Consequences. Yesterday on my bus ride home there were three men, all my age, discussing union business. I tried not to listen but they were almost as loud as me. I think all of us on that small Metro X Shuttle bus heard every word. In the conversation there was reference to the provincial election and the issues that have arisen. In the 30 minute ride I heard on one hand, “the government should be spending a lot more money on teachers, unionized contracts, infrastructure, paving roads, government employees, etc… And then later in the conversation came this, “and you know our taxes are sky high in Nova Scotia, we’ve got to do something about that!”

All of us are a mass of contradictions. For instance I love to speak in front of large crowds but I don’t like going into a Hall afterward and having people keep coming up to me. I prefer a more orderly way of making conversation. To many this makes no sense. But I do think that demanding that an institution like government or church do something and then complaining when the consequences of that action follow through makes my head hurt. Surely if we as members of some body demand that something be done we need to hold our tongues when that action is carried out and the obvious consequences emerge.

And yet we don’t. One reason I am convinced this happens are those in the room who hear these rants and make no comment. Often when we hear a rant we have a tendency to join in, pile on, without thinking how the statements we are hearing likely contradict one another. It takes someone sure of her/himself to say, “I’m not sure this makes sense, surely we can have only one or the other?”

My experience of the person who is listening and jumps in is a person who feels slighted by the generalization. “Wait a minute, I am one of those people you are talking about!” We have all heard third parties do that. But again that is self-interest, it is objecting because you feel slighted or ridiculed. What I am talking about is the obvious contradiction of demanding one thing and then complaining when the consequences of that action take shape. There is no self-interest there, in fact that is a public interest, assisting the conversation to be more informed, less self-focused.

I’ve really benefitted when people have done this to and for me. If I complain about people telling me too much information about their committee or organization I can’t really complain if there is information I fail to receive as a result of their trying to abide by my “rules”. If I make a strong statement about what I desire I need to know that if people act on my wishes there can be consequences I may not have anticipated. Then it is on me to revisit my rant and perhaps adjust it accordingly.

The three gents from my bus ride yesterday all departed with a sense that “there’s nothing you can do”, they had thrown up their hands, wanting more government spending and much lower taxes. I even heard one say he did not intend to vote. One advantage of know about consequences is knowing you have agency and thus becoming less passive in one’s life. I pray we all know the agency we have and the consequences that arise from our agency.