Mark Radcliffe feels the video of a parking lot owner who is caught joyriding and then lying about it raises questions about whether men are encouraged by society to lie.
I stumbled across a somewhat humorous news story yesteday about a man running a parking lot who takes the owners’ cars for joyrides when they are not around–often for days on end if the cars are left there long-term. The surprising part isn’t so much this man’s corruption and blatant disrespect for other people’s property (though it’s certainly troubling), it’s how boldly he lies about it when caught on camera.
Let me be clear:
The news crew sets him up, by rigging a car with GPS tracking and hidden cameras, and have a fake couple drop off the car for a few weeks.
Then they follow him by chopper and many other means, capturing this guy (Jay Nieves of Premier Parking Spot) using the car for his personal life for days on end, joyriding, using for errands, the works.
Then they confront him and a co-worker in person, show him the videos of him driving the car around town in umpteen different scenarios, and then he does the amazing:
He takes a big drag off his cigarette and looks straight at the interviewer and says, “We weren’t driving anybody’s car… You’re completely wrong.”
It’s not just how brazenly dishonest he is, it’s his how dare you sense of righteous indignation that is perhaps most offensive. It frankly reminds me of Eddy Murphy’s “It wasn’t me” bit he did years ago about men denying they’re cheating even when caught.
The evolution and betterment of men (or really, anyone) depends upon the ability to openly consider criticism. If a guy can’t admit fault when it’s that obvious, how do you talk to him about other, more subtle ways he might be abusing the rights of others?–be it how he treats the women in his life. Or his business partners and customers. Or even the waiter.
What struck me about this video is that, while this guy is obviously an extreme example (and perhaps a sociopath, too), defiance is something I see throughout male culture, in varying degrees, and often with self-limiting results. A refusal to accept guilt or hear one’s detractors can be that the ultimate straightjacket that men often wind up in. Whether a result of our upbringing, or various influences we’ve had through media, culture, etc, we’re taught that “being a man” involves telling people to go to hell when they challenge or question you.
The ethics of “Stand up for yourself” and “Don’t take any shit” many of us are taught can get taken way too far, where you treat anyone who confronts you as a diabolical enemy even when justice and truth are 100% on their side. And it’s hard to ever learn anything when you can’t admit you’ve done anything wrong. Even in my own life—and certainly with my own writing—the line between standing your ground and knowing when to admit a mistake can be hard to see, though I do my best to spot it. But there’s also a danger in being too eager to accept criticism.
So while hopefully most of us men aren’t going around committing crimes and denying guilt when faced with video proof, when we find our character being questioned, maybe we should ask ourselves: are we just assertively standing our ground? Or are we letting our notions of “being a man” keep us from becoming better ones?