As of Friday, December 1, 2017
My son Gideon’s former elementary school awarded (and still awards) a weekly “good citizen” award to a student who does an outstanding job with teamwork, politeness, kindness, etc.
I think this is a commendable way of promoting certain behaviors and societal goals. But some ideas can be taken to a totalitarian extreme. According to USA Today, the Chinese government plans to make a Social Credit System mandatory for its 1.3 billion citizens by 2020. Citizens’ financial information, political leanings, purchase history, social interactions and more would be used to calculate their “trust score,” with appropriate rewards and punishments meted out by those control-freak communist government officials.
We Americans are more used to achieving social change through public service announcements (such as the old “There ain’t no lower class than Tennessee trash” anti-littering ads or “This is your brain on drugs”), contributing to telethons and voluntarily attending political rallies.
Apparently, we value our privacy and security a lot more than the Chinese do. Unless you count Facebook posts such as “Here is a live video feed of our vacation - three thousand miles away from home. Hope you saw my recent tirade about what an incompetent job that jerk did of installing our home security system. Oh, and the viral video of how cheesecake knocks our guard dog out like a light.”
We Americans are rugged individualists. We don’t need to be manipulated into certain behaviors by bureaucrats we’ll never meet.
That’s why we have celebrities whom we’ll never meet. (“Did you hear? Kylie’s personal shopper’s dentist just got her pancreas pierced. Ooooo.... where do I sign up?”)
Of course, the Chinese way can be tempting. As Mr. Spock said, “The good of the many outweighs the good of...the guy who wants to expose his butt crack while putting a sixth junker car up on concrete blocks.”
Stress levels would skyrocket if Washington adopted a Social Credit System and we had to second-guess ourselves about what infractions would get us onto the Naughty List.If we run into a former co-worker and he concludes the chat with, “Keep ol’ Cletus and the gang straight,” what happens if we forget and don’t keep ol’ Cletus and the gang straight???? Will we be sharing accommodations with ol’ Cletus and the gang in Siberia?
Shifting norms of political correctness will keep us on edge. If we answer in the affirmative when asked, “Do you always place Uncle Sam’s interests first?,” we might be berated with “That’s so patriarchal and misogynistic! Why do you assume there isn’t an AUNT Sam?”
Do we really want our future prospects of getting a job, obtaining a loan or getting into a good school put at risk by typographical errors? (“Pays his bills on time, votes predictably, works well with others...”)
Hopefully, there would be enough lawyers to help us when our dossiers become confusing. (“Whoa whoa. You can’t penalize Mr. Smith for stepping on cracks and breaking his mother’s back. He already turned his mother in to the government for using lard instead of surplus olive oil in her cooking!”)
If we did adopt a Social Credit System here, some people would figure out how to game the system. (“I thanked a veteran, recycled my plastics, learned all the verses of the national anthem AND took advantage of the double coupons. They gave me the nuclear codes!”)
— Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at email@example.com and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”