Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Friday, January 09, 2004  

I am the true enemy

It may come as a shock to those who have been reading this blog, but in the residential urban neighborhood in which I live, I am considered public enemy Number One.

How can this be? Simple. I have interfered with a number of people's primary desires, thwarting their self-will and enjoyment of life.

How was this done? In the thirteen years I have lived in my current home, I have caused 5-6 different sets of people to alter their previous behavior. Some have moved away as a result of my dastardly cruel initiatives. A number of people (all women) have stood at my door, and cursed me to my face for my radical and odious activities.

Curiosity piqued? Want to know what it is I do that makes ordinary, tax paying, law abiding, conflict eschewing people fulminate in rage towards me?

I ask them to not let their dogs bark and disturb my peace. If they refuse my gentle request (which I first make in person to them, and do so quite politely [even though I generally know what their response will be]), I then contact Animal Control who writes them letters.

Now the people I have targeted for my perverse manner of revenge, and despicable cruelty have been my next door neighbors on either side of me. The house to the left or the house to the right of me. The house to the right was formerly a rental, and so it went through a number of tenants. Each of whom decided that dogs were best left outside day and night in all weather. The house to the left was occupied by a fancier of Great Pyrenees dogs, which he admitted were a breed well known for its singular compulsion to bark non stop no matter what.

Interestingly enough, reading the paper one morning I discovered that the single most reason people called City Hall was to make complaints about the problem of barking dogs (and my city makes it very difficult to do anything about it). Dog owners are, of course, forbidden to allow their dogs to make "frequent or continuous" noise which disturbs the repose of others. But the City's mechanism for enforcing its code means that an aggrieved neighbor must ultimately perform a Citizen's Arrest on an unreforming offender.

Just imagine the liability involved in making a citizen's arrest, especially if you don't later prevail in court (and judges simply cannot be trusted in these matters. They live in gated communities with association rules, and tend to automatically assume that anyone who takes a case so far as to his court is likely a crackpot and intolerant busybody. Such plaintives can expect little sympathy from judges. [In fact, it seems that judges have lost all interest in doing the basic work of maintaining a civil society which depends on enforcement of the "little things".]

But the fact is that anybody who ends up in court, taking it that far is simply at wit's end, and is desperately trying to preserve his basic residential right to a reasonable standard of peace and quiet.

The problem is worse today because so many people are not home during the day. They leave their dogs out because they value their furnishings more than their neighbor's rights (those that are home, and working at home).

I have often been ill in the past few years, and needed to rest during the day. That is hard to do when a large, loud dog is barking a few feet away from your bedroom. (Yes, we have insulated the walls and installed double pane windows. It tamps down the noise of dogs farther away, but not ones very close by much.)

My neighbors, of course, consider me a fanatic, but are irrationally emotional about wanting what they want. I don't mind if dogs are let out for periods and bark for a limited time. But the time must be limited to ten - fifteen minutes (no more than half an hour), and that I can count on someone to correct the dog or end the disturbance.

When that doesn't happen, I begin the process of trying to correct the dog owner's behavior. Needless to say, this does not often result in a positive response.

I have had only one neighbor who is sensitive to the rights of those around him. He and his wife are devout Christians, and very gentle and decent people. They become quite upset with themselves when they feel they might have disturbed others (just as I do with my own beast, child, or music making. Other people's rights are more important than my own pleasures and desires).

One of the things I have learned about humans, and Americans in particular, is that, superficially, Americans are decent, friendly, helpful people - easy to get along with. Until, that is, you come between them and what they want. They become inordinately vicious, defensive, and emotional if you should interfere with their pleasures or desire.

They will confuse their desire with what they think is their right, and trample all over the legitimate rights of others to prevail in getting what they want. They have little regard for actual rights. And most Americans are so conflict averse (especially at home in their neighborhood), that they are easily intimidated into giving up their actual rights to a bully asserting pretend rights.

It's like the apartment dwellers who are afraid to ask their neighbor not to blast his stereo at night. Or adults who can't tell young people to stop spitting and swearing in public. We may not be cowards, but we have become a nation of cowed people. The old complaint about loss of manners and common courtesy is not moldy, but accurate these days.

Americans will stand passively by while their actual, constitutional and local rights are trampled, while fighting to the bitter end for fake rights - the right of license in all things of personal pleasure. "Don't Tread On Me" has become the rallying cry of the hedonist and egotist.

Most of my neighbors simply can't understand why their dog's barking should disturb me. It doesn't bother them, and nobody else is complaining (sometimes others do, but that didn't make an impression either). They refuse to imagine that another's peace and quiet is of positive value; and more, an essential ingredient in a civilized society.

The issue is not that some folks can tolerate any amount of noise, but that most people prefer not to. But it is the coarse who now direct our behavior.


I have owned a white german shepherd for about 12 years. This is the smartest dog I've ever owned, and the quietest. She almost never barks, not even in alert of strangers or passers-by. I could leave her in the yard all day, and she never makes a peep. (Not absolutely true. She can get quite excited about squirrels when she has one tree'd. She does a little whining or yipping then, but I never let her do so freely without correction.)

But she doesn't like to be left alone in the yard (unless there are squirrels to hunt), and spends most of her time indoors contentedly. As a pup, she chewed a few shoes, but has never hurt our furnishings for the most part. She knows which chairs she can sleep on and which she can't. Can learn a new word or instruction in a matter of minutes. Genius of a dog.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 12:35 PM |