Breaking the Rules

Rules, I have heard, are meant to be broken.

To be clear, I have puzzled over what the statement is supposed to mean. I do not take it to be any sort of equation, as it has overtones of paradox and/or contradiction. Obviously we are taught that rules are meant to be obeyed, or followed, or understood. That is why they are rules. Everyone knows that.

So why assert the opposite? It is one thing to say that exceptions occur. Or, even to say that exceptions prove the rule, the sound of which perhaps has a familiar ring to it. In fact, one may wonder whether the “meant to be broken” is simply a (really bad) translation of “exceptions prove”.

Regardless, we all break rules. There are exceptions, of course, but “leave sleeping dogs lie.”

Although we may speak highly of the role of rules in civilizing the human animal, most of us realize that rules imposed upon us by strangers had best make some sense to us ourselves, or there is eventually going to be some sort of trouble.

I would like to move along to something a little more concrete, like the rules that we all follow daily, to help make the world go around.

Rules of thumb, for example, considered as a storehouse of practical skills, convey much information about techniques and practices. Perhaps we find ourselves creating personal rules of thumb which we may have difficulty expressing clearly to others, yet use on a daily basis.

One of my rules of thumb is that personages, public or private, who organize activities that lead to the slaughter of large numbers of especially civilians – as a rule – are likely to be war criminals.

(No especial exceptions to this rule come quickly to mind.)

So then we would be faced with the issue of whether war criminality upsets our equilibrium. This is where the feeling I get when I use the “s” word (ie: should, as in “we should” be concerned; or “we should” do something about it) and suddenly I have been accused of daring to moralize. Hum.

This is why I am disappointed by so many standard issue Democratic politicians these days.

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