Thirty blasts of the horn, then silence. For about 30 seconds. Then another 30 blasts. Silence. Again. And again. And again. For more than two hours.
I was reading in bed, as I always do, and I’m able to ignore a lot when I’m caught up in a book, so it wasn’t a big problem. But it was annoying. And it went on. And on. And on.
I finally looked out the window, and saw the flashing taillights of the car doing the thing. It was in a little open-ended garage behind the apartment building next door. And it belonged to someone I knew.
I didn’t know how to reach her, but my downstairs neighbor-lady did. We called her at about midnight, and of course she too was being kept awake by the incessant noise. After hearing whose car it was, she called the owner and told her about it, and a few minutes later, there was a bleep-twip! in the middle of a honk, and the alarm went silent.
Ah, blessed relief. For about 10 minutes. Then it started up again. Calls were made, and the lady was again notified, and a few minutes later, bleep-twip!, it stopped again. For about 5 minutes this time.
Rinse and repeat a couple more times.
Finally I got up and put on my pants and shirt. I dragged my toolbox out of the closet and my roommate made one more call to the lady. We trooped out in the freezing, icy weather, and the vehicle owner popped the hood on her car so I could disconnect the battery cable. Ah, blessed silence!
I showed her exactly what to do, how to put the cable back on, so she could drive the car to the shop when she was ready to have them fix it.
I’d wager a good 35 of my neighbors were being kept awake by the thing. They probably all thought the same thing I did: “Someone’s going to do something about that pretty soon. Any minute now.” I’d bet the police were called by more than one of them.
Someone had to go down and fix it. Eventually I realized it was me.
Talking to my local freethinker Meetup group earlier that same day, I said “There are all these problems in the world. One of the problems, though, is that we generally assume someone else is going to fix them. The government will fix things, or corporations will fix things, or ‘scientists’ will fix things. But sometimes … sometimes it’s you.”
This is pretty much the cornerstone of my motivation for working on Beta Culture.
Most of us automatically think someone else – smarter, bigger, better people, way off somewhere, people more capable or concerned – is going to fix things. But that’s really a sort of faith, isn’t it? A sort of pocket religion, the idea that Someone Else is going to make it all better.
Here’s the thing about all those Someone Elses: They can’t – and I mean it literally, they CAN’T – care about you and your personal interests. They don’t know you, maybe they don’t even want to know you, and they may well find it impossible to take an interest in the things you care about, the things you think are important, the things that are hurting you.
If your street is filled with blowing litter, or the nearby park is filled with dog poop, maybe it’s you who has to pick it up. If the vacant lot next door is a neighborhood eyesore, maybe it’s you who will have to do something about it. If a car alarm is going off at midnight, maybe you have to go out into the cold and fix it.
Even if it’s a problem the size of the world, Someone Else, busy with his/her own personal life, or possessed of a whole array of interests different from yours, may never even notice.
Here’s the other thing about all those Someone Elses: They’re just people. Sometimes they are people working together in large numbers – calling themselves government, or First National Bank, or General Electric, or Monsanto, or the Catholic Church – but they’re still just people.
And you, every bit as people-y, can do the things they do. If you only DECIDE to get them done.
Sometimes it’s you. Sometimes it’s US.
And maybe it’s now.