“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”
I’ve only been to court a few times. This was the first: I was in a small town courthouse in New Jersey, here to face the music for driving 47 MPH in a 30 MPH zone. My transgression was unintentional; I was driving around on a dark, Saturday night, flustered at I-don’t-remember-what and hadn’t seen the sign. Because this was my first offense, the prosecutor said I could plead guilty to a lesser charge. I guess I didn’t quite understand what that meant at first, because I suddenly found myself at a loss for words when the judge asked me, under oath, if I was guilty of driving much slower than I really had been. No—I had been going 47 MPH!
It felt very wrong at the time, and I’m even now ashamed recounting the story. But I was assured by the prosecutor that this was how the system worked: for a judge to lessen the punishment in this case, he had to record a lesser crime.
I see it all around, every day: flawed systems that lend themselves to dishonesty. It happens at work. Because I’m a salaried employee, our company time recording solution requires me to type in 8 hours a day even though I may have actually worked 6 or 12 hours. It happens on the road. Traveling the posted speed limit on most interstates on the East coast often puts you in greater danger than keeping up with the flow of traffic.
I’ve fought very hard to be an honest person. That’s not at all to say I’m a paragon of virtue; I just mean to say that dishonesty is a strong temptation for me and I have to fight tooth and nail to let truth prevail in my life; so when I’m forced into dishonesty by the nature of a given system, it angers me.
So what’s the consensus? Should we protest flawed systems by being inconveniently honest or is that simply pedantic?
Related reading: “The New Civil Disobedience: Obeying The Speed Limit” — A group of college students backed up I-285 in Atlanta for miles by going the speed limit. Also, watch the video.