Thursday, March 10, 2016

Rules Were Made to be Broken

I know I still have to fill you in on SXSW day #3, but my husband had a few words that resulted from a conversation with several teens yesterday.

Rules were made to be broken.

If there is one common saying that infuriates me to the point of blood boil, it is this one. A philosopher that I am quite fond of, Os Guiness, tells us that the best way to show a person that their belief is a fallacy is to encourage them to follow it to the end. This means, to get a little stuffy here, to use deductive reasoning to follow premises to their logical and necessary conclusions. Rules were made to be broken. Am I safe to reword this phrase a couple different ways for the sake of clarity?

-The reason rules are made is so that they can be broken.
-A rule is made for the purpose of being broken.
-The purpose of a rule is for it to be broken.

If we are in disagreement that all these statements are the same, then I suppose I’m attacking a straw man. But if they are the same, if you can infer the reason and purpose in the “were made to”, then this statement falls apart under the most elementary scrutiny. So, let’s just follow this thought to its ugly end. If rules are meant to be broken:

-My rule for my daughters to brush their teeth daily is meant to rot their teeth. That’s the purpose of the rule.
-Rules of algebra are meant to be broken (a+b ≠ b+a). The reason for this rule is to cause incoherence.
-My rule of no cursing in my house is meant to encourage foul mouths.

This becomes even more fun if we can include “laws” to be rules - which I think we can agree on:

-The speed limit in driving is meant to be broken; its purpose and reason for being posted is so we know what speed to exceed. Agree with this one do you? Then don’t complain when a guy flies by you in a school zone – he’s being a better steward for the purpose of the law than you are.
-Laws against murder and burglary are there so we can break them.
-The tax laws are there for you to keep your money.

Let’s get crazy and have even MORE fun:

-The 2nd law of thermodynamics means my hair is about to grow back and my car will slowly repair itself.
-The law of gravity is there so we can fly. Evidently its purpose is to send us floundering in space. I’m glad the laws of the universe were not meant to be broken.

No, rules are not MEANT to be broken. They are MEANT to create order and predictability. Does this mean I blindly follow all rules? Emphatically and resoundingly NO - but the saying is not “Ridiculous rules should be broken” or “Meaningless rules can be broken”. My guess is that this saying became popular strictly from the absurdity of it.

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