Critical ethical thinking not the same as creating hatred

So, I answered this nice woman’s question about booming car stereos in the July 7 View. And then I received this:

Were you ever age 16 and liked to play your car stereo loudly? How about age 26 and still doing it, from time to time?

From the lengthy answer you gave to J.W. in Las Vegas regarding his/her anxiety over this, your next step is obviously to produce legislation against this horrendous offense. Just what we need — more legislation.

We humans are different, one from another. We also should be tolerant, one to another. It is that simple.

I am neither extremely aggressive, nasty or anti-social, nor do I have a hideous mentality. I am in the process of working toward my master’s degree in marriage and family relations. My sons, who are now 22 and 20, do not fall into these categories, either. But, still, from time to time, they play their car stereos loudly. So what?

What is it about creating such hatred (and yes, that’s what you’ve produced for all to read through your choice of words and phrases) toward an innocent group of people (who like their music loud) that drives such hostility in some of you?

Huh? Wwwwhat pushes you to do that, Steve?

— P.S., Henderson


You got me. My mother used to punish me by locking me in a car and driving me around playing Pink Floyd really, really loud while I cried and cried. That and bad potty training. That’s what drives my hostility toward innocent groups of people.

Give me a break, P.S. I was raised on the British Invasion. Sixteen? I was listening to loud music by the time I was 6. Just turned 52, and my own teenage children still chide me about how loud I play music in the car, in the house, on my iPod, just about anywhere.

I especially like to roar the stereo when I clean house. Some tunes you can’t merely hear; you’ve got to feel them, too. Better no music at all than have the Rolling Stones’ "Honky Tonk Women" playing as elevator music background. There’s no point to that song unless the cowbell is absolutely rattling your spine. No point at all.

Yes, I love loud music.

But …

Where I grew up, the moral value was not: "Steven, if you really, really like something, then all other familial and social considerations immediately and automatically become secondary to your affections and desires. All other 6 billion people on the planet should, upon recognizing how much you like some behavior, be tolerant of that behavior. Because we humans are different. It’s that simple. Should occasional folks within that 6 billion call your behavior into any critical question, we’ll let them know they are "creating hatred." Because, Steven, you’re innocent. And no human value matters more than honoring differences."

Nope, where I grew up the moral value was more like: "Steven, sheesh, turn it down! Just cuz you wanna listen to some music doesn’t mean the whole damn world has to listen!"

See, P.S., a lot of the moral values I was taught as a child boiled down to: "Steven, you’re not that big a deal. You live in reciprocal interdependence in community. You therefore bear obligations to be a polite and respectful neighbor."

"We humans are different, one from another. … We also should be tolerant, one to another. … It is that simple."

As a defining ethos, P.S., those three sentences border on, well, vacuous. Tolerance is a relative value. No way is it an appropriate, absolute value. There are tons of stuff that it would be immoral to tolerate. Another list of things that no one should have to tolerate.

I think folks should play music as loud as they want. Anywhere they want. But, if they want to play it loudly in, say, a funeral home, then I think it’s reasonable to expect said listener to have ear buds. Or, to mind their manners and turn it the hell off. Or, call security.

Fine with me if you drone your music in your car until your ears bleed. But that’s why they make windows in your car. Roll them up!

And, for the record, the column said specifically that the central issue in this social nuisance is not volume, but the physical assault of low frequencies. These cars are installed with bass speakers designed for said assault.

Critical ethical thinking is not the same as creating hatred, P.S. I don’t think the Bill of Rights protects anyone’s right to vibrate my dashboard and the viscous fluid in my eyeballs without my permission.

And I think you should tolerate that about me. After all, we’re different.

Originally published in View News on Aug. 4, 2009.

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