Every human civilization has had its laws defined and enforced by a minority in however way it saw fit.
This usually happened as soon as one of them started hoarding enough sheep and old newspapers.
Obviously, nobody wants to see anyone lose their old newspaper collection. So the big-shots invented the law.
It’s true for all the great civilizations. I mean, the really good ones. The kind of civilization that gets its own unit in a seventh grade social studies curriculum.
A few big-wigs making the rules for everyone else. From the Indus Valley to the Fertile Crescent to the Shang Dynasty—what many experts call “the food-court at Westfield’s”—temporal authority was always substantiated by divine right and favor.
What were the odds of that happening?
What’s even more of a coincidence is all the rules turned out to be complete rubbish.
Like, what idiot came up with not eating bacon? And how is it that someone got so paranoid they had to come up with a prohibition against borrowing your neighbor’s wife/livestock/power tool, in no particular order of preference, just for a minute because you swear you were planning to give them back as soon as you were finished?
If there weren’t pointless taboos, dietary restrictions, resource-consuming rituals and time-hungry ablutions, then why have civilization in the first place? Some of us have to be immune.
That is the whole point of Crime and Punishment, and the reason for this blog post, which I urge high school students to submit in their AP Literature class if they don’t feel like doing the work themselves. I’m more than happy to help. As Dostoyevsky writes:
“The thing of it is, Sonia,” said Raskolnikov, munching on a toasted bialy, “murdering your landlady is the same as putting the toilet seat down after taking a piss. It’s someone else’s rules, man. People make shit up like that all the time just to fuck with your head. For real.”
I agree. Conventions and rules are for suckers.
That’s why I refuse to help anyone choking in a restaurant.
If you and I were enjoying a nice meal out together, and you started choking, you’d be on your own. The fact is, I am incapable of learning the Heimlich Maneuver. So, if you’re choking at dinner with me, you will die before I can figure out what’s going on in the choking victim poster you see in a lot of restaurants. I can never make heads or tails of those things. To me it looks more like “what to do if you’re the lead of a mid-80s hair band and you’re attacked from behind by a lesbian gym teacher”. Which really doesn’t apply in most situations.
So, if you choke at dinner, don’t come crying to me later if I continue eating my dinner as if nothing has happened, while another patron resuscitates you. I’m not the one who ruined an otherwise perfect evening.
But even if I did know the Heimlich Maneuver, I would think twice before I helped you. If you can’t chew your food properly before swallowing, maybe it’s just a sign that you shouldn’t be eating in a restaurant in the first place.
The best I could probably do for you is encourage you in your time of crisis. I will be right there, cheering you on with “Looking good” and “It’ll be over soon.” I’ve always been a great morale booster. There have been jobs when I saw it as my duty to console my supervisor whenever I screwed up. If anyone can say, “there, there. I understand.” it’s me.
Don’t thank me. I’m just fulfilling my part of the social contract.