The problem is that there aren’t any rules. One of my least favorite phrases that people invoke is “it’s just common sense” because it’s not. Partially I don’t like it because it’s judgmental, what they really mean is “you’re dumb you dummy”. But even more than that, it’s nonsensical. Nothing is common sense until you learn it. What’s patently obvious to one person based on their experiences and education may never occur to someone else based on their life.
Here’s an example. When I was younger sometimes my sisters would say that a girl was flirting with me ‘It’s obvious” they would say. It wasn’t obvious to me for a variety of reasons. One is that I was (and am) a gross monster with a crummy personality so the idea that anyone could be flirting with me was foreign. Another is that I didn’t want them to be flirting with me – I thought we were pals and now I’m being told she has an ulterior motive? Gross. And of course it didn’t help that my sisters were only telling me this to embarrass and humiliate me. I didn’t know the rules, and I still don’t.
On the other hand maybe they are rules. Just because you have to learn them doesn’t mean they’re not there, but they do exist. For a long time Nirvana was my favorite band. Over time that has changed because they really only had one album and how long can you coast on that? Anyway, because I liked Nirvana I was predisposed to want to like Curt Cobain even though generally people weren’t into him as a person. Over time the more I learned about him the more I came to decide that he was probably a jackass. The straw that really broke the camel’s back for me on that was some audio where he was talking about he and Courtney Love would go into restaurants and pretend to have a big fight and freak out and scream and throw stuff because they wanted to break society’s rules because that was a cool thing to do. That was a real turn off because I don’t like people flouting rules just to flout them. So there must be rules.
I guess now that I think about it there’s tons of rules everywhere all the time, but people aren’t generally away of them. There’s rules of engagement, rules for radicals, rules of the internet, rules of cribbage, 10 rules for sleeping around, 9 rules to break when romancing a rake, 8 simple rules for dating my teenage daughter, 7 rules of success, 6 rules of great storytelling, 5 rules of improve, 4 rules of communication, 3 rules of robotics, 2 rules of tinder, and the Golden Rule – which ruined my life. When I was a kid I was told to treat people the way I want to be treated it wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I realized that hardly anyone wants to be treated the way I want to be treated – which is generally left alone. And by then it was too late, not that it mattered anyway because what I am going to do, change?
I suppose there are so many rules for the same reason people like listicles – it’s an easy way to consume enough information to talk about something without really knowing much. You can remember the three rules of thermodynamics if you want but learning about thermodynamics and remembering all that nonsense? Snooze. Ten commandments? Easy. Morality? Yawn.
Another factor is people that know the rules but are dumb as nuts. I started reading (yet another) book about the media’s effect on our development. Its 18 years old so you know its good information. Nothing has changed in the media landscape in the last 18 years right? The author is a little worried about this internet fad but he doesn’t think it’s going to amount to much. This book is has several examples from real people of how the media attacked their children. Some of them are fine. Some of them are moronic. Here are three real examples from that book of people blaming the media –
- A guy took his 5 year old to a PG-13 movie and then was OUTRAGED because there was implied sexual content
- A guy took his 8 year old to an R rated movie and then was OUTRAGED because it was violent
- A lady let her daughter (age unknown) buy a rap CD with a parental warning sticker on it and then was OUTRAGED by its lyrics
These people knew the rules, ignored them, and are mad at someone else. That’s poppycock.
Conversely (and convexly) I also don’t like it when someone doesn’t know the rules and then people get upset at them when they meant no harm. I had no idea that the term “stone-throwing devils” was an obscure racial slur. If I had said that and someone got pissed off and I said “Oh shit, I’m sorry, I never knew that was a racial slur” that should be fine. If I walk into someone’s house and I don’t take my shoes off and they flip their lid that’s not fair – I don’t know their rules. Now, after I know the rules and I walk into their house with my muddy cowboy boots and grind them into their new white couch, that’s different.
This might be my most disjointed post yet. One time in a bit Paul F Thompkins asked “What are the rules of Daniel Day Lewis?” It’s funny in context. To me.
I was a rule follower in my youth, but I’d come to realize that many rules are stupid. Personal rules sometimes bug me because it seems like an abdication of responsibility – as in sometimes it’s an admission that the person can’t think things through so they make up rules for themselves to follow to lieu of making a legitimate judgement. But should that bother me? If someone has the self-awareness to realize that they can’t make intelligent decisions and comes up with rules to keep them out of trouble that should be commendable rather than condemned by me right?
In conclusion, I will stick with my instinct and say, no generally people don’t know the rules. But that should probably be okay.
This was almost a direct attack on my personal rule to not have cereal in my house, but then you spun it back so it was okay. What ARE the rules of Daniel Day Lewis?
I have no idea, I still don’t know if you’re supposed to look at him in the eye or not.
I recently learned of two phrases that I had no idea were racist. “No can do” originated because of making fun of Chinese immigrants with imperfect English skills. “Long time no see”; same thing for Native Americans.
That’s unfortunate but I realized a while ago that if we stopped saying everything that was racist at one point most of the English language would be gone. I wonder which language is the least racist and how long it would stay that way if everyone started speaking it.