| 03.21.2018

Respect, the status quo — Fulfilling the social contract of respect in public is key to human interaction


When people venture out into the world, they enter into a kind of social contract with their fellow person.

Whether they are going to the movie theater or a restaurant, they agree to abide by society’s standards of behavior, whatever those might be according to the culture and climate of the society.

This agreement extends to those within their party, such as their significant other or their child.

Griffen Winget | Argonaut

They have a certain obligation to make sure their associates act as a member of society should, within reason.

When that associate fails to act as one should, it not only reflects poorly on themselves but others in their group.

The exceptions to this rule are children. Up to an ambiguous age, parents are held accountable for their children’s actions.

For this example, it is easiest to refer to children under the age of 10.

They have yet to fully realize the extent to which the social contract applies to them and therefore, do not always act accordingly.

In this case, it is the parent’s job to act as disciplinarians and more importantly, teachers.

They should instill this idea of social obligation into their children and raise them to act within their bounds.

When they fail as disciplinarians is when the blame for the child’s actions falls squarely on their shoulders. Examples of the most egregious offenses often happen in restaurants.

Children get bored easily. They want to get up, run around and scream their little heads off. It’s a fact of life — we have all done it and witnessed it.

Another group that fails to fulfill their social contract are drunk people — specifically drunk people past their limit out in public.

One might say, “They are intoxicated, they can’t be held accountable for their actions.”

The rebuttal is they broke their contract the minute they went past their limit.

It has become perfectly acceptable to get tipsy or even outright intoxicated at bars.

It’s only when that turns to belligerence does it become a problem. This is a case of knowing one’s limit. Don’t become a damper to other people’s night due to a lack of self-control.

The final group is more of a conglomerate. It consists of anyone that abuses the power of anonymity.

The largest subsect within this group are people on the internet. It is easy to leave vitriolic and hate filled comments when we have the safety of a screen between us and the other person.

Just because the medium of interaction is different doesn’t mean the social contract is not in effect.

Beside electronic communication there is also the angry driver.

Flipping the bird to a passing driver or honking too many times still qualifies a breach of that contract.

It is easy to behave this way because the driver will most likely will never see that car and driver again. Maintaining the social contract is paramount in any interaction. Whether face to face, through a screen or on the road.

Being a decent human being shouldn’t be goal to strive toward but instead the status quo.

Griffen Winget can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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