William R. O’Brien
Bill O'Brien is codirector of BellMitra Associates in Birmingham, Alabama.
"Do not touch.” “Do not taste.” “Don’t walk on the grass.” What is it about me that wants to do exactly what signs instruct me not to do? The warnings are probably for my benefit. The signs are not evil. So why do they bring out the worst in me?
My wife and I once toured the legendary Waterford crystal factory in Ireland, where furnaces roar 24 hours a day, powered by gas piped in from miles away. Sixteen hundred employees take turns at three shifts daily. Their training takes years, especially for the glass etchers, the smallest group among the staff.
In 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation marked the beginning of the end of slavery. The new air of freedom brought an unintoxicated euphoria. But a century later, freedom was redefined, this time as an absence of responsibility. The new air of license was inhaled and produced an intoxicated forgetfulness of anything that smacked of authoritarian inhibitions or paralyzing parameters.
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