out the window. If we weren’t forced to pitch in for infrastructure we’d all likely be driving on mountainous dirt roads. Perhaps instead people could simply do what is expected. Most of us don’t even do that, and I include myself in that one-hundred-percent. If you have cracked pavement in front of your house, the government will fix it for free… but the catch is that you have to actually let somebody know.
I live in Michigan. If you’re familiar with the culture here, you know that the state of our roads is a source of constant rage and humor. So I’m not saying we have a perfect government that will rush over and replace your sidewalk the second you phone them up, but you have to at least do that before you complain.
This is a simple, pointless example of taking responsibility for the state of the world, but if you’re marginally insightful you can project this toward infinite complexity. You have to start somewhere, though.