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These control situations are but one of the psychological weapons the State uses to keeps us in line.

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‘Are you color-blind?’ she asked me. ‘Just enough’ I replied and continued to cross the road.

She’s a regular customer at the grocery store where I work. I was crossing the road against a red light while several people waited for it to switch to green. I asked myself repeatedly why she was so interested in when, how and why I crossed the road. The only explanation that I could come up with is that she found it hard to understand how somebody could see themselves as above the laws that govern us all. Well, I do see myself in that way. Most laws at least.

I believe that in regard to our everyday movement and existence the law is but a set of default guidelines. If we can find no better way to act and behave without causing harm to others, we follow them. In theory many of us practice this regularly, whether consciously or not. We ignore the pay parking signs because we’ll ‘just be a minute’, we pass through an orange light when we could have stopped, we allow members of our family or close friendship groups to consume alcohol under the age of 18 (the legal drinking age in my country), we download pirated media, we photocopy copyrighted documents (my grandmother’s recipe book is filled with such pages) and so on. Crossing the road against a red light when there is absolutely no danger of harm or disruption to either myself or to anyone else is an action that has no negative effect on the world and is therefore my business.

Why wait for a machine to tell us when to cross an empty street? I believe that there are a few things going on here. One is that when we are kids our faculties are not necessarily developed enough to allow us to make an informed decision on safety. These faculties, in my opinion, are well-enough developed from around the age of 13 (give or take a year or two), yet so many of us do not take control of the situation at any point in our lives because it is simpler to let others (human or otherwise) do the thinking for us.

The second contributing factor is fear. We’re afraid that if we do not follow the law, right or wrong, that we’ll be confronted by the blue meanies. The threat of police intervention in our lives is very real. Though we often know better than the current laws, most of which are outdated or are there to prop up certain ways of life and governance, we obey them because we may be held accountable by the police. We regularly read about situations at home and abroad that quickly escalate from simple jaywalking fines to broken arms, prison sentences and ‘stop and search’ operations that end with someone being shot or pepper-sprayed for asking too many questions.

These control situations are but one of the psychological weapons the State uses to keeps us in line. We waste our lives waiting for a green light to cross an empty street.

— Tim Sullivan is a greengrocer based in Bendingo, Australia.

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