Every Day Is a Trolley Problem

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

I first encountered the Trolley Problem in law school, since it’s a concise way to illustrate legal duties versus moral duties. Shortly put, the problem involves a trolley barreling down a track towards five people. Someone can throw a switch to divert the trolley, but it will kill a different person. No other intervention is possible.

The reason I’m bringing it up is because in the abstract, the trolley problem involves weighing moral values. To save five people, a person will have to kill someone else. Doing nothing doesn’t feel right, either. There’s no right answer, just an answer that people hopefully will think about ahead of time.

I’ve been failing to ignore the news lately.
That’s a problem because it makes my brain chemistry worse. I can’t help but see big things happening and wonder how others can get so detached from them. There have been many situations I’ve thought of recently where doing nothing will result in censure and doing something will result in different censure. This problem is something that’s made writing here have diminishing returns.

Over the past several years, I’ve been a villain for writing about what I believe, or a monster for whatever strikes a random passerby’s fancy. It doesn’t take much to spread ignorance around like toxic waste, and it has taken its toll on me. At the end of the day, I have to live with myself. Living with myself isn’t a great experience; there’s a part of me that uses every criticism I’ve experienced to cut to the bone.

Hidden consequences hurt.
I get that some of the stuff I’ve written has hurt feelings and rubbed people the wrong way. But I’m not some omniscient being who can fathom every nuance of language to make himself known and understood. I’m just some jackass who can’t function with a broken mind, and I’ve turned to punching keys in a particular order to see if it works.

I’m not sure if I can do that when it means being subjected to things that rip my mind apart.

To be sure, it’s not the criticism itself that troubles me the most. It’s seeing myself misunderstood or distorted or presented as some sort of thing distilled into meaninglessness. It’s like shouting in a vacuum while everyone else’s voice gets heard.

And ethical considerations weigh more heavily on me these days.
The short version is that since I can’t resort to an invisible friend to blame, I am left with mercilessly challenging myself. Taking things for granted is what helped me live a life ignoring something wrong. I’m afraid of doing that again, because it has some really bad consequences.

Practically speaking, it means I can’t just ignore people the way a healthy person is able to do. For whatever reason they have a callous over their hearts that I cannot imitate or replicate. Instead, I have to figure out the merits and demerits of a thing said to me in passing.

Case in point, I still don’t feel like voting. I feel this way not out of some insipid, misplaced feeling. Rather, it’s because I literally have no fucking clue what my vote will do to people. Does it do anything? What are its effects indirectly? Does it mean I’m okay with every consequence stemming from it? Does it give me a moral pass? Is that fucking sticker worth it when I know real people might starve, die, or lose everything as a result?

Right now, people who live in countries without elections or with stolen elections are sitting in a surer position than I am. Unless they’re in the regime, they’re not responsible for whatever their country does – good or ill. And maybe I’m overthinking everything. Or maybe I’m not even able to think about it enough.

I have this inescapable feeling that I’m just part of a farce, some unholy comedy where humanity is revealed to be the awful meat puppets we are. At the end of the day, nothing means anything. Or worse, there is meaning, but it’s drowned out by people who shout and spread chaos for the sheer hell of it. Or worst, I’m in the latter category, and I’m too damned stupid to realize it.