Whence Comes Law

Yesterday, June 21st, 2015, I went to my local park. I often go to the park, but this day was different. Yesterday was the annual gay pride parade, which starts at my local park and goes to other places in my city. It starts at my park because the park has an inner ring road that can accommodate all of the floats, banners and marching ranks. I think I’ve attended the parade launch for this parade, as well as various marathons and lesser parades, for several years running. It’s interesting to see this stuff, what people are doing and how they express themselves.

This year the pride parade seemed bigger than any I’ve seen in the past. Not only did it stretch farther than I can remember, but more people seemed involved. There were more large collections behind various banners than I remembered. There were a lot fewer people watching at the park, though. I recall crowds surrounding me at the launch in years past. This time I didn’t have any difficulty moving up and down the road leading up to the exit from the park. I assume this is because most parade watchers were stationing themselves along the parade route, as it headed out onto the popular streets.

As I watched everybody getting ready, talking to each other about what to expect or finishing up last minute costume changes, I started thinking about how men make rules. Since gay people are a type of oppressed minority this is a natural thing for somebody like me, who spends a great deal of time obsessing over life’s whys, to think about.

It occurred to me that there are two sources we use from which we draw our rules: authority and causation. When we draw from authority we usually cite the bible, or some other religious text, at least insofar as we put together our understanding of how we assess our personal relationship with society. Non-religious people might cite the law of the land, receiving it as authoritative given that it arrives on the heels of a well hashed out process for determining what it says. Causation is different. It doesn’t come with a well argued structure that certain things which match it can fit into at various levels. It simply says, “I was here first.”

It is assumed that gay rights rely on causation to get that foot in the door that is so necessary in order for a group to persist in society’s mind. Few people would say that gays, or any minority, reach for their standing based upon the teachings of authority. In many cases authority is an acknowledged opponent of these groups rights.

Seeing as how I drive for a living, it didn’t take me long to come up with similarities between the order I operate under and that of the people before me. Right of way is a concept that the rules of the road require to function for traffic to flow. Right of way is all about who was in a place first, and not about only taking that place if you are from the right group – at least until an ambulance or police car comes along. If a particular car is driving down the street it is considered improper to pull out in front of it in such a way as to impede or damage it. Such a car has only the place it is in to thank for its right of way. But even right of way is subject to certain street conditions or road shapes. Man is also a political animal and tends to lay all kinds of political realities upon the road system. Right of way may often win out, but it doesn’t always win out.

So, if even right of way is subject to authority, what does that say about authority? Since authority achieves at best only partial dominance over causal action we are forced to acknowledge the two things actually overlap a bit in their jurisdictions. Does that mean that authority really comes from received knowledge? Maybe it is more normative that we would like to admit? We certainly say that secular law, after all, is normative. Maybe all authority is normative as well?

Today we are constantly being bombarded with the argument that authority has its place and that we should respect it. You don’t have to go any further than the arguments over the wearing of head scarves to see this. The thing is these arguments all come couched within texts which no contemporary person would read as anything other than arcane. Close to any passage about the wearing of something is bound to be found some detail concerning animal husbandry or possibly some detail about how to deal with trade in a system that doesn’t have anything like the complex ideas concerning money that exist today. Does that mean we are supposed to take not only the text as authoritative, but our existence in a system outside of that which the text would be relevant to as a condemnation of our system? Are we supposed to constantly repent of our modern sanitation, educational, medical and banking systems? Do you think that the point of those giving the revelations was to pinion us in that way, that the trappings that decorated their intent ought to take precedence over that intent? Could it possibly be that simply because the language and the list of objects that the language would use to get the points across was trapped in a prior time that it meant that man should always strive to live in that time, even if he had to kill vast numbers to do so?

It’s my opinion that the words of the old texts do mean something. I also think that what they mean is relevant to us today. The trouble lies with what they mean. You can hear a verse that says, “Don’t muzzle the ox while he is treading out the grain.” and hear only that we ought to get back to a time when we used oxen and that it would be nice if more of us were involved in the production of grain, or you could hear a call for worker’s rights, it’s up to you.

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