Tuesday, March 14

Blessed are the Rulemakers

It’s lunchtime and I’m sitting at my desk taking a well earned break (be encouraged that I am writing this to you as recreation and not as part of my paid employment). I am sure there must be a rule governing how long I’m allowed to linger writing this before I need to be back on the job. I say this because it is the subject of rules which is bugging me.

In many ways my whole day is dominated by rules. I have to fill in time sheets by Friday, submit project plans by yesterday, fill in work request forms to get things done. I don’t normally worry about this but lately there seems to have been an upturn in the zeal with which the rule-makers have been operating. In fact, if rule making were a religion I believe we are now in the middle a spirited revival in which new converts being added every day.

Here’s an example. Take the elderly lady who, last week, was asked to remove her hat in a pub because she represented a security risk! I kid you not. Apparently she fell within a general category which includes hoodies. There was also the man who was handed some junk mail and made the foolish move of putting it in a public waste bin. Foolish because he is now fighting to avoid an £80 penalty for abusing this public facility by depositing private waste.

Last weekend I was in church and someone had helpfully produced a sign requesting that we all try and be quiet this week. I quite understand this since the Sunday morning service is usually dominated by shrieking, wailing, heckling and other disturbed interjections. Be that as it may, the intention was to encourage worshippers to respect the silence required by people who find spurious outbursts unacceptable. This was not exactly a rule but the way it was presented came across that way.

Where am I going with this? My point is that there is always an intention behind any rule, and this intention is rarely articulated for fear of giving people a choice. For the rule maker it is about minimising the need to compromise. The intention behind the sign outside church was that we give due respect for the variety of worship needs within the congregation. However, by demanding a specific solution, it was an attempt to meet the needs of one part of the congregation. In the case of the little old lady who wore the hat in the pub, the intention was to make the pub a friendly place. The cold application of the rule achieved the opposite.

I have another couple of things to say on the subject…..(2 o’clock my boss is coming).


At 11:14 pm, Anonymous cheryl said...

i remember taking a group of young people away to a youth conference, and staying one night at a church on the way. There was a sign on the piano in the church hall we were using that said "Do not dance on the piano". For the only time in my life, i had to restrain young people from dancing on the piano.


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