I don’t believe people need “rules,” any rules, for living an optimal life, and for creating an optimal society. Let me say that again — we don’t need Rules. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
What people need is CONNECTION. We need to be ensconced in a community of people who we know deeply, live with interdependently, and care about. When we are surrounded by a sufficiently warm, inclusive community, we generally fall into line with that community. We don’t treat people like shit, lie, steal, rape, murder, etc., because if we do, the community expresses its displeasure towards us. And who wants to disappoint all the people who love them?
This doesn’t require “Rules”; it requires a basic process of collective accountability. It requires a community of people to say, “hey, we don’t like being acted towards in a shitty fashion, so here, let us help you learn to get along with others better.” And then, for the tiny proportion of people who are truly psychopathic enough to be immune to community pressures, what happens? Well, historically, when we lived as tribes, those truly impossible-to-deal-with rarities would be shunned. AND they would be incredibly rare. The vast, vast majority of people are deeply responsive to, indeed are “needy” for social acceptance. This is not a weakness; it is our greatest strength as a species.
e.g., (from a Facebook post in The Chimp Zone: Primate Portal)
This is how “socialism” avoids turning into the Gulag. A strong-enough community would, when the power-seekers and hierarchy-believers start to vie for power, stand against them collectively and absolutely refuse to give them positions of power. Just like how, if everyone in the schoolyard refuses to be a bystander, bullies quickly get shut down. If every member of a family bonds together against the abuser, the abuser finds themselves without anyone to abuse.
What we have never in modern times been able to do is to bring people together into a strong enough community, so that the tyrants are prevented from seizing power. And this is exactly the challenge of the 21st century. Socialism and community-based self-governance DO work. Native societies have shown us that, incontrovertibly. What we need to figure out how to do now, is scale that up to the modern, 8 billion-people world. We haven’t managed to do this, yet. But this is exactly what humans are. We are the species (or rather, a species), that rises to the challenge through cooperation and collective effort, in which we HELP EACH OTHER adapt to difficult circumstances.
Imagine a society where, instead of punishment, people’s misdeeds were met with concern, sadness, forgiveness, and help. Instead of jails, we had deeply-ingrained practices of restorative justice. Instead of “bad grades”, we had wise mentors who helped us discover what we were fascinated by, found meaningful or beautiful. Instead of shame, we had encouragement and community-support that inspired us to dig deep and keep at it. And instead of being scolded and disciplined into being “strong” and persevering through tough times, we had allies, mentors, helpers, who helped us see our own strengths, who helped us create meaning in our lives, and who inspired us through their own strength, stick-to-it-iveness and responsibility.
Imagine a society where toddlers were held and accepted and loved through their temper tantrums. Where patient, grounded adults would sit with the little one and teach them to breathe through the fear and anger, would demonstrate over and over how to calm down until the child internalized that skill.
Imagine a society that helped people get back up when they fell down, so that people learned that they WERE NOT ALONE, and had the opportunity to experience the deep gratitude that comes from someone being a Good Samaritan when you are at your weakest.
Imagine teenagers being treated not like irresponsible, entitled little shits who need to grow up and accept responsibility, but instead are embraced into communities of practice by a plethora of loving adults and mentors, helping them, teaching them by example.
At the present moment, it seems we do almost everything wrong, from a developmental perspective. We take childhood and we relegate it to a desk, a homework schedule, and pre-set “recess periods” where kids are ALLOWED, for brief moments, to run around and do whatever they want — as long as that doesn’t involve swearing, rough-housing, throwing snowballs, etc.etc. “Follow the rules and you can play in ways that the adult world has sanctioned as acceptable”, is the message our far-too-heavily structured and institutionalized society gives to kids. “Because you are too useless, stupid, and immature to be able to think for yourself and be responsible”, is the implicit subtext.
And when these heavily-regulated, punished and controlled children turn into adults, what do they do? Well, the same thing, of course! These are hardly well-balanced, secure, wise adults! Hell no! They (we) are insecure, power-hungry tyrants. We’ve been controlled for our entire upbringings, and now, finally, it’s our turn. And because we’ve so deeply internalized a distrust in our own innate goodness, we also don’t trust the snotty-nosed little buggers we are now given power over.
Just watch parents interact with their kids. (Or schoolteachers, for that matter). Watch how ANGRY far-too-many of them get as soon as the kid “misbehaves”.
“Don’t talk back! Don’t give me that attitude! Stand up straight! Don’t make so much noise! Don’t talk to your sister like that! (Ignoring the fact that this is exactly how the adult is talking to them). Eat properly! Clean your room!“
We can do better than this. We can grow a more compassionate society by being more compassionate ourselves. Kids who are standing with slumped shoulders and a lazy, give-up mentality don’t need to be chastised into “not being weak” and sorting out their Bucko selves.
No, they need to be loved. They need someone to believe in them, to show interest in them. They need their parents and teachers and other adults to LISTEN to them, enjoy their creativity, their humour, appreciate their efforts. Instead of being given Rules, they need to be given loving, wise attention.
“No rules for life” is the same as saying “loving, nurturing attention and wise guidance for life”.
And THAT is the antidote for too much, destructive chaos. The rest of the chaos that is inherent in a living system, is great! It’s the source of all creativity, innovation, play and good times.
As our world increasingly faces the challenges of social inequality, over-militarization and a collapsing web of life, relying on Rules and control has only one outcome — the rise of authoritarianism and violent subjugation of “the other”. But dictators and xenophobes do not make the world great again. We will not solve the problems of the 21st century using the approaches of the 20th century that got us here in the first place. No, it is time to evolve, collectively.
Besides, I don’t want to live in a world of Rules and “antidotes to chaos.” I want to live in a world of wonder and fascination and humour and zest and play and connection and wisdom and love and kindness and gratitude and generosity and trust.