Last week my bike got stolen.
I realised how we all live in a nice little bubble. In this bubble, not much thought is given to how immune we are from the forces of evil. I’m as immune as you are in your bubble.
I take the usual routes to get to where I’m going on a daily basis.
After a late night in the city when it’s dark and quiet on the streets, my brother and I will wait for the traffic lights to change colour.
Oftentimes I’ll get back home when it’s dark. Not a soul in sight.
But there are shady characters out there.
We all have our own little comfortable bubbles.
Having my bike stolen was a shock to the system. There’s evil lurking outside the bubble and you don’t really think about it until it directly affects you.
Look at how fragile fabric of our society is; the social fabric being what holds us together.
We function under unspoken rules. We hold belief systems about how to behave in society.
These belief systems and rules are a reflection of shared expectations of what is desirable behaviour and what is undesirable behaviour.
We follow these rules for two reasons.
We hate uncertainty. We hate it so much that we prefer to get a bad answer rather than be held in suspense.
“[Uncertainty] registers almost like physical pain in the brain. There is a tension, a gap where the brain is not easy again until it is resolved. (…)
Some are more comfortable with this uncertainty. So entrepreneurs are naturally more comfortable.
When you hit a maximum threshold of comfort – fight or flight happens and cognitive function and emotional functioning shuts down.”
– Olivia Fox Cabane, Author of ‘The Charisma Myth’
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you sent out an important email and were awaiting a response for longer than usual?
Do you remember the feeling where you sent a text to a guy/girl and it took him/her longer than expected to respond?
Do you remember the feeling you experienced while waiting for your exam results?
All of these scenarios can near suck the life out of you. The gap between Action and Response can be unbearable and emotionally taxing. You stress out, start to question yourself, and worry about the outcome.
As humans, we simply cannot tolerate ambiguity and need to have a firm answer. In psychological terms – we strive for cognitive closure.
If someone in our immediate social circle behaves unpredictably, it makes us very uneasy. It’s because unpredictability can entail a lot of undesirable implications.
The unpredictable person might get the group in trouble with other groups, might be dishonest, passive-aggressive, emotionally manipulative, backstabbing, or hostile and violent towards fellow group members.
We will use implicit techniques to get these rogue members to conform to the social norms within the group. Otherwise, the deviant person is excluded from the social circle.
We want to be in harmony with others and seek social approval from them.
But to be at harmony with others we need to first conform to the unspoken rules that govern the social standards that dictate how to behave appropriately.
These social norms are maintained by a system of sanctions, which may be implicit but are very real.
If you don’t conform to the established order then you’re ostracised, laughed at, and shamed – all in an effort to try to get you to conform to the unspoken rules that the society you live in is governed by.
Norms are often only apparent when they have been violated. If an unspoken rule is broken – you will know.
Someone shoots a scathing glance. Someone avoids you. Someone tells you. Or through sheer experience – you will know you’ve violated an unspoken rule.
After all – why is it that we feel embarrassment?
It’s an evolutionary response that’s firmly etched within the deepest corridors of our brains. It’s a powerful emotion that acts as immediate feedback in telling us that we have wronged.
It’s supposed to keep us from acting out the behaviour that makes us feel embarrassed.
Blushing serves the purpose of sub-communicating to others that you’ve deviated in some way and that you are aware that you have wronged and you feel ashamed for doing so.
You wouldn’t want to find yourself in a situation where others see you blushing for being called out publicly on a lie, would you?
In prehistoric times, the alternative (i.e. deviation from norms) used to be punishment – social withdrawal, exclusion from food, oftentimes a question a life or death. In a society we want uniformity.
What happened to my bike
It was a late evening. The gates to the underground car park opened and a car glided through. The CCTV of the car park footage shows that two underage teenage boys were waiting for the gates to open. This how they sneak in.
There are a few bike lockers in the car park. These lockers look like cages that can fit up to roughly 30 bikes. Each bike locker could be accessed by pushing in a 5-digit pin code. But you need to know the code to get in.
They knew it.
Apparently all bike lockers – including the bike lockers on ground level above the car park – had the same code.
From there it was easy. My grey-red Giant road bike was easy prey. I had picked up a knee injury and couldn’t take my bike back home (more on that and about the valuable lessons I heeded from the experience in a future post).
I left it with my brother who kindly enough offered to put his own bike at risk and use the single lock he had owned to chain both our bikes to safety.
They stole my bike and destroyed my brother’s bike. Others were also affected.
But the kids that did this weren’t smart enough to wear masks and cover their faces. CCTV caught all of it on tape – watching it was an interesting experience, though the popcorn didn’t taste as good as it usually does.
The police are involved and I will write an email to management of the underground car park (enter murky law territory here). If any of you have any law tips on how to navigate liability damages and so forth – I’d be grateful.
In closing, here’s what my bro said:
“We function under unspoken rules. But if someone doesn’t follow them – look how chaos ensues.
Let it go. It’s outside of your locus of control. This is a test of character in some sense. You feel a bit powerless. Heed the lessons and move on.”