Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Guest-Blogger

Allow me to introduce myself.

I'm Rob.

I was an actor in the show that Isaac recently directed, "First You're Born", and I am also the author of "Questions and Answers", the play which Isaac referred to in a previous entry as "a Pinteresque, quiet, pause-filled piece about redemption and morality." Isaac and I are currently in the preliminary stage of planning a workshop production of the piece, and at a meeting over the weekend to discuss the matter, Isaac offered me the opportunity to serve as "guest-blogger" for a few days on Parabasis and after only mild hesitation I graciously accepted.

You should know that I enjoyed working with Isaac on “First You’re Born”, but I will say that during the run of the show the stress of it began to take its toll and slightly impair my ability to perform ordinary tasks and make simple decisions.

Here's an example of such an instance . . .

One afternoon before a show I walked into a deli to get some juice. Afterwards, halfway down the block, I suddenly realized there was a bottle of juice in my hand.

How did it get there?

I remembered entering the deli, but had no memory of purchasing the juice or leaving the deli. I was certain that I had left the deli because I was no longer in the deli, but it quickly became clear that the reason I had no memory of purchasing the juice was because I had not purchased the juice. I had stolen it. I had walked into the deli, picked up a bottle of juice and left without paying for it, completely oblivious of my actions.

The question: Should I or should I not return to the deli to pay for the juice?

It was quite a simple issue and I was determined to resolve the matter quickly and rationally, so that I could continue with my day and prepare for the show.

The first thing one should do when faced with such a dilemma is consult Socrates. Socrates, of course, believed that a man cannot knowingly commit a deed that he believes to be evil, so according to him, if I did not return to the deli to pay for the juice, I must inherently believe it is right for me to do so.

Certain laws should be broken and perhaps this law was one of them. As Thomas Jefferson said, "If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so."

The task at hand seemed clear. If I could rationalize that the law preventing me from stealing the juice is unjust, according to Jefferson, I would be obliged not to return to pay for it.

I then looked at the context in which Jefferson made that statement, which was, of course, the American Revolution. Jefferson’s revolution wasn’t just a reaction to certain laws, it was a reaction to the very system of government by which he was ruled.

I wondered that if I decided not to return to the deli and pay for the juice, could this decision have deeper ramifications? Would I be advocating the elimination of private property and perhaps the establishment of a new system of government that's not built on the premise of ensuring the preservation of private property? Could such a change be accomplished within our current system of government without some type of violent revolution? Would I be able to gain enough support for my cause?

Again, I consulted Socrates, who was ultimately condemned to death for charges that he believed were unfounded. At his trial, he said of his accusers that "they have scarcely uttered one single word of truth." He believed he did no wrong and though he expressed hostility toward those who condemned him, he retained his respect of the legal system that allowed them to do so.

It seemed that I was doing the opposite. I was questioning my system of government for upholding a law that I believed to be just. I realized that I didn't truly advocate the elimination of private property. After all, I’m thinking about buying a new computer and I’m not sure how that would work if the concept of private property were abolished. In our current system, I certainly would not want someone to steal from me and therefore could not justify stealing from someone else. It would be nothing other than hypocritical for me not to return to pay for the juice.

However, I didn't return to pay for juice.

Why not?

I had been to that deli several times before and each time, the man behind the counter was extremely rude to me. One time I asked if I could get a plastic spoon even though I hadn't bought anything, and the man threw a fit. Another time, I had no money and attempted to buy a drink with a credit card, and once again, the man threw a fit. "There's a ten dollar minimum for credit card purchases!" he yelled, "You should have known!"

So in the end I chose my own personal revenge over the laws of the state. A morally questionable choice, I agree. A choice many would make without giving a second thought, I also agree. But as I wandered along the sidewalk, juice in hand, I was quite disturbed by the liberties we take with this unspoken contract we have with our government. Like Christians with Bible passages, we pick and choose what we will and will not obey.

I was certain only of one thing: The stress of the show was certainly taking its toll. When a simple trip to the deli to get some juice turns into a journey through the mysterious web of justice, virtue, and morality, I know I must need a vacation.

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