Politics & Media
Jan 04, 2024, 06:24AM

Playing By The Rules

Rules lead to a functional society—whether you like it or not.

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Imagine a game where everyone plays by a different set of rules. People come to the table with good intentions, they pull up their chairs and sit down to play. But immediately problems occur. Everybody thinks everybody else is cheating, crazy or immoral; each tries to explain his or her game but the others just don’t get it and suspect some ruse insisting that their game is the real one. Now imagine that though they’re not aware of it, one person is playing by the rules of Monopoly, another is playing Poker, another charades, another chess and the last, Spin the Bottle. No one realizes that each player is consistent and sees instead what appears to be totally random events.

This happens all the time. When I first came to France I was struck by the difference in the rules. Even though I’m from the United States it was hard not to notice random rule choices and social habits. People followed codes, both written and tacitly understood, that from my outsider’s perspective were inexplicable. For example, why are so many traffic signals painted on the ground? In America there are stop signs, red lights, yield signs and a few others, all clear. Here they’re spread out in every direction, it’s almost incomprehensible. But as Herodotus wrote, Custom is King and in time my experience changed. Now everything here is more or less “normal” and it’s America that is often mystifying when seen from a distance. Who makes up these rules?

Hannah Arendt, in her book On Revolution, points out that the only free people in a society are those who make the laws. And what are laws other than a given set of rules for a certain mode of play? It’s no coincidence that certain games, bridge for example, are referred to as society games. You make the rules, people agree on them and you play. Some people accept this without question, others don’t.

An interesting case is Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, a member of the notorious Barker Gang in the 1930ss and the last Public Enemy Number One. He was someone who looked at society from the outside. He had his own set of rules. He felt there were two classes of people, criminals and suckers. Criminals have rules. Rule number one is never rat on a fellow criminal. There’s a great scene when Karpis goes to a speakeasy hidden away in the woods, filled with gangsters, safe-crackers, second-story men, prostitutes, and strong-arm men of every description. It reads like a family reunion. Karpis, by the way, was the person who taught Charles Manson the basic guitar chords while at the United States Penitentiary at McNeil Island.

Adapting to new rules isn’t easy. Since I’ve come to Paris there’s been a huge influx of immigrants. It’s particularly evident in my Quarter, called Stalingrad. I can see the chaos of mixing the rules of the game clearly. In comparison to what some of these people experience, I had it easy with traffic signals. People come to Paris from countries where if a woman is sexually active, dresses in tight-fitting clothes or reveals too much flesh the rule book says stone her to death. It’s normal. Some immigrants must be shocked to see advertisements in the metro for dating sites specializing in adultery, homosexuality, and group orgies.

One can talk about the need for mutual respect and make up slogans like “United in Diversity” but the situation is one that tends to normlessness. This is clear from a particularly strange but regular occurrence one reads about in France. Doctors find themselves being attacked more and more by the husbands of their female patients who feel that the doctor shouldn’t physically touch their wives during an examination. Again, though it reflects a rule set I’m not familiar with, it’s part of a consistent world view.

Governments have the solution, more rules of their own making. We can see the movement towards The World Law Code or whatever it may ultimately be called slowly taking shape. For it to work it’ll be necessary to sever all roots with traditional culture and history and to replace them with man-made substitutes. The WHO will dictate our health choices, another agency will dictate what we eat and where we live; there’ll be a central digital currency bank, social credit, culture will be mass-produced and history rewritten or simply forgotten. 

  • The most important rule for maintaining a decent and functioning society is the Golden Rule. If everybody adhered to the tenets of the Golden Rule " In everything do to others as you would have them do to you" then all of the systemic, policy and cultural differences could be worked out through respect. consideration and cooperation. Unfortunately in too many places morals based value systems like the golden rule have taken the back seat to the forces of greed, power, control, influence and manipulation.

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