Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Government Legislation, Big Brother and My Brother’s Keeper

From our childhood we have explained to us that the “rules are there for our protection” whether it’s calling penalty for a high stick in Hockey or elaborate set of traffic laws to ensure driving safety. To co-exist as a society we are largely dependent on this rules, or, what I will call “the big rules” (i.e. killing, stealing = very bad) so that, for the most part, that co-existence will be harmonious.

The question that I would like to throw out there, however, is to ask whether these rules, as they become more individually specific in emphasis, with only a minimal affect on society as a whole, are ‘just’ or an infringement upon that individual’s freedom? Ultimately there are two roads a society can take: “the freedom to” which opens things up for the individual, or “freedom from” which leads to mass regulation. Ultimately, with these things, we are considering choices and things that may be harmful or dangerous, but not necessarily morally or ethically wrong.

Take something as basic as driving a motorcycle without a helmet. The sole social consideration of this issue is the cost of supporting that particular individual if he/she receives a head injury. One might argue that a person who received a head injury while wearing a helmet might have otherwise been killed, thus costing the Healthcare system less. Further to that, what about medical attention required for broken limbs, skin grafts or back problems? In the end, therefore, who should be left with the decision as to whether motorcyclists should wear helmets – the biker or the state?

Smoking is another wonderful example of legislation and taxes gone mad. It’s amazing the focus given to a non-illicit organic (though chemically treated for that extra addictive power) leaf. Smoking bans in public places have been making their way around the world and even into our prisons. Medical evidence shows that regular smoking is hazardous to your health and that second hand smoke is harmful to others. Billions are spent annually to fight smoking related illnesses and promote anti-smoking campaigns. What it boils down to is that an individual has the right to smoke up until the point where that smoke affects another person, and then it becomes a privilege that that other person (in theory) has the right to take away. So where does that leave us on this issue? Smoker’s will argue that they pay more in taxes through purchasing their product and, typically, die earlier and thus not leaving a strain on the system that healthier folks do…

So being the total devil’s advocate, let’s look at that last point. I am a non-smoker and largely athletic individual. Much of my sporting life has been made up of contact sports such as Hockey, Football, Rugby and Martial Arts. I’ve also done lots of distance running, hiking, etc. At 37 I’ve had one surgery to repair a broken jaw, one knee and on shoulder scoped, physio on both knees, back, wrist, foot, ankle, hamstring, shoulder. I’ve had stitches more times than I can count, plus four concussions (hospitalised once as a result). I’ve separated both shoulders and dislocated one ankle. Now, re-visiting the smoker’s argument, what’s a society to do? How much have I cost the state and taxpayers for medical treatment to pursue my personal pleasures? You can throw in extreme sports here too – the danger and cost of manhunts in backcountry avalanche sites, those who have fallen off rock faces while climbing, surfers drowned, etc.

Next we look at alcohol and drugs, both of which have been illegal at some point and time. Largely, the proceeds that crime reaps from the present drug trade have to do with the issues of legality. One can not argue quite so strongly about people’s attempts to obtain illegal drugs as police stats paint an uglier picture. So, again, being devil’s advocate, wouldn’t it make sense to legalise and make all drugs affordable, thus wiping out all the organised crime and crime fighting measures designed to deal with such things? I am speaking more or less of organic drugs here such as opium or pot. The frame of reference from which this question is posed stems from the fact that alcohol is legal and perhaps responsible for more crimes and death than compared to pot smokers or opium users. All these things, combined with coffee and tobacco products, are used because of a perceived “buzz”, so where do we draw the line on what buzz you can feel and what buzz you can’t?

In my life I have seen a lot of lives messed up by drugs and that’s largely why I’ve never tried them myself, in spite of growing up in an inner city neighbourhood. When I was 13, an Uncle of mine, on Christmas Day, was drunk and held a loaded shot gun to my head. I didn’t have my first drink until I was 19, and never been one to go on a rip with alcohol, though I do love a pint of Guinness or a nice single malt scotch. My wife and I also enjoy the odd cigar together and I even have a pipe that I pull out once in a blue moon which I smoke by the fire while delving into a really good book (and glass of scotch). This is completely organic pleasurability, BUT THIS IS ALSO ALL BY MY CHOICE.

So there we have it! Are we our brother’s/sister’s keeper? What is the extent of our personal freedom as individuals? What will it be: freedom to or freedom from? Is Big Brother watching/controlling us beyond his authority?

Art: "Death & Life" by Gustav Klimt


  • At 3:50 p.m. , Blogger auntiegrav said...

    I think a lot of the 'brothers keeper' and 'big brother' stuff is bandied around to up the ante for the people making money on programs and organizations ("not-for-profit", my a**!).
    Logically, if we are going to argue the point of someone being guaranteed a 'right' to life in a particular society, then everyone in that society has a responsibility to provide the things it takes to maintain that life. Call it socialization if you want, but if society gives you the right to live, they shouldn't start it when you go to prison and stop it when you walk out of the prison gate 30 years after killing someone. Apparently, Big Brother only wants to be the Keeper of your Brother's Intentions, not your brother himself (unless he's committed a crime). If society wants to make it easy to deal with injury and disease costs, then they have to accept the anomalies of you being accident prone, and blend the cost with the savings of the people who don't need the system, but produce and pay into it. If the injury rate gets too high, they might want to start an actual 'health' care system, rather than a clinical 'sick' care system, which educates, feeds, and encourages people to be less costly and more Net Creative.

  • At 6:27 p.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    I agree with you holistic approach to Healthcare, as both North American systems is re-active as opposed to proactive. The proactivity - or illusion therof- is the 'brother's keeper' syndrome of which I'm speaking. Who knows, perhaps one day we will frown at preganant women eating Big Macs the same way we would if she were smoking.

    As to a "right to life", that's not necessarily something society grants, but rather a mutual understanding to prevent chaos. Our right to 'health' is the issue that we can negotiate - what kind of environmental toxins we are exposed to. As toxic as North America is becoming, there is a minimal accountability in contrast to industrialised parts of Asia and the former USSR.

    The world is sick and we are becoming a symptom of its illness, but hey, we've got CABLE TV!!!!!

  • At 7:58 p.m. , Blogger Trebuchet said...

    I'm with you, Real-e: seatbelt wearing or not seatbelt wearing, smoking or not smoking... though I wear my seatbelt and appreciate a smoke-free establishment, I'm not sure I'm comfortable having those decisions made for me. Moreover, I prefer if businesses can choose who they patronize and patrons can choose to or not to visit those establishments accordingly. In other words, if Joey wants to serve pizza to smokers and Mr. and Mrs. Smith don't want to breathe in second-hand smoke, Joey has chosen not to earn their business and they can choose to eat elsewhere. I realize there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part I'm much more comfortable with this than with legislating the choice out of things. But that's just me.

  • At 8:27 p.m. , Blogger auntiegrav said...

    I think we all agree that the legislation part is problematic. Let's take a moment to ask why that is. I think it's because the legislators AND the legislatees are too easily confused by simple logic and blinded by consumption. Firedawg referred me to "The Waste Makers" and I'm reading it to my great disappointment with American pragmatism. When we had the chance to stop and think about overproduction and then overselling to get rid of the excess, even Eisenhower encouraged people to go out and "Buy, It's Your Patriotic Duty". Marketing was very successful, both monetarily and scientifically. So successful, in fact, that people are now unaware of the sophistication involved, and how helpless they really are at the hands of the manipulators. To give free choice is a noble thing, and to try and protect through legislation is sometimes also noble. Unfortunately, the current lack of critical analysis and fundamental understanding leads to subjective laws and equally subjective resistance to them. Better to attach come cost to consumption and sick care (, while simultaneously educating and eliminating the tax advantages of obfuscation and deceit. Let the pregnant woman eat a Big Mac if she wants, but make it easier for her to get produce instead, so that it is simpler to do the right things. repeat: "The only thing worse than living someone's life for them is to make them do it themselves." This statement may ring true, but the solution is to step outside the box, educate the public, and create systems, education, and community where it is easier to live their own lives in healthy, useful ways.

  • At 4:10 p.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    Auntigrav, you hit the nail on the proverbial head when you speak of "subjective laws", but regardless of good or bad intentions, the "education" that you propose is equally subjective. I'm not disagreeing with you insofar as I believe that we are considerably like-minded on many of the issues here, but we are in the minority (that is to say conscious, thinking individuals). Education needs money, and the money belongs to the corporation. Therefore, the education inevitably belongs to the corporations. The Corporate Deathburger makers, McDonald's, offer affordable meals because they can afford to mass produce their slop; the same can't be said for organic farmers. McDonald's offers jobs. McDonald's offer convenience. Educated or not, the average joe or jane out there in the western world screams "give me convenience or give me dath and I want my MTV!" How do you counter that? Thinking isn't cool - just flick on your television for the mindless rubbish (excepting Rollergirls which has a deeper meaning - you just need to dig below the surface there...)! You are dead on about the manipulators, and once the masses lose their minds, how can they ever regain their sense to look for them?

    Trebuchet, I echo your sentiments. The consumer should have the choice. The only grey area is children who aren't given the option to go exclusively to a smoke-free venue. There is a total smoking ban in my town, and though folks moaned initially, everyone was on a level playing field. Ultimately, I would like to see the "choice" put in the individual's hands - both as consumer and proprietor. Ultimately, it comes to the nature of the choices and the "who" that is making them.

  • At 8:33 a.m. , Blogger auntiegrav said...

    Edyoocayshun is what you buy. Education is what you live. It doesn't take money, only sense. A child will grow up whether they go to school or not. HOW they grow up is cultural, not business. Unfortunately, we have been taught that critical thinking is ONLY a result of formalized (read "money") education, when the original critical thinking (Socrates) had no resources to speak of with which to create a school. Homeschool is more than just an anti-government attitude, it is a culture of education in the home. That's why it scares the bejeesus out of the educators, and their wholly-owned subsidiaries: the insurance companies. Once people start THINKING, there is nothing left but for them to become healthier, safer, and more frugal with the money which represents their living purposes and the means to accomplish real things.

  • At 9:03 a.m. , Blogger Real-E said...

    So true that education is what you live. I've so often said that travel for 1-2 years should be mandatory for high school grads before pursuing any further 'institutional' education. Again, the Enterprise Culture gives little credit to such experience as they think it makes you look unsettled, favouring booksmarts instead. I made a reference, as you may recall, back when I was writing about my choice to give up teaching in that I wanted to do the things I was teaching about instead of just relay other's accomplishments to young minds (which isn't a slight against teachers, but rather, my preference). I often joke with folks saying, given my present occupation, "you read about Hannibal Lecter, I feed him three meals each day!"

    The Socratic mode of learning is by far superior to any formalised discourse/institutionalised learning.... but remember what happened to Socrates for his efforts! The advantage of the public education systems is that, as much of a programming ground they are, children are forced to go for some time. The rest of the education - the education you speak of and I certainly advocate as well - again relies on the individual to get off their collective arses and be proactive. Thus, we have come full circle to your comments on health care systems made earlier.

    The masses require a shepherd, and I don't see us getting rid of the one we have at present any time soon. Governments, who allegedly work for us, tell US what to do and ignore our protests when they make a choice. But we take it on the chin because, hey, we're "free" right (tongue bulging cheek here)?

    Like the problems facing the environment, the solutions to many of the problems we are discussing here are clear. The solution that we require is the "how" to make people see this and thus make the changes?

  • At 6:19 p.m. , Blogger auntiegrav said...

    I think we think too big sometimes. My efforts are toward talking to individuals, especially like you who are willing to listen and discuss rationally, so that the inevitable conclusion is brought to bear. Dogmatics and their ilk usually are embarrassed by their own lack of true education and critical thinking ability, and they leave angry or hurt.
    Thanks for a great round. I'm not worried about saving the world, only my world. The rest are welcome to save their own.


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