Monday, September 12, 2005

Cutting through the Red Tape of Life

Here's the scenario: you're driving along a desert road in the middle of nowhere. There are no trees, and you can see for ten miles in every direction. There are no other cars. A couple hundred metres ahead, there's a crossroads with a four way Stop sign.

Do you stop? According to the law, you should. But what purpose does it serve in this situation? Stop signs exist to prevent collisions at intersections. In this case, there are clearly no cars. You could stop out of principle that you should always obey the law. But I say you should look both ways, and if there's still no cars for ten miles in either direction, drive right on through.

Am I advocating lawlessness? Certainly not. What I'm pointing out is that there's a difference between immutable laws (such as don't kill people for fun and profit), and laws that are largely regulation. In blowing through that stop sign, you have not committed evil. All you've done is disregarded a regulation that had no meaning in your current situation.

You cut through the red tape of life.

Let's extend the metaphor a bit. Same situation, except that this time you've got a badly wounded man in your back seat. He's a good man, worthy of being saved. He's bleeding out quickly, and you've got to get him to the hospital that's a kilometre past the stop sign. If you stop, he dies for certain. Do you adhere to the law? In this case, I'd say that in stopping, you're committing evil. You've abdicated independent thought in favour of mindless adherence to meaningless rules, and by doing so you've let a good man die.

Let's extend it a little bit more. Same situation: desert, wounded man, except this time there's a car coming towards the intersection. I'll make it more interesting: you've got a stop sign, but the other car doesn't. Do you stop, or step on the gas, hold down the horn, and try to make it through? You're now gambling with the other driver's life too. You'll have to gauge the speed and distance, and weigh the chances of yourself, the other driver, and the wounded man dying in a crash, against the certainty of the wounded man dying if you stop. It's going to be a close call in any case, so there isn't really a correct answer to this situation.

So what was the point of this exercise? Merely to demonstrate that we can't rely on other people telling us that the law says to do this or do that. Comparatively few of our laws have anything to do with fundamental issues of good and evil; most of them are simply regulations. They're red tape, muddying the waters so many people can't see for themselves what's right and what's wrong.

You need to go through life with your eyes open, and take direction from your internal moral compass. In everyday situations, ask yourself if you're doing what's right, or if you're just rigidly following regulations and procedures that might not even apply to the situation. If you're not consciously doing what's right, then you're not free. You have no independence.

Be aware of your actions and their consequences. Think for yourself. Free your mind, and start living your life.