Sunday, August 23, 2009


It’s weird word, and one that I hear much too often from the environmentalists in my social circle. We should care for the environment, we should turn off the lights, we should drive less, we should eat organic food, we should should should should. Where does it end?

And isn’t it amazing how many people are happy to should you without a solid principle upon which to base their assertion.

I had a guy once pull up next to me on his push-bike at traffic lights after he saw me roll through the previous red light. He told me I should obey the lights, and clothed his statement in the authority of his role as a bike shop attendant who hears drivers complain about cyclists flaunting road rules. “No worries” seemed like the most polite palm off I could manage, considering I felt like telling him to mind his own business and wishing he’d get knocked off his bike.

That afternoon, returning home along the same stretch of road, I followed another cyclist who happened to run a red light. I stopped, as there was traffic coming. But I caught up to him a couple of intersections later. I didn’t think there was anything to say, he was acting as I would expect a cyclist to act but it was the same guy who gave me an earful in the morning! Want a hypocritical bastard.

I wasn’t in the mood for confrontation (I rarely am) so I just said g’day, and rode on my way. I hope he felt like a tool, because it must have been fairly obvious I’d seen him run the light.

I thought originally his should proposition was that we should all obey road rules. But by evening, it looked like his should proposition is that we should look after our personal safety before road rules, but make sure everyone else is doing the 'right thing'.

But it brings me to my point about should. Where does the authority to should someone come from? Most of the greenies get their best information from the hippie papers, and unwashed websites, and very few would understand an academic journal should they ever learn how to find one. A loose translation of should is “let me tell you how to behave” – but that wouldn’t go down so well.

But the real problem is that the ‘should-ers’ generally have the best intentions. They genuinely believe what they say, and that they are on some kind of mission to rescue the world from the ‘unshould’; those who independently determine their behaviour.

I should resolve never to should anyone again. My wife would appreciate that.

1 comment:

  1. A workmate tried to 'should' me about how I ride my scooter. He was argueing that I shouldn't pass between lanes of traffic because his car was stuck in traffic (unable to filter) unlike me. I pointed out that (a) my scooter being part of the traffic jam meant it was part of the problem, (b) travelling slowly in the jam exposed me to possible heat exhaustion (esp. in 35 C heat), (c) the laws here in WA allow filtering. This stopped him in hitting me with 'should' on this. As an aside, I did mention that there's an element of danger in filtering from cars changing lanes badly and people crossing the road.

    James Ciantar