Recently, Cate and I had a bit of a dispute with our landlord. It was the kind of thing where one side (ours) was obviously right and the other side (his) was obviously wrong. I tried to explain it to him, but he wouldn’t listen to reason. Finally, we had a neutral third party talk to him and we were able to avoid taking him to court (though I have it on good authority from more than one lawyer that we would have cleaned his clock).
Other than the pain in the ass aspect, it should all have been very satisfying. We were the good guys and we were right and we were going to win, and, in fact, did win in an understated kind of way. I didn’t find it satisfying, though. I found it miserable. The whole situation highlighted something about my personality for me. It should, I suppose, have been apparent to me long ago, but it wasn’t. I don’t like conflict.
Don’t get me wrong. I love conflict in books and movies and sporting events and good songs, but in my actual life, I can’t recall it ever making me happy.
Some people who know me, might disagree with that last sentence. They would point out that I am an argumentative little shit. They might also point out, that I spent thirteen years fighting in Tae Kwon Do tournaments. “And you say you don’t like conflict.” Yes, I do say that. There is an important distinction between fighting in a tournament or arguing about religion and the situation I described above. When I am arguing or fighting, there is nothing, really, on the line. It does not matter if I win or lose. But when someone tries to shut off the heat to my family or a student forces me to send them out of class and attempt to have them suspended, these things have consequences. People are forcing me to stand up and say, “No, what you are doing is not right. You will have to stop it, and if you don’t, you will have to face the consequences.”
Why though? Why do I mind standing up for myself, my family, and my students? Well, on the most basic level, it involves putting myself on the line. By judging others, I am, of course, opening myself up to judgment. I am private person (despite the existence of this blog) and relish being left alone. On a deeper level, though, I think it bothers me for many of the same reasons that people who do not believe in evolution even though they have been educated bother me. It triggers a very strong, “What the hell is the matter with you?” reaction. I don’t get it. Why do you want to take advantage of my family? We pay our bills on time. Why can’t you let others do their work? They have done nothing to you.
Perhaps it is a sign of how naive I still am that, at almost 30, I still expect people to mostly behave in fair and honorable ways when they will often do anything but that. I can’t help it, though. I can’t help being appalled. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we use sense and reason and intellect in our daily lives and that we attempt to be fair to our fellow humans. Maybe this is foolish of me. Maybe I need to finish growing up and become cynical, but I don’t want to. I am, overall, much happier assuming that everyone isn’t out to get me. If that means that sometimes an asshole landlord just about makes me sick, so be it.