Monday, September 10, 2012

Law & Order is for Suckers

The way I see it, it must have been a small man who invented the concept of law.  And before you get all feminist on me, I do believe it was a man who invented law for the very simple reason that only a small guy would have been motivated to do so.  The reason is simple:  Up until the invention and acceptance of law, things generally worked out the way large, brutish males wanted them to.  Back in the pre-law days, society was less ordered by morals than by murder, theft, assault and rape.  The only people who could get away with those acts were the aforementioned large, brutish males.

Smaller men had all the same territorial impulses as the big boys, it's just that they hadn't the physical means to affect them.  After a while, it must have been demoralizing to constantly have their cows stolen, wives kidnapped, daughters raped and sons murdered.  So there's a pretty strong argument that the guys most inclined to level the playing field would be those least capable of winning on the existing playing field:  That would be smaller men, to whom we all owe a huge debt of gratitude.

While I can't place my finger on the actual date when law overtook brute force as a means of establishing social order, it's probably safe to assume it occurred around the same time humans began to domesticate plants and animals.  Tribes became civilizations and somehow, the notion of everyone living by a common code was adopted as more beneficial than everyone killing everyone else for what few resources they had hoarded.

I like to think the ascendance of law is a high point in human history.  What I don't like to think about is what's happened since.  Because centuries of expansion, growth, misinterpretation and reinterpretation have yielded a somewhat counter intuitive result:

Law and order is for suckers.

That's right.  The system that was supposed to encourage individuals and enhance the human condition has actually had the opposite effect -- and it's getting worse on a daily basis.  Hear me out on this, because it's either frighteningly insightful or pointless entertainment.  Either way, you win.

If you believe that human beings are bright, creative, intelligent animals whose primary purpose is to build a better world for each succeeding generation, you might also subscribe to the notion that those very same humans are motivated by reward.  It's hard wired in our systems.  Moreover, since every human being is as individual as the proverbial snowflake, how he or she invents solutions to problems is influenced according to his or her own individual tastes and abilities.  This kind of diversity only adds fuel to humanity's creative fire.

People are only motivated to get out there and do something when we realize the benefits of doing so.  For some people, the benefit is making lots of money.  For others, it's connecting with that blonde sitting at the end of the bar.  Regardless, the only reason a human is going to move off the couch and into action is if he believes he'll be rewarded for his effort.

That's true of just about every aspect of society except for law and order.  True, while there's a vague, intangible benefit of keeping the crime rate lower, there's no realreward for obeying the law, there's only punishment for not obeying the law.  The truth is that by staying within the guidelines and not making trouble, you keep yourself out of trouble.  Which means that law and order, by its very nature, stifles the independent human spirit.

While law and order started out as a leveler of the playing field, it's since mutated into a system of control, actually repressing the very individuality it was originally designed to protect.

But wait.  It  gets weirder.

Not everyone accepts law and order.  Some people break out of the system, determined to flee the bonds of conformity.  These people are as fearless as they are feared, and they fall into two camps:  Leaders and Criminals.  The only real difference between them is that Leaders share their rewards with others, while Criminals keep their rewards for themselves.  And Leaders only share their rewards with others because they know that if they didn't, they'd be classified as Criminals.  That's why Steve Jobs is venerated and Charles Manson isn't:  Surveys and studies suggest higher-than-average rates of sociopathy among CEO's like Meg Whitman, who euphemistically describes the slashing of 29,000 jobs at Hewlett-Packard as "part of the company's turnaround" without batting an eyelash.  Meg's got shareholders with upside potential reward, so she gets a pass.  Charlie's path didn't provide rewards for others, so he got life with no possibility of parole.  Had he disobeyed his commanding officer and committed his same bloody acts against enemy soldiers during a war, he'd probably have earned himself a medal.

Okay, so Meg isn't as handy with a butcher knife, but you get the idea:  Those who step out of line get real rewards, while those who stay in line get their jobs taken away.  If you believe in law and order, you're easy to control.  You don't speak until spoken to. You take your smaller share because that's what you're given. You never complain because you don't want to rock the boat.  A generation or two of that kind of life and pretty soon your children buy into the idea that crowd-sourcing must be the right solution because everyone else thinks so -- no matter how wrong it is -- and besides, to speak above the crowd would invite discord.

Look, I'm a branding guy.  My world revolves around not being like everyone else.  So to me, watching society play out some freakish Ayn Rand reality is not only disturbing, but practically apocalyptic.  It poisons the very core of human nature and suffocates the creativity that fosters human growth.

This weekend when you're bicycling with the kids, leave the helmets at home.  Let them ride with the wind in their hair and the sun on their faces.  Take a risk. Even a small one.  Remind yourself of what an unpredictable adventure life is supposed to be -- instead of worrying about what might possibly get inked on your permanent record.

Unless, you know, you think it might get you in trouble.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Insightful as always, Rob.

Indeed all business is about risk. What separates people who fail from people who do well is the ability to assess degrees of risk. People who succeed at business innovate, seek new solutions, and take reasonable risks. People who fail either take no risks or take disproportionate risks.

9:19 AM  

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