Friday, June 01, 2007

My Motto: Everybody Does It Is Not A Reason For Doing It

Albert Frank Headshot by Albert Frank

For many years, this has been my motto. I’ll try to explain why.

Already at the age of 10, I often noticed that when people where doing something I considered to be bad and I asked them why, the answer was “Everybody does it”.

From what I have seen (passively, as a witness only or more actively by asking more and more questions), it has nearly always been the same during more than 50 years with very few exceptions, and that is the most incredible part for me.

Of course, my first question was “Who are the exceptions to this?" That has become a horror for me – I’ll be more explicit later. The answer (from what I have seen): some (but certainly not all) chess players in their daily lives and in the way they play chess. There are also some (but certainly not all) “high I.Q.” people.

Before trying to explain my reactions, here are some examples, mainly very common, some historical (after a long search). Some are insignificant, some are horrible:

  • Near a school, with a speed limit of 30 km/h, driving at 50. “Look Albert, I just follow the previous car, everybody does it.”
  • Cheating when playing soccer. “The others do it also, and it is not cheating, it’s only to win.” – This was said to children on a soccer field. It makes me vomit…
  • Cheating at exams at school (or for an i.q. test): “Now, with Internet and technology, everybody does it.”
  • Driving when you are drunk, only a "little bit" of alcohol – 3 glasses of wine and a beer: "Look, everybody does is, so it can’t be dangerous.”
  • We must recognise the authority of all the “big chiefs,” like the Pope or a State President: "Everyone recognizes their authority.” This was of course valid for Hitler too.

At a very young age, I began to be horrified, really horrified, by such things. As an example, I remember when I went to Rome with my father: We saw "Pie 12th" in the “Pope's chair”. My father said, “I’m not catholic, nevertheless there are things which have to be respected and applauded. "Everybody does it," - even if it was not explicitly said… All the “intellectual confidence” I had in my father disappeared then… I entertained ideas of suicide.

My life became worse and worse until it finally stabilised by my recognising the dichotomy: The sheep on the one hand doing and saying only what they could copy, often just what was said in newspapers and on TV. That was the vast majority. I would say more than 95 %, even though they would all probably strongly deny it. Slowly, I recognised that there are two distinct personalities:

  • With this majority of sheep, I made no contact except indispensable practical things. With them I did not speak. I was “alone in my corner”….
  • With the others, "the outsiders”: I loved to speak, to communicate - about nearly everything – I had long conversations… There were several real friendships as a great consequence of this!

Now, I have the opportunity to have quite a few (more than 10) really good "friends" (that’s a big word), and, none of them ever gives the excuse, “Everybody does it."

I have something to add: I have always tried to not be too "severe” with people of low standing (secretaries, for example); at the same time, I have been extremely severe with what I call “pseudo intellectuals” – like "Engineers" or "Ph.D's".

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