Monday, January 30, 2023

Expectations and morals

There are rules, there are laws and then there are these unwritten mores of conduct. You sort of expect that the laws and rules exist to ensure that everyone behaves in a manner that is considered acceptable behavior by Society but that is not exactly the case.

Sometimes law-makers set ideals for society to live by, even if what is considered acceptable behavior by Society is different. Take for example the system of was in practice much after the law of the land declared it illegal.

Sometimes what Society considers unacceptable is not proscribed by the law. Expectations of how women should dress, for example, has, rightly, been a minefield that the law refused to enter definitively. Of course, sometimes it is difficult to legislate for all possibilities leaving a lot of room for interpretation. And, thus, the rules and laws can and will vary from the expectations of Society about the behavior of people.

Therein comes about the peculiar behavior whereby breaking a rule or a law is seen as excusable. Break the law, it may be condoned but bely the expectations of Society and it evokes tremendous outrage. Take for example the reaction to inter-caste marriages in rural India, the so-called honor killings. To marry inter-caste runs counter to expected behavior; the law against murder is a mere inconvenience which the State has erected as a hindrance against the legitimate quest of Society to enforce its behavioral norms. THAT is the attitude, THAT is the power of Social expectations. Social expectations are seen to be 'moral imperatives' and the laws are merely nuisances set up by the Government which have to be adhered to, if possible.

Lest we all look down our superior noses on all these people who will not abide by the 'rule of law', let me give you an example closer to home. In most offices, there are these reimbursements given on certification - vehicle allowance, lunch allowance yada yada. (Or, they used to be, since I'm out of touch with current practice). These were 'reimbursements' because reimbursements were not taxable as income. Well, the LAW says that they have to be spent by the employee for that purpose and in the course of carrying out the job for it to count as legitimate reimbursement. Society, as represented by the employer, cares two hoots. So what do you think - does the rule of law obtain here?

Or take the case of this 'Mankading' in Cricket. The law says the bowler can run out the batsman if he is out of the crease before the time when he can legitimately expect the ball to be bowled. Yet, expectations so far have been that the worst he will face is a warning for backing up too far. And guess what happens? A storm of outrage falls on the head of the bowler who so runs out a batsman. As for the batsman who is actually in breach of the law, the poor chap either was not warned  or was tricked by the wily bowler or should not have been run out come what may. Rule of law or expectations?

Social expectations, no matter what the issue, rises to the level of moral imperative whether you can it 'spirit of the game' or 'anti-cultural' or whatever. The sort of outrage that a breach provokes will never be provoked by a mere breach of the law.

It is THAT which needs to be changed by anyone who wishes to change Society for the better. It is not just legislating to make dowry illegal which eradicates the practice. It is also needful to make society change its expectations.

To think that outraging on Social media and screaming for new laws will bring about a Utopian society is to assume that Social reform can be brought about by moving a petition on!

No comments:

Post a Comment