A couple weeks back a friend of mine got me high and made me watch Robocop.
It was my first time seeing the whole thing in one sitting. Being you know, high and all, I ruminated long and hard on certain mundane parts of the movie, perhaps giving them more scrutiny than had ever been applied to them before. Principal among such mundane parts was an over-looked aspect of the riot scene. You know the scene:
Everybody in town is going crazy because the cops just went on strike. The looters are looting, windows are getting smashed and its basically a big free-for-all. Funnily enough, the establishing shot for this scene pans to Emil, one of the antagonists…
…kind of just chillin’.
He doesn’t seem to be particularly violent at this point. Kinda just chillin, drinkin his Jack
. He even shudders in surprise when his reverie is interrupted by some nearby hooligans throwing a mailbox through a window. To me it almost seemed like he was exhausted by the merry-making and needed a rest. And I thought this idea could be extrapolated to the whole of a population in revolt.
People I have spoken with regarding the necessity of laws tend to view them as necessary safeguards against anarchy; basically if we didn’t have them man’s true beastly nature would no longer be kept at bay and he would be brutish and base.
But does Emil look particularly base and brutish in these pics? No. In fact it looks like anarchy has been kicking his ass. In fact it is only when Red Foreman shows up with fancy new asploeding
guns that he gets re-invigorated.
But I feel that his enthusiasm for this new toy would peter out eventually too and he would just find himself moping around looking for the next new thrill. And I think this is the point: there is no lasting appeal to chaos. So even without rigid, formalized laws we would find a certain equilibrium. And why not? After all we existed for about 90% of our hominid existence without laws and we made it here. Notwithstanding the violence inherent in life in the wild, its not like primitive man was a berserker vandal, killing and raping wantonly. So why do some people think we “evolved” specimens would falter without imposed rules and regulations?*
Lets not forget what laws are for. They are not to bring order to the chaos that would be an inevitable reality if not for their presence; they are to protect property rights. End of story. Laws are an outgrowth of scarcity; they protect the haves from the have-nots.
So I don’t think it makes sense to fear social collapse if laws were removed; certainly there would be an initial shock of lawlessness but this would be akin to loosening your belt after thanksgiving dinner: its not as if your belly would be bloated and distended forever. Neither would we kill each other en masse til we were reduced to isolated pockets of survivors scavenging from each other.
We’ve already built a society** once. If this one collapsed I’m fairly sure we could do it again, but better.
*Its interesting to think that we might falter without laws simply because our society, although ostensibly founded on good faith and fellowship, actually reinforces individualism and competition. Our laws ironically afford us a measure of protection from the violence which our society actually reinforces.
**The Egyptologist John Anthony West criticized our society as not civilization but “shiny barbarism.” Its an interesting point and worth some contemplation.
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