I Don't Need Any Laws : Disobedience And Conscientiousness



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If anyone says he doesn't need or observe any laws, he will be called outlaw, or to say the least, eccentric. The modern society is so made that rules and laws barely sustain the social order. This has led to the belief that every social behavior can be controlled by written decrees, at least superficially.

Historically speaking, the dawn of empires, such as that of Alexander The Great, were characterized by the formation of criminal codes. Early laws were enacted for the purpose of putting in order the whole structure of the huge empire. Where there was no democratic system, only forcing the will of the ruler in written form was the most effective way to administer the national affairs.

In Europe, only after the Middle Ages, when the people were at the mercy of arbitrary feudal lords, the impact of absolutism swept over the continent and strong governmental power came home to the peoples.

The concept of laws must have prevailed with the coming of these absolute rulers. They found it most effective to rule by itemizing what they thought must enforced. Aside from these rulers, court system and police institution have accelerated the infallibility of laws.

In the modern society people look upon laws as the clearest criteria for dealing with day to day affairs. In addition to the extreme complexity of post-industrial society, where intricate network of computers rigidly monitor the behavior of individuals and corporations, the disintegration of community has increased the necessity of laws. People who had lived in an interwoven 'gemeinschaft' could no longer find an effective meditator when a dispute broke out, and therefore had to resort to system of justice.

The relative importance of laws has increasingly caused people to rely on them for judgements on trivial daily chores. In fact, from traffic accidents to divorce, everything in life must be judged in the light either of civil or criminal code. But as an old saint used to say, the more people depend on laws, the more and more complicated and accelerated the system of laws and rules becomes.

Should throwing cans on the road be severely punished because they contaminate the environment? In Singapore, under the austere rule of Prime Minister Li Kuang Yu, people damping garbage in the park or leaving their pet's droppings behind are obliged to pay eye-popping fine. Thanks to the strict rules the garden city is said to be free of ugly trash, at least in the presence of sightseers. Does it mean people of this port city have become morally disciplined? It is doubtful whether they mind throwing things if this puritanical Prime Minister steps down.

The tendency to enforce laws as long as they exist seems to have deprived man of fundamental quality for being civilized member of the society; conscientiousness. Since laws were originally established to reflect the will of rulers, then reinforced under the confirmation of modern thinkers such as Jean Jack Rousseau, the legislators themselves have in mind the ethical view that human nature is evil. Then, is there no other way but to exert strict control over the modern society? I'm sorry to say, but that is the fact of life.

The development of information controlling technique has enabled laws enforcement to become more and more easy. As a result, we have come to a point where we have to accept all the rules and orders whether they are well-considered or ill-intended. There lies a danger.

Japanese elementary and junior high schools are notoriously full of trivial school rules such as assigning the color and design of socks and the length of hair, to say nothing of wearing uniforms. The suffocating rules, in addition in some cases to mutual inspection, give rise to conformists and stool pigeons and finally rob them of capacity for making proper judgement by themselves when it is really necessary. We cannot predict how they will grow up to be in the future, but to say the least, it will not be helpful to the maturing of democratic society.

If man is to be free in the true sense of the word, he should not be under the influence of laws. This does not mean we should behave as if yakuza or outlaws do, or build up an entirely different legal system. The only criterion for our social behavior can and must be found in the teachings of great saints. This must not be dogmatic, complicated or punishable. It is not until we have imbibed the truth and put it in our consciousness that we are prepared to become a free human being. He is not controlled by laws but may act according to the inner voice.

That is one of the reasons why we don't have to observe our laws---as long as we make a well-founded judgement. As we have experienced throughout the history of mankind, blind observance of laws has often led to the catastrophic outcome. In spite of various civil disobedience most people were swept over by the strong historical current, and yet it is evident that we have to keep an eye on the formations of laws contrary to our beliefs. And if they should be so we have to take action at once in order to demonstrate the discrepancy between our will and the very system that gives rise to these laws.

It's all right if the ideals the laws puts up and our consciousness agree. But unfortunately if they don't we should not be hesitant in opposing and even breaking the law. The future of mankind depends upon constant scrutiny on the legislating process.

First Written in May 1987
Rewritten in November 2000

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