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Jury Duty

2003-11-05

Category: philosophies

I have received my first summons for jury duty. On the weekend before December 1st, I must call in to see if my number was chosen. If it was, I must show up that Monday morning for orientation and jury selection. I’ve told a few people about this and I am very surprised by the universal reaction. They all ask if I think I can get out of it.

To be completely honest, the thought never crossed my mind. I went over potential schedule conflicts and how to rectify them. I tried to plan for parking. I thought about appropriate clothing and behavior. Never did it occur to me to try to get out of it.

Think about it. It’s called “Duty” for a reason. The word “Duty” is used to describe those things that one is obligated to do through association. You have your duty to your family that obligates you because you are a member of that family. You have your duty to your employer as part of your employment. Likewise, you have a duty to your community by virtue of being a member of that community.

Even if you don’t see the connection, there is a definite benefit to being part of a group of some type. If you are an active member of the community, it is easy to find the direct benefits. You get to be with people and make use of the resources available. If, however, you are a loner who just happens to live in the community, you may be getting benefits that aren’t so obvious. For example, knowing where to find food or shelter are high on the list. Not so obvious is that you are relatively free of invasion by a neighboring tribe. Roads, news, electricity, these are among the side benefits of belonging to a community.

Not that community is always a benefit to all members. The victims of the Inquisition didn’t really benefit. Things like this are usually exceptions.

For most occasions, belonging to or in a community is a beneficial thing. That brings us back to the idea of duty. If everyone just tries to drain resources from the community without putting back, the community will collapse. No system can give indefinitely without receiving. That’s why all the members of a community must work together. That’s why we have duties. (I do not espouse mandatory working together except for the most important aspects of communal structure. Forced labor used too liberally harms the members of the community and therefore defeats the purpose of the community!)

Examples of duties are paying taxes and following laws. If someone drives recklessly through the streets, that person is a threat to other members of the community and the community must stop them. Notifying the police about a serious and immediate threat is a duty of members of the community.

Other duties may include service with the military, police, or fire department. You have a duty to be productive. You have a duty to try to learn as best you can so that you can be more productive for your family and community. These are actual obligations!

How important is this? You’ve probably heard jokes about going to court and having you fate decided by twelve people not smart enough to get out of jury duty. That’s how people see juries. Do you really want only morons performing this service to the community? What if you went to court and had to abide by the decision of a jury?

Jury duty is just that, a duty. Your membership in the community obligates you to perform this duty. It is the service you trade for the benefits of communal life. If you’re trying to get out of this duty for mundane reasons, you are not a fit member of the community and should be ashamed.


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