I recently had a bit of a debate with a friend on the wing about one aspect of prison etiquette which is an issue at every single prison in Britain. Noise. And more specifically, music.
His argument is that, regardless of circumstance or time of day, you should never play music at a volume where prisoners in other cells can hear it because some prisoners can get quite stressed out by this.
My counter argument was that some prisoners (myself included) use loud music as an immersion technique to clear their mind of stress. He suggested that such people should therefore use headphones but I countered that headphones create a feeling of constriction rather than a feeling of immersion, which has exactly the opposite effect. He accepted this but then said that one person’s need to de-stress does not give them the right to stress others out.
My answer to this was simple. I agree that the situation is far from perfect, but that’s why there should be a compromise. There are only three choices. Either the prisoner can always play loud music, keeping his own stress levels low but stressing others out. Or he could never play loud music, allowing others to de-stress but preventing him from doing the same. Or he could play loud music occasionally and only at a reasonable hour, meaning that everyone gets a time to de-stress. I said that, through compromise, no-one gets exactly what they want but everyone gets at least some of what they need. But my friend wasn’t happy about that. He took the view that if he ever has to hear another prisoner’s music then his rights have been broken and that is all that matters.
Finally, I gave him an example. I said that if he lived in a block of flats on the outside, he might expect that his neighbours would sometimes have a party and that he might be able to hear their music. It’s generally the done thing to warn your neighbours beforehand, in case they have young children, but you wouldn’t expect to be told by a neighbour that they should not be able to hear your music at all. So long as the volume isn’t ridiculously loud, and it isn’t ridiculously late or ridiculously too often, you should be able to expect a little leeway. And that respect should be reciprocated. I found his answer very frustrating. He just repeated himself and said he didn’t want to hear someone else’s music.
Now I do get his point of view, but his stance did not seem unreasonable to me because of his view, it seemed unreasonable to me because he could not even consider the possibility of a compromise. He was completely immovable. And that made me wonder if that particular problem lies with just him, or if it carries through to society in general too. So few people seem prepared to compromise these days that I am starting to think everyone is only concerned with themselves. And is that wrong? I personally feel it is, but what if I am the one who is wrong?
So I’d like to open this one up to comments. What would you do? Would you fight to have things as you want them? Or would you compromise? Or perhaps you think that compromise is about you getting your way this time and someone else getting their way next time? And what about the specifics? Should a prisoner be able to play loud music? And if so, how often? I’d be very interested to find out the opinions of those who haven’t had their view coloured by their experience of prison life.