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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

Related Q&A(s): 682

The Question (ID Number 603)...

    Regarding the "lies" of Mother Culture, there is one lie (actually it's just a widely held misconception) that I'd appreciate hearing your take on... A pervasive belief of our culture is the belief in (and reliance on) the Rule of Law. Most people will concede that we need rules in order to have an orderly society, and that without rules there would be chaos. It was precisely a hundred years ago that the French mathematician, Poincaré, first discovered that even very simple rule-based systems were chaotic. Today, most well educated people have at least heard of Chaos Theory (Edward Lorentz, James Gleick), Fractals (Benoit Mandelbrot), and Cellular Automata (Stephen Wolfram). It is not exactly a secret that rule-driven systems are now known to generate chaos rather than order. But it occurs to me that most people don't fully appreciate the significance of those esoteric mathematical diversions. For some 3500 years, Western Civilization has operated under the unexamined and unchallenged belief that rule-based systems are inherently orderly. Now we discover that this foundation belief is an astonishing misconception. Have you spent any time regarding this observation? How might it be possible to reveal this (perhaps disturbing) finding to the lay public, along with some insights on how we might craft and introduce into our culture a more highly evolved and enlightened regulatory mechanism capable of delivering the 'divine order' it promises?

    ...and the response:

    You're one up on me in knowing that Poincaré discovered that even very simple rule-based systems are chaotic. I never really thought about the matter as one involving rules or no rules. I've pointed out in THE STORY OF B, MY ISHMAEL, and, I believe, BEYOND CIVILIZATION that law functions very differently in tribal societies than it does in ours. Tribal law, unlike ours, does not PROHIBIT unwanted behaviors. Rather it specifies what is to be done to minimize the harm of unwanted behaviors. It serves to restore (as far as possible) good order and equilibrium. It seeks to do what is best for everyone (including even the author of the unwanted behavior). Punishment plays no part in tribal justice, because (as we all know), no one has ever been punished into being a good citizen.

    And of course it isn't rule-based. Every case is different and must be judged differently. We know this as well as tribal peoples do, but we think that justice works best when wearing a blindfold that prevents it from observing differences; it just follows the rules. It pains me to see so many lives ruined in our society that would not be ruined if they lived under tribal law. I think, for example, of Mary Kay Letourneau, the school teacher who a few years ago had a love affair with a 14-year-old student, a crime for which she was sent to prison - harming her, harming her family, harming the boy, and harming the child she had by him --and benefitting exactly no one. In a tribal setting, the woman and her family and the boy and his family would be brought together to work out a solution that was as satisfactory as possible to ALL of them. That COULD have been done in our society - it would even have been cheaper and faster. But the Rule of Law had to be maintained.

    Related Q&A(s): 682


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