The piece is well worth a read, and if you are a Tobacco Control Freak it might even provide some good masturbatory material.
However the bit that got me thinking was the Heinlein quote at the end [sorry Mac!] –
“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
This more or less sums up my philosophy in a nutshell.
When it comes to the law and rules, there are two main groups out there.
There are those who know that rules can have a sensible place in society [if it were left to the individual to decide which side of the road to drive on, things could get complicated?] and will generally follow the rules. When those rules become laws than those same people tend to become somewhat more rebellious. A rule is advice, whereas a law is a command, and as a general rule [!] people of reasonable intelligence don’t like to be ordered around especially when any sane person can see that the rule/law is idiotic and unreasonable. Or to put it another way, Laws are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.
The other group in society [populated almost exclusively by sheeple] is the group that believes that all rules and laws are there to be obeyed to the letter. They are the people who for example will wait patiently for the little green man to light up before crossing the road even though there isn’t a car in sight. It they want to be dictated to by a light bulb then that’s fine, but it isn’t for me.
I remember a couple of incidents a few years ago that happened around the same time.
We were travelling to France on the old Oscar Wilde ferry which, though the pride of Irish Ferries had seen better days. It was a very windy crossing and at one stage a group of us collected together to go out on deck for a smoke [they had just introduced their Nanny Laws]. There was no way anyone could light a match out in the wind, so we all lit up inside the door and went to go out. Before we could do so a little Hitler in uniform turned up and started screaming at us that we couldn’t light up inside the ship. He screamed [no exaggeration] that we were to get outside immediately and no one was to even attempt to light up inside the doorway as that was THE LAW. I patiently pointed out to him that there were passengers littering the floor lying in sleeping bags, some of whom were lying across the stairs, and that this constituted a real and far greater danger to passengers than a whiff of smoke. This confused him for a second but he decided that the rules advised people to be careful where they set out their beds but the law said no smoking. We outnumbered him by about twenty to one so we told him to fuck off and had our smokes anyway.
The second incident was on the same ship on the same journey. I went into the shop the following morning and bought myself ten packs of baccy [they were half price compared to home]. At the checkout, the girl informed me that there was a rule that passengers could only buy two packs at a time. I asked why, and she said it was just the rule. I looked at her and she looked at me. She grinned. She rang through two packs and I paid. She rang through two more and I paid. We did that five times and I got my baccy despite their idiotic fucking rules.
I contacted Irish Ferries after as I was intrigued by this “two pack” rule. The response was that it was the rule because it was the rule and that the girl never should have done what she did. The little twerp never gave an explanation for the rule and was obviously going to apply it even if he didn’t know why, which to my mind is a fairly good definition of a sheep.
The older I get, the fewer laws I obey. Particularly on the road, I shall drive at a speed which I think is safe and shall park wherever I won’t create an obstruction. If I want to burn a tree or two in my garden I shall, provided the smoke is blowing away from the neighbours [I’m really quite considerate]. The only reason I won’t smoke in a strange pub is that I don’t want the owner to get into trouble. Even though I am surrounded by signs telling me to do that or not to do that I ignore them all to the point where they have ceased to register in my consciousness.
When I analyse myself and my philosophies I am a little surprised to discover that I have become quite an anarchist. I don’t advocate violence [well, not yet anyway] but I no longer recognise the authority of those who would try to impose their laws and standards on me.
It really is very liberating.