< Al Sullivan's journals: the rule of law

The rule of law


January 14, 1984


So perhaps Friday the thirteen wasn’t so lucky after all.

People are angry – myself included.

Righteous Christians looking for privilege of rank and society without making the necessary payment.

I don’t mean as in military service, but in common decency.

I have a pair of maniacs living above me in Passaic, a mother with a somewhat retarded son, who blasts AC/DC day and night – both of whom think it is their god-given right to disturb my sleep, even though I have begged mother and child to show some restraint.

Admittedly, I work nights and so need to sleep by day. None the less, the boy comes home and cranks up the volume right after school each day, bolting me up out of bed better than any clock radio.

The letter of the law lists 10 p.m. as cut off time for noise – in a total disconnect with night shift people like me.

I would laugh if I wasn’t so angry and exhausted.

“The law,” I want to tell my obnoxious neighbors, “Merely restricts behavior that cannot be controlled by any other means.”

Every asshole who ignores civil discourse must have a pair of handcuffs to force them into complying with civilized discourse.

The concept of civilization does not depend on law, but on common decency.

But we have become a privileged race, doing exactly what we want when we want regardless of the impact on others, and rely on the letter of the law to set the limits, rather than what is common courtesy.

Lewis and Julie, who lived in this apartment before I moved in from next door suffered through the strange noises coming from upstairs, especially, during those times when the mother screamed at her son about how his birth ruined her life.

They have no real power, no sense of accomplishment. They do not know what it is like to run a factory or a country, and so cling to this small aspect of entitlement as if clinging to the button that if pushed would lead to nuclear holocaust.

They are silly little nobodies in a world where they ache to be somebody, and nearly as terrified on the concept of actually having real power as much as I am afraid if they did.

Some people have no hunger for power, big or small, but have some inner sense of purpose that cannot be limited by society and its laws.

I knew a man who did not rely on alarm clocks – telling me that God would wake him up when he needed to be woken up, and for some reason, it always worked.

Power – big or small – and abuse of power seem to go hand in hand, and I tend always to rebel against abusive power, regardless of what the consequence is.

I protect myself with gaul – outrageous gaul, sometimes going ballistic just to keep powerful people off guard -- such as when I went off on my manager this morning.

There are times when weariness makes normality unbearable. Rules become means of oppression

So we get hit from two sides, from pathetically inadequate managers who use rules to abuse people to jerks like my upstairs neighbor who use this tendency for governmental abuse as an excuse to follow any civilized mandate.

In some ways, my manager and my neighbor suffer from the same sense of inferiority, and so cobble together bits of personal power to feel even remotely important.

Both lack the fundamental skills needed for dealing with other human beings.

Managers – seeking a well-oiled and easily controlled machines, put up threatening notes rather than deal with problem individual face to face, an so as ruin morale by effectively blaming everybody for the deviance of one or two people.

My neighbor wants to be able to do what she wants when she wants and could care less about the social impact or that neighbors above or below her have rights as well.

Both hide behind the letter of the law because both are basically powerless – one depending entirely on the rule of law to give her authority over other people, the relying on the letter of the law as justification for what is obnoxious behavior.

My manager constantly blames her employees for things – and blames the rule book for her high-handedness.

“I’m not the one who made the rule saying you couldn’t use the phone for personal calls,” she told one employee.

Taken to the extreme, we get a lot of Jesus Freaks blaming God or the Bible for why they hate other people such as gays.

The best leaders are those who do nothing until they have to, assigning responsibility and thus allowing individuals to get credit. If a person screws up, then he or she gets scolded or more positively, told how they could have done it better.

Uplifting people’s spirits rather than putting people down.

But managers like ours are always interfering with people even when things seem to be going smoothly, because these managers need to feel important by imposing themselves or insisting on taking credit – or assign blame when things go wrong.

Michele, the manger, does indeed make the rules – so that she can feel important.

While she often sits back and relies on rules to control people, she is also sticks her nose into the mix to make sure people are doing what she told them to do even before there is an outcome to judge people by.

Ironically, she often comes in late and leaves early, and uses her position as boss to not have to do any real work.

I guess this adds to my agitation, being woken up in the middle of sleep at home by a disrespectful neighbor after having put up with a bad manager at night at work.



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