You take care of the poo because there are some things that you just do. I suppose this makes me a rigid person. I remember overhearing a dinner party conversation when I was in fourth grade. One of the neighborhood parents asked my mom how she got me and my sister to do our homework. Both parents in that family also worked and they were struggling with getting their children to do their homework while no one was there to supervise. "Oh, they just do it when they get home," my mom explained. I remember being vaguely embarrassed because the neighbor went on to laud my mother over raising such well-behaved children. It seemed as though her response was overly complimentary. After all, isn't that just what you do?
This is the first time that I've really thought about that memory as an adult. As I think about all the possible things that her children might have spent their time doing instead of their homework, it occurs to me that maybe I wasn't a rigid child, but an unimaginative one. And, I've never grown out of it. When it comes to certain tasks, I never even consider an alternative to completing it because, in my mind, no alternative exists.
When I make a mental list of all of the tasks that fall into this category, they're generally day-to-day chores: wash dishes, recycle, brush my teeth, get up to go to work, etc. There are some "don't rules" that also come to mind: don't eat meat, don't buy Coke products, don't believe in "trickle down economics," and don't ever buy a luxury brand car (even if the mercedes symbol does kinda look like a peace sign).
Usually I try not to spend too much time arguing with the person who's giving me the advice. They're always older than me and sometimes there are little tidbits of advice and perspective that I find useful. More importantly, they're not going to listen to me anyway. What they don't understand is that, yes, like most people, my first acts were definitely driven by idealism and a naive belief that collective action can change the world. But I've been active for several years now and it's actually nearly impossible for someone to be involved in social justice work to remain naive.
If I had never gone down the path of activism and advocacy, as a privileged, suburban youth, I could have actually continued to believe that society would always continue to slowly progress overtime. Certainly there were always little steps backward, but overall, we were moving in the right direction. Thirty years ago gay people had to pretend they were straight. Now we have gay marriage a few states. Just look at us now! After all, our president is black isn't he?!
I've already established I'm unimaginative. As a sheltered kid, I never would have thought that police officers would open fire with rubber bullets on a peaceful protest. The bullets were so hard that one victim had her jaw broken. My girlfriend at the time had a mark on her back from where she was hit for months. It was on her back; she was walking away like they had asked her to. It would have been impossible for me to ever imagine that drug company like Abbott would refuse a whole country of people life-saving HIV/AIDS medication. To this day I still feel like vomiting when I think about the number of lives that the managers I worked for were willing to make miserable in order to maintain their bottom-line. I had no idea that I would ever watch someone order their employee to put a pancake on the floor, step on it, and then eat it, in order to assert their power. And I'm too unimaginative to have thought that a man could need an oxygen tank at all times due to emphysema; have caused a house fire from a cigarette that demolished his house, gave him full body burns, and took the life of his wife; and still continue to smoke.
In fact, most days, it's a battle against my own cynicism. I've seen and experienced how horrifically callous human nature can be. I've felt the helplessness of fighting a nameless collective mass of individual, minute transgressions - the so called tragedy of the commons. And I know that I've only see the tip of iceberg.
In the hospital we often see patients and their families facing the possibility of permanent impairments or death. I helped take care of a man who, over the past 6 months, had lost the ability to walk and no longer had control of bowel and bladder. We all anxiously awaited the procedure that we thought might fix his problem, but it was unknown how much function he might actually be able to recover, if any at all. The day before the procedure my attending wanted to make sure that his expectations were appropriate and reminded him that though he might be able to walk again, we couldn't predict if it was even necessarily possible or even probable. He replied, "I know the chances are that things won't get too much better and that I'll never be back to normal again, but I have a little bit of hope and I try to hold on to that while being realistic."