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Guilt By Association

Thundery wintry showers


Perhaps not a strictly accurate title. However, as a couple of recent experiences have starkly reminded me, while I sometimes misbehave and sometimes get punished for it, I usually get punished less for my own misbehaviour, than by association with other people's misbehaviour.

The process is that others misbehave, I behave in a way that is innocent, but which gets tarred with the same brush as their behaviour (often via some unwritten code of etiquette, sometimes by a rule) and so I get sternly reprimanded for misbehaving. The argument is: their behaviour is bad, my behaviour is associated with it, so therefore my behaviour must be bad.

If I defend my behaviour it's interpreted as condoning the associated misbehaviour perpetuated by others. Also, if I have a strong case for my behaviour, it poses a threat to authority (unlike those who attempt to justify harmful behaviour, which can be refuted on moral grounds). Thus to defend their authority they have to fall back upon authoritarian lines like "rules are rules", "I'm right because I say so", and "we're watching you- accept you're wrong, or else!" Thus I often get dealt with more harshly than the actual offenders.

For those who were wondering about my big issue with "the minority spoiling it for the majority", the above should give strong insights.


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