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Discipline in Society


On Enforcement: The Golden Rule

Perspective: Culture March 15,2003

Printable Version

Freedom is a truly unique concept since in a society total freedom would have men imposing on each other. Some balance must be found. Is it a centralized power that establishes order or is it much more broadly based. Does it work from a focus or creation of a positive environment to solve many problems among the people themselves through cultural values, or does it take a destructive perspective against what it considers evil? Society is not as much based on the values of man, as on his nature. The values, once adopted by his nature, restrain and direct it or release it. All men have inner battles between tendencies. Conscience versus convenience, perhaps divides them between more or less noble. Similarly, values usually represent the customs and wisdom of a societyís experiments over many generations, so they should not be discounted easily.

There are many ways to judge a societyís evolution. An example might be the rights and opportunities for women as a test. But probably most accurate is the nature of the discipline in society. The enforcement mechanism is a key to the nature of the society. It is not just whether the rule of law exists, but how strong it is which can be judged by the values, personalities, and professionalism by which it is enforced. Does society fear, respect, or admire them? Do they have full support? Their place in the culture is a determinant of how well the rule of law works. If the purpose of the rule of law is true justice, then it is as ill served by an overly aggressive prosecutor seeking fame or an officer so determined to prove himself right and make an arrest that he does a poor job of evidence and analysis. Are they bullies and arrogant in their power, or are they courteous and professional? In their own mind they may be, but do they block traffic with their car if they make a stop showing little concern for others, but emphasizing their own unique importance! Do they obey the laws?

Perhaps the best measurement criteria for the level of enforcement are the Golden Rule of Christ or the Silver Rule of Confucius. Each of us is both an individual with rights and obligations as a person as well as a member of a group with similar rights and obligations. The security of the group often limits the rights of the individual, but where is the appropriate point of balance? In the West, law gives great weight to the individual; in the East, the culture gives much more weight to the responsibilities owed to the group. The Golden Rule is probably the best decision point is the individual willing to give up some individual rights to protect himself as part of the larger group. Airline security after 9/11, SARS, or similar examples show how this is a changing matrix depending on the times and that puts great pressure on law enforcement which is expected to do little in good times, but is haled to high bars if a problem occurs.

This requires law enforcement groups to adopt a culture that can respond quickly, but exists in such a form as to maintain confidence. A good example is the Texas Rangers. They still all wear the big white hats of times past and dress similarly. It is not so much they havenít changed with the times, as it is that they have not forgotten the culture of honor and sacrifice of the frontier. Cowboy hats arenít that popular anymore as a functional headdress, but the hat of a Ranger isnít just a hat. It is a symbol that holds a special place in the culture of Texas and sets a standard for law enforcement.

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