The Rules: Liability, Paranoia, and the Death of Informality

The greatest impediment to my personal success has been the rules. I’m not a delinquent, not even close. I’ve never touched alcohol, recreational drugs, tobacco, been in a fight, shoplifted, had my first kiss, I don’t even have a tattoo, and so on. I have never been the type of person whom the rules should be a great burden upon. Yet, they have made it so my super-senior self can’t graduate from college even with 132 credits because I’m missing some core requirements like two of my four language classes and it is difficult to get a job without official credentials despite the classes I’ve taken, my talents, and my expertise. I was put through a nasty special education system that made many mistakes that I paid for and that largely owed to the existence of the rules. The rules should exist to ensure the safety and welfare of society and beyond that people should be free and free to help one another. Arcane regulations should not obscure common sense and if they didn’t, my life would have been and would be far easier.

                A long time ago, people left their doors unlocked at night. The crime rates were relatively low and the crimes that were committed regularly were not ones that scared people. Typical crimes for a small town or tight-knit urban neighborhood were petty theft, fights between consenting tough-guys, and jocks groping girls’ butts. Bad, of course, but not scary. Now, with the decline in community and the growth of individualism that I would largely attribute to the automobile and to a lesser extent the cultural changes of the late twentieth century, the social infrastructure was less able to socialize individuals and people became alienated. So, the crime rate increased and there were two general ways to handle this. One way was to use smart urban policy to redesign communities that would naturally and organically satisfy people’s needs for socialization and inclusion and reduce anti-social behavior. The other way was to expand the bureaucracies, especially the police, but also others.

                The idea that one could reduce things like mass shootings through urban planning is wild to people who haven’t studied social psychology but there is a reason why Iceland and Switzerland have huge levels of gun ownership and almost no gun crime. America didn’t do that and in order to keep their freedom from the restrictions of tight communities and the lack of cars that the social psychologists knew was in large part to blame, the option to turn to expanding bureaucracies was elected. To address the exploding crime rates of the 1970’s through 1990’s, everything became more bureaucratic. Also, the media sensationalizing crime more added to that. Even with the rising crime rates, street crime still wasn’t nearly as common as people thought it was. In the 1990’s, the disproven idea of super-predators caught attention and people like Nancy Grace peddled murdered coeds and raped toddlers as toxic intellectual candy for anyone in earshot.

                The institutions knew that the more checks and safeguards they put in place and the fewer exceptions they made, those super-predators and child molesters wouldn’t get through and the smaller, embarrassing, crimes would also not blemish their institution. Like 9/11 increased the security apparatus of the federal government, the fears of lower-level crimes increased the bureaucratic apparatus of lower institutions. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the public was afraid and screaming for this. The institutions became ever more afraid of liability, generally, and bureaucratic protocols were obeyed fearing anyone and anything slipping through the cracks. It was believed that through informality that criminals and other deviants were overlooked and given passes. Just like Willie Horton on furlough or Jeffery Dahmer’s first sex offense not being shared with other police agencies.  

                I was the subject of this paranoia as a behaviorally abnormal child. When I went to elementary school. Well, especially, when I transferred to the upscale and overwhelming white suburban elementary school in the third grade, the school was desperate to control my hyperness and eccentricity which disturbed them. To them, I wasn’t a good but quirky kid. I was something dark and strange. I hadn’t done anything harmful to animals nor did I have any creepy habits. Their definition of disturbing was my being aloof, hyper, socially awkward by having delayed language development and not making close friends, having odd idiosyncrasies like rubbing bumps on plastic and drawing intricate and detailed sketches, and things like that. Their solutions didn’t work. They sent me to ISS for minor infractions multiple times per week in the fifth grade, those were not for being disruptive or destructive but for not participating with the class or going off on my own and things like that. The response of the school system was to try different cocktails of drugs but they didn’t know what they were doing.

                In the fifth grade, they put me on SSRIs in an attempt to mellow me and make me more silent and introverted and thus reduce all outward behaviors and any hyperactivity. Which is an example of the voodoo they were using since SSRIs don’t do that. It actually backfired because SSRIs increase serotonin by inhibiting its reuptake and therefore keeping it in the system. This prevents the brain from inducing anxiety, stress, and depression as a response to various situations which the brain does by withdrawing the pleasure neurochemical serotonin. It also will inhibit the social anxiety that keeps people socially acceptable so there are no neurological consequences for being asocial. The result was any eccentricity they were attempting to control was made worse. In that case, they didn’t take me off of the SSRIs but put me in self-contained SPED classes thus further reducing my socialization and thus slowing my social development substantially. They did eventually pull me off of the SSRIs and my behavior improved to the point that by high school I was in mostly mainstream classes. Prior to that, they put me on Ritalin and Concerta (the time-release version of Ritalin), which had the effect of sleep depriving me and this worsening any deviances they were attempting to correct. I may have had ADHD but they were attempting to correct problems resultant from a delayed development which Ritalin would be useless against.

                Now, while the scientific illiteracy of everyone involved was a major problem, the bigger problem was, without question, the fact that the system was treating me with more fear than love. The SPED system was not meant to treat a medical condition but to ensure the annoying and eccentric people were silent and put away. The emphasis of the prosocial classes they taught was that that we had a propensity to make people uncomfortable and that we should avoid behaviors that did so. This was not done through teaching us to recognize social patterns and develop strategies or anything. It was done by listing common annoying behaviors associated with developmentally disabled people and telling us not to do them. The lessons, all of them, conveyed the point that the disabled kids were burdens on society and by my conversations with the other students (who were lower-functioning than myself), it was clear they felt like shit about themselves.

                Returning to the point, this was largely the result of a frightened bureaucracy that was easily triggered and had lost a lot of its humanity. Sure, it would stop a handful of the very few deviants who were actually dangerous but it would exacerbate more of them but more importantly the culture that it created was paranoid and thick with a viscous bureaucracy unable to swiftly and efficiently handle the issues for which there wasn’t a policy for or for whom bureaucratic protocol would be slow for and so disadvantaged anyone who needed extra help and needed personalization. This has many affects for other issues as well since the culture of requiring a topheavy bureaucracy to process issues is what leads to important solutions to issues dying in a long and inefficient bureaucratic process. The inability to, in the words of Mark Zuckerberg, “move fast and break things”. In a system afraid of breaking things or taking risks that may break things to improve, nothing will get done.

                In the last article, I spent a lot of text talking about stuff not getting done in politics and a part of the reason stuff doesn’t get done is that everything needs meticulous review and approval. This culture is a part of the reason for people not taking risks in making platonic and romantic connections. As is known, Zoomers and Millennials are the most risk averse generations in living memory. While their anxious aversion to meeting strangers and cultivating relationships may infinitesimally reduce the homicide rate, it contributes not insignificantly the drastic increase in the suicide rate which is larger than the homicide rate, by an overwhelming margin. They are going to vet any friend or partner and expel anyone who smells the least bit weird and this without using actual psychological science but purely their gut and uneducated intuition which doesn’t work, almost at all. In fact, it is likely counterproductive since often traits that feel warm and safe are the exact opposite. For instance, women often desire a man who is Edward Cullen-esque and fawning over them but guys like that tend to be possessive to the point of controlling and abusive. Like the SPED system, their system for safety is the exact opposite of great.

                The modern bureaucratic apparatus was forged from a climate of fear and maintains a culture of fear. I wrote an article a few articles back about the demon-haunted world. In the demon-haunted world, a bunch of novices with no experience in demon-slaying set out to slay demons with the primitive methods and brute force they knew. The Q-Anon people are afraid of pedophiles but one wonders if they ever thought about what actually reduces pedophilia. Intervention programs that teach cognitive therapies and are used preemptively by identifying individuals with those predilections and conditioning them into self-control so they don’t offend. Yeah, well, they’re not that sophisticated. They’re following their gut and are too ignorant to be aware of those intervention programs. The system created in the moral panic of the late twentieth century doesn’t work very well and is counterproductive in a myriad of ways. Insofar as it did work, other systems work vastly better. It’s less human and it works like crap but the culture is so afraid that they won’t risk modifying their machine. The machine did reduce the crime is set to reduce but other countries with a softer and thinner machine reduced it more and without paranoia and moral panic hastily building it. America is about the most anxious country in the world but the crime rate in France is a lot lower.

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