What are rules? Webster’s Dictionary defines “rules” as “a prescribed guide for conduct or action.” This prescribed guide is usually written, developed, implemented and enforced by some governing body or agency. Our modern society has a lot of rules, usually delivered in the form of regulations and/or laws. But from the simplest rules, such as “stay off the grass,” to higher laws that have been around forever, such as “thou shalt not kill,” people always seem inclined to break the rules. And why is that? Rules and laws are in place for a reason. There is a purpose behind them and without them, society would fall into total anarchy.
Just to be clear, I’m not innocent of this rebellious nature. In fact, no one is. I haven’t met a motorist yet who hasn’t at some point broken traffic laws. Just about everyone I know has dropped a piece of litter on the ground and opted not to pick it up. While the safe majority of actions people perform are not intended to be harmful and don’t result in anything nefarious, we usually live out our lives from week to week, breaking several rules without even noticing.
So, why do people break the rules? And what happens when those bent or broken rules begin to affect others? One good example I can give is a FaceBook post I recently read, that was shared by a friend of a friend. I don’t keep much of a FaceBook profile these days, so I’m unable to share the exact post or image. But as the post went, a friend shared a meme showing a twined highway where a motorist in the left lane was driving at the same speed as a slower motorist in the right lane, thereby illegally slowing down all the upcoming motorists who intended to overtake the slower vehicles.
In Canada, every individual Province has its own legislature and statutes related to the operation of a motor vehicle and/or one’s behaviour while doing so. In Saskatchewan specifically, slower vehicles are generally intended to stay in the right lane except to pass. This allows the faster-travelling vehicles to get by and is entirely the reason behind double and triple-laned highways. It allows for a smoother flow of traffic.
The meme my friend shared essentially provided a message of how wrong it was to perform this action and hinder traffic. And there are Provincial laws and statutes that make this “not okay.” But a mutual friend who commented on the post made a point of commenting how if he felt that someone was aggressively approaching behind him, he usually makes a point of slowing down in the left lane next to a slower vehicle to hinder these aggressive drivers. Oh, great. So what you’re saying is you violate a few traffic laws in order to satisfy your own inappropriate form of self-justice, which helps no one and could potentially cause a collision? Good on you, bro! Great flex!
I’m being sarcastic, in case no one gets that. Besides the illegality of that action, everyone has a story and there’s no way to know the story of motorists coming up behind this person. Maybe they’re late for work. Maybe a spouse is in labour at the hospital or a loved-one is injured or in danger. You don’t know. And now you’re being an asshole and holding them up just to make a point that not only will they not get but isn’t yours to make. This ties in to that whole “there’s suffering in the world” thing that Buddhist tend to harp about and the fact that suffering is usually caused by humanity.
This is just one example, and I’ll admit I got a little long-winded with it. But it serves to illustrate that many people find it okay to break the rules, so long as they can justify it in their minds. Rationalization of one’s personal actions are often used to get away with petty things, especially when the person believes they won’t get caught. Even though the majority of people don’t inherently mean to do wrong, the fact that they won’t get caught in the act often makes it all the more easy to do.
For others, it can be the fact that some people get something akin to a “cheater’s high” from breaking the rules and it can also provide a sense of freedom. After all, as humans, we usually don’t like to be told what to do. Even the most timid of people feel stifled and restrained by having to obey the rules. Try to interrupt my daily routine by telling me I can’t do a particular thing or go to a particular place and you’ll likely get a taste of my dark side, so I totally understand the impulse. But rules are still in place for a reason, often for the safety and security of society and should be obeyed accordingly. ☯