Dear reader,

I’m pretty sure that this scene is not unfamiliar to you: someone is speaking too loud or making an annoying noise in a situation/place where it is unacceptable. Let’s say a child is laughing for something she has just read in the library, or someone stepping into a room shouting for some good news while a friend had a major phone call. What’s next, the other people on the scene react saying something along the lines of “SHHHHHHHHHHHHT!”, “SILENCE!”, “SHUTUP!”, “DONTYOUSEEHESONTHEPHONEGODDAMMIT?!?!” in an even higher volume. Or, you may watch this video, which could be titled “the perfect way to make it look bad, then worse, then the worst”:

What’s wrong here? What could have been different?

As a rule of thumb, every action should not be based on reaction but should originate from a purpose and has to be carried out in a conscious, deliberate way. In the example given the purpose is to maintain silence, so what’s the point in shouting? Wouldn’t be some silent gesture of equal, if not better and more classy, effectiveness? Is the rule more important than the matter it addresses?

Maybe there is something even deeper at work here, on the psychological level. There is a perverted pleasure in enforcing a rule, a sense of entitlement that makes us act, sometimes, out of ourselves. For a spectacular demonstration, you can read about the Stanford Prison Experiment (healthy subjects acting as guards and prisoners) on Wikipedia:

Still, the ultimate purpose should be the driver, if no other reason than to help to keep us in check.

For the next weeks, I’ll try to pinpoint this kind of behaviour both in me and in others, trying to learn more about my purposes and my biases. I invite you to try the same, and to comment below if you find anything you’d like to share.

Maybe I’m making too much out of this small matters. However, I agree with the psychologist Amos Tversky when he says that the small, systematic actions of a person tell more about her than the “big choices” (profession, the course of study and the likes) that often are the product of randomness.

Before I forget, Happy Easter to you and your dear ones!

Until next time, try to silence the authoritarian guard inside of you, or eat his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti…

P.s.: bonus fun material: