Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Thinking in Bumper Stickers

I like the bumper stickers people put on their cars. I would never do it, but I enjoy the fact that others do. I also enjoy attributing to the owner of the car the (often simplistic) mindset portrayed by the bumper sticker. But seriously, folks, bumper stickers convey some of the deepest thoughts our culture is capable of right now. In the grocery store parking lot this afternoon, there was this sticker on a Wiccan’s VW Van:

Harm None, Do What You Will

My first thought was something along the lines: like harming my sense of reason and moral order by inflicting this bumper sticker on me?

Why do we begin with the premise, “harm none”? Is that really a universal, unassailable moral principle? Clearly it is not. The creators of the Teletubies and the Wiggles are case in point. The moral assertion to “harm none” is debatable at best and simplistic naiveté at worst.

If we do pass the “harm none” reflection test, we have to assume that there are activities we engage in that don’t do any harm to anyone. While we might be able to scrounge up a few trivial examples, the vast majority of our lives’ decisions cascade into the lives of others. As has been said by people smarter and deader than me – we do not live or act unto ourselves.

In the end, the Wiccan VW Van bumper sticker wanted to read, “Stop telling me what to do, and don’t complain if it bothers you!” Much less pithy; much more true.

4 comments:

AlwaysInTheDark said...

Well said. I too enjoy the bumper stickers that many display. I disdain them on my own vehicle, although honestly I have thought of a few witty things I thought would be good for a sticker. It is interesting how they, like the current social media fad, reflect our culture.

Brian B said...

I really liked the first 140 characters of your post, Phil, but then I got distracted and lost my focus. Maybe next time you could frame your thoughts in a way that doesn't do harm to my attention span? Something pithy, just a quick phrase perhaps...

Phil Steiger said...

OMG Bri thks 4 yr pst! LOL

Brian B said...

That's better! u r bff now.