Rules

The community we live in has a lot of speed breakers inside. Must be the case with all residential places I assume. We have close to 9 bumps in the circle from the entry to the parking to the exit. It makes sense too, I said to The Dude, because at all points of time there are walkers, and children cycling or skateboarding around on the same pathways. But he mentioned that a lot of people had been questioning the relevance of these bumps, because they were quite annoying, and also that those who were missing the sensibility to drive slowly inside the community, would drive rash with or without the bumps.

I am not convinced but it made me wonder if that was the case, why do we have rules at all? If the rule-breakers would break rules anyway, and the rule-keepers would do the right thing, with or without the rules; who are the rules for? The only thing I can think of is that the rules are for the ones on the edge. The ones who are maybe doing the right thing not because it is the right thing to do, but because, they would be in trouble if they did not. And, additionally, they actually do not want to be in trouble.

Let’s take the example of kids. We have so many rules for kids. Like TV time is limited to an hour. Now the reason TV time is limited to an hour is because it is not good for their eyes, and also it makes the kid lazy and lethargic. Technically, if we were to tell the children that they were not supposed to watch TV for more than hour, because that would be bad for them, they should understand it. But they don’t. Because the joy of watching TV is much higher in their minds than the weak eyes and laziness that we scare them with. Heck, they couldn’t give a damn to these things. But then they are kids, and the assumption is they are not ‘mature’ enough to grasp these things. So we make rules. We switch off the TV in an hour, and we threaten them with punishments if they refuse or fail to do so. But then again, they are kids, and they aren’t expected to make sane decisions. They need rules.

But what explains the same thing for grownups? So you know you are not supposed to eat at your desk at work because the crumbs will attract pests. There is a written rule around it. Now there are three kinds of people here. Category 1, that believes that this makes sense, and so will never eat at their desk, because they know that it will attract pests. Category 2, that doesn’t believe this nonsense, and even if they do, they don’t care enough to abide by such rules, and they are ready to a take a chance and get caught. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?

Then there is Category 3. Category 3 finds this rule an inconvenience, and category 3 would readily eat at their desk if not for this rule. But because there is a rule, this category decides to not eat at its desk. Category 3 does not want any unnecessary trouble. For these guys, the pain of being caught breaking a rule is bigger than the pain of actually abiding by it, and so, they do. This is the category for which rules are made.

And assuming that there is an even distribution of people in all 3 categories – we end up having 66% of the people eventually abiding by the norm, whether or not they agree to it; as against the 33% it could have been otherwise. So the rules ensure that at least theoretically, we have the majority behave in what we call, the right way. Which honestly, is not too much of a price to pay. Which is also why those 9 speed bumps do not feature on my ‘list of things that annoy me’ as yet.

And we should all be thankful for that.

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