Monday, June 14, 2010

Funny perceptions of law...

I had a conversation a couple weeks ago with a man that is sort of a park ranger/manager of a particular place I like to go - You've seen pictures of it here before, and probably will again; a 5,000 year old burial chamber. Around this burial chamber is a rope. Yep, a to the extreme! Anyway, the day I'm talking to this guy, he's explaining to me that this rope is there only for show basically, and that they really don't want to keep people away from the site necessarily. Just groups of people, like over 30 or so at a time, they don't want anyone crawling around the thing. But, if it's just one or two or so at a time, they don't care. He told me, "When it's just yourself, sure! Go ahead and hop over...take your photos. We really don't care!" He went on to explain to me, since he obviously knew I was American, that their laws aren't quite like our laws. Our laws are meant to be kept. The laws here, well...not so much. I mean, speeding, burglary, theft, arson, general traffic regulations...yeah, those aren't the ones I'm talking about. It's more like the public notices, the "don't litter here" or "no parking here" things that really turn more like suggestions. In this case, it's the single rope strung up around a 5,000 archeological treasure that's really not meant to signal "keep out," rather, "one at a time, please." At first, I thought this guy was joking, but then I realized that he got much of his information like the rest of the world does regarding American laws: from CSI and NCIS and any reality show that's shown cops, park rangers, and any other kind of law enforcement actually doing their jobs. He went on about how strict America is compared to Ireland, which I thought was just hilarious. But, there you go...there is a sense of the menial things being overlooked here. And some are sadder than others like minors in rural areas able to buy alcohol pretty easily. The authorities don't like it, but they don't do much about it either. In someways it can be sad. I've grown up thinking, "if it says don't do it, it means don't do it" mentality for the most part...but apparently here, not so much. But, there's a good feeling to it as well...there's a trust that people are actually doing things right, and authorities aren't clamoring to "bring justice" to every infraction they see either. Either way, it's kind of interesting.

All this to show you a great photo I got the other day. Jen and I were at the hospital getting the scan of our baby when I looked up and saw this sign:

The funny thing to me is what I read into it after the conversation I had with the man at the historical site; "No smoking. And this one we actually mean no smoking. Please...for real. Don't smoke. Sorry, but we really mean it this time..." and on and on.

1 comment:

Tim Palmer said...

That is a good and helpful cultural observation. Pretty interesting.

I remember living in Taiwan and feeling so free because so many "rules" were not followed and the police didn't go around looking to enforce every infraction.

When Americans claim the USA is the freest country in the world I sometimes wonder. We like to THINK we're free when we actually have an astounding number of civil and criminal laws governing everything we do.