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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Getting Sloppy (Rationale Creep)

When I break the law or moral code it is usually the result of getting sloppy.  For instance this year I got a traffic ticket—a moving violation for not stopping at a stop sign.  How this developed was I began to get sloppy.  Stop signs on residential streets near my house and those near my work became very familiar, and I began to roll pass them without fully coming to a stop.  My intent and rule of action became not to stop unless I in advance saw traffic coming.  This then spread to other stop signs on busy and strange streets.  My personal rule of action no longer jived with state law.  I felt satisfied, since I was applying a rule, though just not the legal rule.  (The convenient rationale--as long as I applied my rule religiously, the state law didn’t matter.)  Often rationales are appeals to rules—simply our own self-interested rules.

At Publix this week I got a cart full of groceries, and put some soft drink cartons on the bottom rack of the cart because there was no room on top.  On checkout, I forgot about the drinks and didn’t realize they were not charged to me until I got out to the car.  I was tired (and sloppy) so drove away without paying.  My immediate rationale (and there is always a justifying rationale) was that Publix prices are more than their competitors on certain items, so this unpaid for item was just getting me justice.  Nice!  I shoplifted out of a sense of justice; just another phony rule of reciprocity.

Yesterday I got an atomic clock for my home.  It monitors the temperatures at two locations, the clock location and a remote location.  Both sensors require batteries—a total of 4 AA batteries.  I was at work and decided, since I sometimes run errands for my employer and don’t get paid (the reliable rationale), I would use their batteries in my clock.  This became another instance of getting sloppy on the back of selfish rationales.

Luckily amends are possible.  It was a relief in a way to get caught by the policeman for running the stop sign.  My rule was a dangerous rule, and it was only a matter of time before it ended in a serious accident.  I felt relief (as well as other emotions) the moment I saw lights flashing behind me.  I can still make amends at Publix and work.  This is necessary primarily to affirm that my rationales were purely selfish justifications, and to help avoid sloppiness and rationale creep in the future. 

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