the French like their strikes like Americans like their guns

This week, French taxis went on strike because the government passed a law that made Uber and other modern chauffeur equivalents artificially less competitive… but apparently not sufficiently less competitive, and that was a tragedy that only a massive strike could rectify. Then when people jumped into Uber cars because, hey, there were no cabs, those cars were attacked, leaving some passengers bleeding and stranded on the side of the road.

If you go read the French press, these assaults on completely innocent people are footnotes. “Incidents.” “Scuffles.” It’s enough to make your blood boil, really, that no one other than Uber executives seems to be particularly offended.

And this is typical, really. Strikes in France are often launched over ludicrous demands, and they’re incredibly disruptive if not downright dangerous. Many people in France will tell you how much they hate the incredibly powerful unions and the strikes they engender. But that’s just how it is. Because strikes are, to many, the essence of French rights, the core of what made French society, at least in the past, an exemplar of workers’ rights against the oppressive corporations.

Meanwhile, in the same week, a man got shot in a Florida movie theater, apparently because he was texting and that got someone really annoyed. The press wrote “man killed over texting in a movie theater,” and the discussion was often about how annoying texting can be. Because guns don’t kill people. Texting in a movie theater… now that kills!

Never mind that in the year since the Sandy Hook school shooting, where more than a dozen 6-year-olds were shot (6 year-olds! come on!), we’ve done exactly nothing as a country to contain gun violence. Stupid fights escalate into shootings. Because Second Amendment! I’m sure that’s what the Founders had in mind when they wanted a “well-regulated militia”: people in movie theaters with guns to settle fights.

Guns are such a deep part of America’s identity that their inherent goodness cannot be challenged. Even if many Americans wish they could change things. It doesn’t happen. It’s too engrained in American culture.

Yes, yes, I know, these two things are not quite the same.

But in a really critical way, they are. We humans make stupid decisions, and I mean really stupid, because some things feel, on principle, like deep parts of our identity. Because at one point in the past, in theory, that thing was really, really important. It’s the insane thing you hold on to because, if you give it up, it feels like you’re giving up a piece of yourself, like you’re renouncing who you really are.

So. What’s your stupid cause you feel you must stick to lest you betray yourself? How is it stopping you from seeing the obvious mistake you’re making? Can you let go of it and accept that yes, you are still the same person? I ask myself that, every now and then.

Because we primates sure are irrational.





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