originally published January 14, 2013
So it seems I have a moral dilemma. I live next door to a man – we’ll call him Mr. Crotchrot. Late last summer, Mr. Crotchrot decided he didn’t care for the modest thicket of weeds growing between my garage and his fence. It hadn’t quite evolved to Degobah proportions, but I suppose I can see his point. However, as I had spent most of my spare summer hours either drinking paint thinner to see if I’d go blind or writing articles for this site, I hadn’t paid attention to that neglected little chunk of my real estate.
Rather than drop by and let me know about the problem, Mr. Crotchrot phoned the city, the result being a rather terse letter informing me I had one week to remove the offending plant life or else be subjected to a vicious fine. Like a good citizen, I complied. But the acrid taste of poor manners never left my mental tongue. This was the latest in a lengthy crusade by Mr. Crotchrot to passive-aggressively establish a rotten relationship with everyone who lives near us. I spoke with many of our other neighbors: Firefighter Guy, that guy who looks like an older, chubbier David Hasselhoff, and Mr. Obsessed-With-Blowup-Christmas-Decorations, and they all have similar complaints.
Also, it seems I should really work on learning some of these people’s names.
So what do I do? Do I live and let live, and ignore the guy? Knock on his door and tell him the entire community thinks he’s an insufferable globule of dick? Or should I concoct some elaborate scheme to slowly drive him mad?
So many options. Fortunately, Wikipedia’s comprehensive category on morality should help me develop a plan.
Natural Morality is based on how humans have evolved, at the core of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Following this concept, I should enter Mr. Crotchrot’s house, take all his food, mate with his wife, and force him to die off without propagating his bloodline. I see a few problems with that: first, he already has kids, I think. They grew up and moved far away from him, probably because he kept calling the police and reporting his car stolen every time they were five minutes late for curfew.
Also, I’ve seen his wife. I think this whole approach can only ensure my defeat. Time to move on.
The concept of Victorian Morality is centered around a very strict code of conduct. While it also touches on topics of sexual restraint as well, that really doesn’t apply to this situation (as I’d previously implied, his wife is somewhat of a C.H.U.D., and he is so not my type). According to Victorian Morality, the proper thing to do would be to take no action, as Mr. Crotchrot has not violated any societal code of decorum.
The most I could get away with here would be a strongly-worded letter, imploring Mr. Crotchrot to “kindly confer with me in the event of any future concerns regarding the adjoining portions of our properties”.
Where the hell is the fun in that?
Whereas moral absolutism states that certain actions are right or wrong, regardless of intention or consequences, Graded Absolutism asserts that certain wrongs outweigh other wrongs. Killing, for example, is a greater wrong than telling a lie – and presumably, also a greater wrong than writing a nagging letter and being a twat of a neighbor. Alright, so according to this theory, I simply have to find a level of wrong that is equal or lesser than the wrong he committed.
I can’t factor in the back-breaking pain of yanking all those weeds; I would have done that anyway, had he asked nicely. Really the only end result is that I am left with the inescapable reality that the guy who lives in that adjoining house is a weasely douchebag with little or no sense of community. I suppose the most enjoyable (for me) equivalent would be to give him the impression that he lives beside someone whose behavior cannot be counted upon to be… right.
I’m thinking of painting the side of my garage that faces his home with a colorful mural. Nothing offensive – just horrendously ugly. Something that will haunt the beauty of his yard, which he works on meticulously, even spending weeks this summer scrubbing the rocks in the rock-beds around his trees. Something like this:
Alternately, I could erect a pole in my yard, whatever is the maximum height allowed by the zoning laws in my city, and stick an ugly scarecrow on top of it, scowling at his yard. Perhaps I could train my four bulldogs to routinely defecate only in the area near where our yards meet? No, that one would be impossible – they’re bulldogs; there’s no way they are that trainable. Maybe I should just set up trampoline beside that fence this summer and jump on it for hours without a shirt. No, that might be too mean.
Moral Shock is when some event captures people’s attention, and spurs them into some kind of social movement. That’s not bad – maybe I can call upon my reading audience to be shocked and outraged by Mr. Crotchrot’s actions, and we can get a grassroots effort underway to make him see the error of his ways.
Actually, it looks like Moral Shock sparks people into volunteering for peace movements, animal-rights campaigns, anti-racism organizations and so on. I don’t think an article about a neighbor who is habitually less than courteous is going to kick-start a movement of Occupy magnitude. Maybe I’m wrong. Come on, Internet-public! We need folk songs about this guy! Let’s stick some signs on the end of some sticks and change the world!
It’ll have to be on the weekend though; I’m really busy.
According to Moral Nihilism, nothing is intrinsically moral or amoral. This gives me a lot of leeway. It implies the notion of moral skepticism, or the theory that no one truly has any moral knowledge. Nietzsche would back me up here.
I find this approach appealing, in that I could show up on the guy’s doorstep and beat him senseless with a fireplace poker, and could walk away feeling that I had betrayed no morality, committed no sin. Except that I really don’t want to do that. The more I delve into this, the more I think I should just chalk the experience up to the fact that Mr. Crotchrot is a small-penised douche-sack who deserves little more than a scowl when I drive past his house and spot him in his front yard, trimming his lawn with scissors.
Or maybe I’ll just poop in his mailbox. I don’t know – it’s all just a huge grey area.