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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Our daily, scheduled lives are strung together by a series of contracts between friends, strangers and ourselves   — contracts that we seem hesitant to honor. Whether it’s our turn to take out the trash or pay for a round at the bar, we dodge these agreements as often as possible.

You and I have an agreement.

As a writer, I agree to provide a coherent, sincere, well-thought-out article. My sincerity might manifest sarcastically — as is often the case — but it persists nonetheless. As a reader, you agree to reserve judgment and analysis until you’ve read the article fully. Your judgment might be biased — as is often the case — but it is fair, nonetheless, as long as you take the argument as a whole and not by its individual parts.

Too often, however, we fail to uphold this contract.

I might make a claim without sufficient justification or fail to include a link that would otherwise strengthen and clarify my train of thought. You might read only the headline, the first or concluding paragraph, isolate a claim and dismiss it as asinine.

But as harmless as these individual lapses may be, their sweeping presence splinters and corrodes the progress of our social relationships.

One of the reasons free time is so satisfying is that we have no contracts to uphold, and we feel no guilt in our indulgence, overindulgence or excessive overindulgence until the time comes to again honor an agreement.

Many of us aren’t working to support ourselves through college. We rely on grants, scholarships and the support of our parents to fund car loans, grocery bills, rent and tuition. Each of these entails a contract. And yet, while the contract would read something like, “You get an education, we’ll pay for you,” we continuously fail to maintain our end of the bargain.

Instead, we buy beer, tickets, Coke and drinks for people we’d hardly talk to if the lighting weren’t so dim. We spend money on TutoringZone and Smokin’Notes to create the illusion that we’re keeping the contract while pissing our work ethic and last night’s shame into the toilet.

Borrowing money entails a recognizable contract. If you spot me $5, I’ll say something like, “I’ll get you back.” But chances are I won’t get you back, and I’m sure you wouldn’t “get me back” unless I asked you. It’s not until we are confronted, put on the spot, that we uphold our half of the contract. Even then, sometimes an excuse is inevitable.

It always seems to be the party with the advantage that falls short. If we have something to lose from upholding a contract — something other than our integrity, that is — we avoid it at all costs. We’ll avoid texts, topics and eye contact, if that’s what it takes.

This collective habit is more destructive and more alienating than most of the less virtuous leanings of our society. It seems to manifest from an inherent dog-eat-dog mentality that festers in our culture. I’ll do what’s right for you only if it benefits me. Is there any more primitive, regressive mindset? Sure, but my point still stands.

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If we intend to leave this world better than it was when we arrived, we have to abandon this way of thinking and generate social progression that is worthy company for the technological advancements of our age.

Albert Camus asked us to walk beside him and be his friend. Not in front, not behind, but beside in trust and collective progress. What kind of society are we creating if we can’t walk beside one another, upholding simple, sometimes tedious, contracts with strangers and friends?

Not one that deserves to be preserved.

Dyllan Furness is a philosophy and English junior at UF. His column appears on Tuesdays.

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