There are plenty of sites around that talk about ‘Every Day Carry’ (EDC) – what you carry with your in your pockets, in your car, in your briefcase/knapsack/purse, on a day-to-day basis. The idea behind EDC is that some basic elements can mean the difference between inconvenience and disaster, and sometimes, life or death. It can sometimes seem a bit much to those used to living in an environment where nothing goes too wrong, but for those of us who have had to use a flashlight or a pair of pliers in a sticky situation, it can be quite a relief. The essence of EDC is that you always have some basic everyday tools that are with you; they aren’t just for hikes, camping, or when you think things are getting dicey. I’ve carried my multitool and flashlight under a tuxedo at a wedding, and yes, both came in handy that day. A watch, a cell phone, a whistle, your keys, a few alcohol wipes and band-aids in your bag, a few garbage bags – all of those might be part of your EDC.
Now, EDC is generally seen as a bunch of physical things. The basic questions then become what sort of multitool or flashlight do you carry, do you carry a lighter or a bunch of matches, how about self-defense stuff, and so on. As I was sitting down to write this essay, I went over some of the stuff I carry in my pockets, in my bag, in my car, at the office and thought of cataloging those items, but realized a two important points. One, each person’s EDC will be slightly different, given the nature of their locale, environment, job, security concerns and so on. Perhaps the best you can do, if you don’t have that figured out, is to do some research, and come up with a bunch of things that you can carry on an every day basis. Secondly – there’s far more to EDC that just flashlights and pocket knives.
One part of the EDC kit that isn’t physical, but something that really needs to be added to everyone’s checklist is what might be called the ‘sociological EDC’, or general attitude as you go about your day. Some may initially think of this as ‘situational awareness’; the general scanning of the horizon for threats and possible problems that could crop up, but dangers are generally few and far between. This doesn’t negate the idea of looking out for them, but just that for most of us, those dangers are thankfully relatively rare. Situational awareness regarding danger is very much a reality, however, in many places. The day-to-day stuff that Ferfal had dealt with in Argentina were pretty chilling and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Perhaps one day, that sort of world will come to us all here in the United States (instead of only in select neighborhoods), and you’ll have to be pretty observant in order not to wind up in a heck of a lot of trouble.
The part that is being addressed here is the EDC of the mind, and how you interact with others – sociological EDC. Sociological (or philosophical) EDC is that basic advice that has been given by a many authors and sages – be nice to everyone, don’t gossip, don’t take things personally, do your best, treat everyone as you’d like to be treated, and so on. These are things you’d read in books like All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and The Four Agreements. Now, this article is not to convince you to go out and read every feel-good/how to make your life better book, but to remind us that those basic tenets and precepts of how to handle the world can be of immense help in making your life easier, and avoiding trouble. Having all the coolest physical EDC widgets in the world, made from the lightest and strongest titanium alloys and Kevlar might be great, but if your attitude is horrible, this will not endear you to too many folks, and your ability to get things done (like survive!) might be severely impacted.
This EDC philosophy of treating people well doesn’t mean you’ll roll over when someone who doesn’t treat people nice comes into your world. If anything, you can follow the (winning!) ‘tit-for-tat’ strategy that is seen in the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma, and still maintain a ‘deterrence’ to folks who want to make your life miserable.
Now, you may think that this is obvious. In your own world, where you interact with people who you know, even peripherally, cooperation, and being nice are generally easier methods of working together, rather than being contentious and wanting to ‘win’ at every interpersonal junction. For random strangers, however, there may be a temptation to complain/cheat/lash out/not be nice, because in the modern world, anonymity, especially in groups that exceed Dunbar’s number by a few magnitudes, can let this happen. But there are two good reasons why sticking with such a ‘nice’ strategy such as ‘tit-for-tat’ (or even ultra-nice strategies such as ‘tit-for-tat with forgiveness’) is a good, if not excellent idea.
For one, modifying your strategy based on your environment and the ties you have to people can be a bit schizophrenic. If you are only nice to people you know and interact with, but not nice to everyone else, this might cause some internal tension – how do you shift gears, from second to second, minute to minute, based on who is in your immediate vicinity? When do you start treating people around you ‘better’, and what is your metric for measuring how well you know them? There’s a bit of ‘overhead’ in maintaining two different sets of rules, and deciding which ones to use.
The second reason for keeping your mental/sociological/philosophical EDC relatively constant (even if it isn’t easy) is the It’s a Small World effect. If, while communicating with an (apparent) stranger, you bad-mouth them, gossip, or berate a certain class of people with a broad brush, there’s a good chance you might be insulting your future boss, their loved ones, or even a good friend or colleague, via some far-less-than-six-degrees-of-separation connection!
- What is in your physical EDC?
- What is in your mental EDC? What attitudes do you bring to your everyday life?
- What do you think of the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma?
- The It’s a Small World effect – ever been in a situation where you’ve treated someone horribly, and it has ‘bitten’ you? Ever been just your regular normal nice self, and inadvertently wound up talking to your future boss, neighbor, or their friend?
(Leatherman picture attribution is here.)