Laws, rules, recommendations and guidelines - a blog, in 1000 Words or Less
As a kid, I didn’t attend church. My wife attended all the time. Church was a large part of her family’s life…two services on Sunday, Sunday school, Wednesday night services, frequent social gatherings. Fast forward a couple of decades and although her church schedule is less crowded, it’s still important to her and occasionally, I attend with her.
Sunday morning services were an entirely new experience for me and, all the singing aside, I found I enjoyed myself. The people were friendly, the sermons gave me something to think about and I found the biblical stories interesting. It wasn’t long before I realized that some stories were obvious, others were metaphorical in nature and some needed to be interpreted in order to understand the lesson. To anyone who’s a regular church goer, that probably sounds so obvious it need not be stated. For me, this was new information. I didn’t know something as apparently simple as the Ten Commandments weren’t as simple as they first seemed.
The sixth commandment requires no interpretation: “You shall not murder.”
On its face, neither does the tenth, “You shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” That seemed clear enough…although I found it confusing. When they were drafting humanity’s first rules, was coveting a neighbor’s wife such an enormous problem that it had to be included on the short list? Side-by-side, it didn’t seem as critically important as murder.
I was told the tenth commandment, could just as easily have been written, “You shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Ferrari.” Clearly, the minister understood me. “Covet” was the operative word. Coveting is much bigger than wishing. At its most basic level, there was nothing wrong in wishing I owned a Ferrari. Coveting my neighbor’s Ferrari however (assuming he had one), implies malicious intent and sneaky desire. Coveting encompasses envy, jealousy, lawlessness and all the things that take a person down a dark and sinful path.
Whoo boy. All the way back to biblical times, when there were only ten rules, and some of them require interpretation and careful thought. Obviously, when someone (usually trying to come across as righteous but in reality, acting sanctimonious), says, “A law is a law,” he’s wrong…
…although I never thought that statement made sense. By that logic, an armed robber or someone with too many items in the grocery store Express Line, are criminals without distinction.
If you were ever a child at some point in your life, you probably heard an adult say something like this: “If so-and-so said you had to jump off a bridge, would you?” As an adult, perhaps you’ve said those words to your own child. If you have, congratulations, you’ve become…well…you know. As a kid, I found the question annoying, as most parental clichés are. Now, I find it ironic because the adult who favored its use with me, is a habitual rule follower. If someone were to ask her that question, she’d answer, “Yes,” and then jump. She’d have no choice. Doing what a rule tells her to do, is part of her DNA. I have a very good friend who’s the same way. In both cases, their coding makes them incapable of questioning a rule or seeing the grey areas…
….and in these Covid times, there grey areas all over the place, as well as exceptions and rules that don’t make sense and rules that need to be questioned vigorously and just like in biblical times, rules to which interpretation is required. It’s a great deal to keep track of, especially when these laws, rules, recommendations and guidelines run the gamut from reasonable to ludicrous.
Wearing a face covering is far from the panacea Theresa Tam and her ilk make it out to be. Some people re-use disposable masks, masks are constantly adjusted, they come off and on and get stuffed into pockets, some idiots wear them under their nose, some people don’t wash them, they don’t always offer a tight seal, but a mask is a useful tool in the so-called fight against Covid. Masks are seen as a good idea because they are a good idea; identifying reasons to wear one is easy. Although they are annoying and uncomfortable and they look kind of silly, they make sense so very few people question their use.
Less plain is a couple of the “safeguards” BC’s provincial government put in place. They might have made sense at first glance but they don’t stand-up under scrutiny or analysis. BC restaurants were told they could no longer serve alcohol after eight PM. How that was supposed help prevent the spread of Covid is anyone’s guess, although someone might suggest it’s a way to keep people from gathering and socializing, as if that’s all it takes. Within a couple of days of that rule’s implementation, I was told people were ordering three shots of tequila at 7:58 PM and at 8:03, they were ordering three virgin margaritas.
Also, in December, a rule prohibiting people from mixing between households was introduced. No in-person visits, in other words. My afore mentioned friend assured me this was a new law. People were being arrested and fined for visiting family members. I was doubtful. I said, “If that’s true, we’re only hearing about fines because they are such a rare occurrence. I suspect there were additional circumstances.” I also said that the police probably have better things to do with their time…and if they don’t, they should. A little while later, the same friend was tripping over her feet explaining how it was okay to visit her parents because that particular law didn’t apply in her case.
Then there’s the Quebec government. What did Francois Legault hope to achieve by instituting a provincial curfew? Covid is a problem at 7:58 but at 8:03 it is undefinably more virulent and therefore, nobody is allowed out of their homes? This isn’t a law rooted in reality. It is a law designed for one thing: perception. A desperate government wanted to be seen as doing something, anything. The fact that nobody (least of all the politicians who dreamed it into being), can explain the goal is irrelevant.
My point is this: even for those individuals genetically coded to follow every single rule, no matter how pedantic, when the rules stop making sense, when there’s no rationale behind them, when they reek of a policy maker's hopelessness, people are going to react. Maybe they rationalize visits with their family. Maybe they riot. Either way, the rules no longer serve their purpose, if they ever did. They aren’t protecting anyone. They are in fact, generating a different set of problems.
Spring break has come and gone. Nobody went travelling, partly because common sense dictated we shouldn’t, not for a while yet, and partly because our Prime Minister instituted a policy dictating a mandatory Covid test before entering Canada, a mandatory test after entry, and upon arrival, mandatory quarantine periods in designated government facilities. These measures, according to Justin, would help prevent the spread of Covid. Whether they would have made a difference by the time they were instituted is debatable. What isn’t debatable is that he lied again. In actuality, his rules were meant to keep people from travelling because Canada’s Covid reaction has been so abysmal the-man child needed to be seen as doing something. Blaming international travel for his government’s failures was an easy way to shine the spotlight in a different direction.
About his new policies, Justin tweeted, “This is not optional.” A statement such as this, paired with words such as, “designated government facilities,” carries a sinister whiff, to my way of thinking. Fortunately, the CBC was there to assure me not to worry, saying: “The claim that the federal government is preparing to forcibly intern Canadians is patently false.”
Uhm…okay, but for giggles and grins, consider thinking about these words and what they’d mean had they been spoken by someone in charge of a, “less enlightened country.”
Very few rules are as simple as the sixth commandment. Most need to be examined. Generally, once they are examined and we understand the point, following them is easy and can (usually) be done without resentment.
As a kid, I didn’t jump off the bridge. I asked, “Why?” I wondered, “What is this rule’s purpose? What do we achieve? What is the end game?” If the Express Line is available and using it won’t inconvenience or apply hardship to another shopper, it makes logical sense to use it, rather than waiting behind someone with groceries for a family of five. Not surprisingly, that pushback caused friction growing up. I didn’t understand the problem. I didn’t understand I was exercising common-sense rather than applying blind obedience to a sign that read, “12 items or less.” I didn’t understand that when the person on the other side of the equation is imprinted to follow every rule, I had entered into a disagreement without resolution.
It may sound like I’m encouraging rule breaking. I’m not. Laws are the glue that holds society together. What I am saying is that questioning them is necessary, it is smart, it is right, it is educational. Often the question is simple and obvious and the Q and A happens in a fraction of a second:
The law dictates I slow down and stop for a yellow light. Why? Because speeding up is unsafe behaviour that puts myself and other people at risk.
Sometimes, questions help us do the “right” thing, even if the right thing is essentially insignificant and the spirit of the rule is all that’s important, like choosing not to game the system and sticking with one margarita before 8:00 and drinking water afterward.
Most importantly, questioning rules is our right. Always and every time. We don’t live in North Korea or China, thankfully. We live in a country where we can question our leaders without being murdered. We can challenge them and hold them to account and ultimately take away their jobs if their policies stop making sense, aren’t adequately explained or don’t better our lives. Justin forgot long ago that he works for us. He serves at our whim. When he refuses to answer a question, as he so often does, he needs to be challenged. Introducing policy for the sake of perception, as a means of misdirection or to make-up for past failures, and then allowing him to stammer through an "explanation," gives him a free pass. It tells him: “You can do whatever you want. We won’t hold you accountable. We don’t care you’re making our lives worse. We're happy pretending your empty words and blatant inaction will see us through this crisis."
On the other hand, vigorous questioning says the exact opposite: “Why aren’t you looking after us? We gave you a job and you’re screwing it up. Now we’re suffering. Why should we trust you and your policies when lying with a pompous smile on your face is the manner in which you answer the most basic of questions?”
If nothing else, questioning a rule can be educating when it’s asked with genuine curiosity and answered with a desire to inform, as I found out with the tenth commandment. Sometimes the answer to one simple question, “Why?” provides a wealth of unexpected knowledge and a person is better for asking it.
This post got away from me but I couldn't figure out where to break it in half. Sorry. Thanks for reading.