“You are personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society you grew up in.” ~Eliezer Yudkowsky
The most important box to think outside of is the one with the words “it’s the law” written on it.
The law is a psycho-social hang-up of monumental proportions. It pits the outdated past against us. It bolsters antiquated logic. It buttresses parochial reasoning. It prevents progressive evolution in the name of obsolete notions of safety and security. It forces us down the slippery slope into a world where freedom is secondary to authority.
The law is little more than a lazy excuse to stop thinking and to allow an authority to do our thinking for us. It is a slothful justification for allowing an authority to dictate our freedom. “We defend the law” says the cowardly Nazi hiding behind the Kremlin. “We’re just doing our job” says the cowardly cop hiding behind a badge. Alas, as Voltaire poignantly stated, “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”
It would be okay if the law were merely enforced against that which violates basic universal laws of ethics like the non-aggression principle and the golden rule, but the law goes beyond that. It unnecessarily overreaches. It creates extortion rackets. It becomes offensive rather than remaining defensive. It becomes an intrusive spying machine like the PRISM surveillance program. It creates lopsided power dynamics that become immune to checks and balances. And a law that’s immune to checks and balances inevitably becomes tyrannical.
As Edward Snowden said, “At the end of the day, the law doesn’t defend us; we defend the law. And when it becomes contrary to our morals we have both the right and the responsibility to balance it towards just ends.”
Intellectually, the law is a regressive impediment. It imprisons thought. It prevents imagination from blossoming. It stifles Eudaimonia. It prevents the kind of creative thought necessary to check and balance overreaching power constructs. It leaves the public with a lazy “it’s just the way things are” attitude. And here we are.
Even when it does manage to stick to defense-minded law-enforcement, it tends to do more harm than good. As Voltairine de Cleyre succinctly stated, “I think it can be shown that the law makes ten criminals where it restrains one.” Indeed.
People shouldn’t respect the law; the law should respect the people:
“For a state in which the law is respected, democracy is the worst form of government, but if the law is not respected, it is the best.” ~Plato
The problem is that ancient good grows stale and uncouth through the passage of time. What was once considered good and just is now considered outdated and untenable. Stagnation is the thing. When things stagnate for too long, you get unhealthy regression. And when your goal is healthy progression, stagnation is the fly in the ointment.
That’s why Plato’s quote is so powerful. The best democracy is the one where the law is not revered, admired, or worshiped, but where it is mocked, ridiculed, and interrogated. The result is a system of ruthless checks and balances that prevents power from becoming entrenched while guarding against Lord Acton’s famous warning, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
The importance of this concept cannot be overstated. The law must be met with merciless skepticism and brutal derision. If the law should fall apart under such ruthless accountability, so be it. It was neither robust enough nor flexible enough to handle the fire. And it would be a good thing that something so fragile and weak is routed out before it puts down roots. A law that cannot handle fire, is no law at all. A law weak enough to fall apart under the countenance of culpability, is no law at all. It is invalid and must be discarded.
Yet we are all hardwired to revere the law. We are indoctrinated into admiring it. We are brainwashed to dogmatically worship it. So, becoming bigger than the law requires a psycho-social reconditioning of our cultural conditioning. It requires an unlearning of what we’ve learned, and an un-washing of the brainwash, before we can finally not be included in Noam Chomsky’s seething observation, “The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”
Updating outdated legal constructs:
“The law is an opinion with a gun.”
After we’ve reconditioned our conditioning, unlearned what we’ve learned, and unwashed the brainwash regarding the way we perceive the law, the next step is updating our outdated reasoning.
This requires getting ahead of petty state-driven laws by getting a grapple on the universal laws of ethics. Mainly, the non-aggression principle and the Golden Rule.
When new laws are built off universal laws, they have a higher probability of being valid. When they are not built off universal laws, they have a lower probability of being valid. It really is that simple.
So, it stands to reason that if a law is created that goes against the non-aggression principle or the Golden Rule, then that law should be ridiculed, mocked, and met with ruthless vitriol lest it be misconstrued as valid. If the law-makers cannot stop it, then the people should. If police-officers cannot stop it, then the people should. Likewise, if law-makers attempt to make it the law or if police-officers attempt to enforce it as the law, then the people have both the duty and the right to disobey such an unjust and obviously invalid law.
As Robert A. Heinlein profoundly stated, “I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
Becoming bigger than the law:
“One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” ~MLK Jr.
If, as Lao Tzu poignantly stated, “Highly evolved people have their own conscience as pure law,” then it stands to reason that we attempt to develop more highly evolved people capable of honoring universal laws, rather than wasting our energy bludgeoning people with invalid laws that violate universal laws.
As it stands, we have the cart in front of the horse when it comes to the law. The cart is our expectation that people should just blindly obey. The horse is the person who, with lack of knowledge and understanding, keeps ramming into the cart wondering why it can’t get anywhere, wondering why it cannot evolve past such a petty obstacle.
People cannot progressively evolve because they are caught in the stagnating box of the law. They are caught because they are told what to think rather than how to think. They are expected to blindly obey rather than critically evaluate. They are culturally conditioned to accept answers rather than question them. They are indoctrinated to ignorantly conform rather than thoughtfully transform.
When it comes to unjust and invalid laws and how we perceive them, we need only look into a mirror and challenge ourselves with the following quote (author unknown): “When an honest man realizes that he is mistaken, he will either cease being mistaken or cease being honest.” Which will it be?
When it comes down to it, becoming bigger than the law is about spitting out the unhealthy blue pill of outdated comfort, safety, and security, and having the courage to swallow the healthy red pill of updated curiosity, questioning, and skepticism. It’s about becoming the personification of checks and balances. It’s about putting in the hard and difficult work of becoming a highly evolved person who has the wherewithal to “use their own conscience as pure law.” And to teach others how to do the same.
The answer is not creating more laws to shove down people’s throats. The answer is creating people smart enough to question any authority seeking to shove things down their throats. Indeed. The answer is teaching people how to become bigger than the law.