Conscience, what conscience?

When I was a little boy, I thought everyone was like me. Now I’m a big boy (am too! you’re a mean fartypants), I know differently.

Actually, when I say “I thought everyone was like me”, it was really more of an assumption. I actually hadn’t given it any thought at all. You know how kids think they’re ‘normal’ and everyone else is, or at least should be, like them? Well, that was me.

I didn’t seriously challenge that assumption until my teens, but there were a few occasions before then that stuck out to me in a “huh, people are weird” kind of way. These were all different occasions which all followed a similar pattern. Namely, that friends and I would do something we shouldn’t, and most or all of them would later feel guilty and tell someone what we did. I was incredulous at their idiocy: “if you don’t tell anyone, you won’t get in trouble!” You understand where I was coming from right? Even if you would have been one of the goody two-shoes, please say you can see it from my perspective?

Today, I was watching South Park and a certain scene came up that almost exactly paralleled the sort of conversations I used to have with friends. It made me chuckle over just how similar it was, and over how ridiculous the Cartman character looks for having zero pangs of conscience. For those that don’t know, Cartman is the show’s resident psychopath, despite being only 8 years old.

Cartman: You see guys, it all worked itself out. Tadow, tadow, how you like me now? Feel a little silly now, Kyle? Tadow, how you like me now?
Kyle: I still feel bad, Cartman
Cartman: What? Hu- How can you feel bad? Somebody else is gonna pay for our crime.
Kyle: Yeah. That makes it even worse.
Cartman: Bu… …eh… Kyle, you don’t seem to understand. We’re we’re not gonna get punished for this. Ever.
Kyle: I know.
Cartman: So… so then, how can you feel bad?
Stan: He feels guilty for doing it and for letting someone else pay for it.
Cartman: …But he’s not gonna get in trouble.
Stan: It doesn’t matter if you get in trouble of not, you can still feel bad. [to Kyle] I think you’re right, Kyle. Maybe we should confess.
Kenny (muffled): Yeah, maybe we should.
Cartman: What?? Eh… [tries to be upbeat] hey you guys! There’s nothing to feel bad about! We’re, we’re off scot-free!
Kyle: We feel bad for other people.
Cartman: [looks at the other boys in disbelief] For oth-er… [winces] Uh. Oww. …Ih …Ih, ih, is it that …you think you might get in trouble later?
Stan: Tomorrow in school we’ll all tell the teacher it was us, and let her decide what to do. [points an accusing finger at Cartman] And Cartman, if you had any thread of a conscience at all, you’ll do the same! [He, Kyle, and Kenny leave]
Cartman: Eh buh… eh… eh… Freakin’ weirdos, man!

In the end, in true manipulative style, Cartman goes and confesses before the boys get a chance to, thus earning him a lesser punishment than his slower friends. As part of the manipulation, he claims to have learned the error of his way, on which Kyle calls bullshit “You haven’t learned anything Cartman. You don’t have a conscience, fatass”

And it’s true. I haven’t really learned either. I have learned all about conscience and why people seem compelled to act in ways against their nature. I have learned all sort of moral principles and have formed my own complex views on morality and ethics. But I have never learnt to have a conscience. I have, on some very few isolated occasions, experienced something akin to remorse, but I do not have the intuitive sense of what constitutes ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ that I imagine a conscience is. And I still would never own up to any crime, unless doing so would benefit me over staying silent.

Why not listen to your conscience and leave a comment? (if my good friend Tina “Psycho Bitch” Taylor does her job properly and enables comments, that is)

South Park S7E3 ‘Toilet Paper’ script nicked from the internet somewhere and reproduced here without permission. No rights reserved.