no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

The Lightswitch Mentality

March 9th, 2010

An old thread on a forum I participate in was revived the other day, and I had an (ahem…) interesting discussion with a self-described police officer about drug legalization. Can you see where this is going? I’d rather not bore you with the ins and outs of the discussion (if you could call it that…), but suffice to say he was no stranger to shifting goalposts and reductio fallacies. I won’t rehash that, chances are you’ve had similar “discussions” with similar people in the past.

At one point, someone else must’ve asked him how he can possibly sleep at night. The guy says he turns off “cop mode” when he goes home, and sleeps soundly every night. Apparently, he thinks “cop mode” is a lightswitch. Turn it on or turn it off, at will.

Thing is, his words indicated otherwise—that he was completely incapable of flipping that switch to the “off” position. You know, like, everyone who’s ever smoked pot is a “thug” or a “worthless hippy” and they’re ruining ‘Merica and they all deserve to go to jail and when he goes to work tonight he’s just itching to bust someone for “possession of marijuana”. That’s how irate, how flat-out vindictive he gets when people challenge the legitimacy of a law—he wants to bust some kid merely because some other people on the internet disagree with him.

Too bad his “dickhead mode” didn’t come with an on/off switch. But I digress.

This lightswitch mentality is a huge part of the problem. It’s compartementalization, it’s what sociopaths do. It is what leads people down the path of “I was just following orders,” or “I was just doing my job,” or “I don’t make the rules, I just enforce them,” and so on.

The idea that you become something other than a belligerent with a gun and a club the moment you punch out at shift’s-end is how people rationalize, how they convince themselves that what they’re doing isn’t wrong at all. When they leave work, they’re just a “regular guy” like you and me; they have families and feelings and they like baseball and apple pie.

No, you’re fucking not a “regular guy”. A “regular guy” isn’t vindictive and belligerent. A “regular guy” doesn’t make thinly-veiled threats on internet forums (he actually said he was going to report the thread to local law enforcement—as if talking about legalization is a crime!). A “regular guy” doesn’t get a hard-on every time someone says that just maybe the war on drugs is a stupid idea and just maybe responsible adults should be allowed to be responsible on their own time.  A “regular guy” doesn’t think it’s OK for people to be shot to death for smoking a joint.

No. You’re pretty fucking far from “regular”.



  • Don says on: March 10, 2010 at 10:49 am


    I’m an architectural designer and have been for a very long time. I look at a building and see things you’ve never imagined, like I have xray vision or sumfink.We tour model homes and it drives my wife crazy. While she ooh’s and ahh’s over the fancy furnishings and *fo* finishes I’m gritting my teefs about the gaps in the corners of the crown molding and the shitty choice of flooring colors.

    I can’t turn this off. My work is who I am, it defines me.

    I am a perfectionist and my own worst and most horrifying critic – I am my ultimate nightmare. I will never be pleased with my work, always striving hard to do better. I cannot turn this off.

    If I see you on the street we can converse, joke, grabass and have a good time and none of the above will be apparent to you, but its there, lurking just below the surface.

    People naturally seek that which they need.

    Jack booted thugs, all of them, have personalty disorders bordering on criminality under the color of law.

    They cannot turn it off.

    Their work defines them and they constantly find ways to be even more evil than they are and all the while convincing themselves they are doing good, under the color of law.

    But you know what, every last one of them will cower in a crying sissy ball if they were subjected to the behavior they subject others to.

    “None squeals so loudly as the tyrant forced to live by the rules he wishes for others.”
    –gs, 2000

  • JC Hewitt says on: March 10, 2010 at 12:57 pm


    Why did you debate this thug?

    Also, I think it’s safe to say that in this society, that compartmentalization behavior is “regular.” Most people laud cops and soldiers.

    You’re not a regular guy and neither am I.

  • David Z says on: March 10, 2010 at 1:48 pm


    I have a hard time letting a total asshole get the last word :) especially when they’re badmouthing other people on the forum for no good reason. One of the mods there just totally slayed him with a response this morning.

    Don’s point above is really good though – for most of us, the occupation is part of our identities. If you feel like you have to “turn it off” when you come home, maybe that says something important about your line of work?

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics