Rules

I don’t like rules. I mean, I really don’t like rules. Particularly stupid rules or rules I don’t agree with.

Now, I’ll be clear: not all rules are stupid, and not all rules I disagree with. “Don’t kill someone or take their stuff” is a pretty good rule. In fact, the Ten Commandments have pretty good rules that I don’t really disagree with or think they’re stupid. I think they were directed at a different, more primitive and agrarian society than ours, but we coud do much worse than to follow them.

But there are other rules I really chafe under, and the worst thing is, most of these rules are unwritten. Some aren’t – there are a few rules that are on the books in my country that I think are utterly boneheaded, and the only reason I follow them at all is because there’s a virtual gun pointed at my head in the guise of law enforcement. But there are others that no one tells you about, and you’re still expected to follow. I don’t generally follow those, and it pisses people off. I don’t care, and all that really does is make me not like people. I think this is one of the major reasons I am as much of a misanthrope as I am.

As a side note – “violence inherent in the system” is a real thing. It’s just not necessarily a bad thing, if used properly. It’s rarely used properly.

An example of rules I think are stupid – always having to respond something like “well” to “how are you”. I don’t. I always answer honestly, or at least noncommittally. No one knows how to respond to that, it seems. Another rule is having to acknowledge strangers who accost you in front of the grocery store. I completely pretend they don’t exist. The fustered looks on their faces are gold, but it makes me look like a jerk. I don’t really care about that, but it’s yet another rule that doesn’t really make any sense. Why should I be forced to respond to strangers accosting me in front of grocery stores?

But, in a sense, I am lucky. There is a social cost to my refusal to follow rules, but it’s, at least so far, not crippling. I may not like following rules, but there are some you just have to in order to survive in a culture, and in my country, at least, those rules are pretty minimal and not too invasive. I am single, and I think that’s mostly because I refuse to follow the unwritten rules of a relationship. But I’d rather be single than follow stupid rules imposed by someone else’s expectations of me. So I think I will continue to be single for the rest of my life. This is okay. Not ideal, because of certain biological drives, but okay. I can deal with it.

I think, though, that this is why I’m so torn on Japan. I chafe a little under the rules of written and spoken Japanese, as they are in some ways kind of stupid, but I accept that as far as language goes, that is the nature of the beast. I can ignore the rules, and even do so willingly, but at the end of the day this will just mean people can’t understand me . That defeats the whole purpose of a language, so it’s better to just suck it up and follow the rules rather than trying to change an entire culture.

But there are other rues that are more…. difficult… to follow, for me. Conformity is, to me, the very definition of a “stupid rule”, so I conform as little as I possibly can, even in my own culture. But in Japan, conformity is very much prized. I will sometimes break rules just for the sake of breaking them, but Japanese people consider this, seemingly, the ultimate of heresies. I feel awkward bowing in greeting, so I wouldn’t do it. I don’t like rajiotaiso, so I would refuse to do it. I would choose who I used polite language with, rather than letting the social strata of the person I’m dealing with determine that. Of course, sometimes, there may be good reasons for going along to get along, but not all the time. Some of the rules, of course, make sense, like being generally pleasant and not making a mess, so I would, of course, follow those rules.

But if I think my interactions with Americans are a little strained sometimes, imagine how the Japanese folks would see me.

I think this is one reason why I’m so… conflicted… about learning Japanese. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to learn about a culture with so many written and unwritten rules if I have no will or intention to follow most of them. I guess learning about them is its own reward, but it’s not going to be of a whole lot of use to me in the long run. I don’t get along with people well, and if it means following stupid rules, I don’t want to get along with people well.

Perhaps this is a personality defect on my part. Or perhaps I’m just unusually free. Who the hell knows, really. But it just is how I am, and I’m learning to deal with it.

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