An oasis of civility

Amid society's chaos, there still are places where rules are revered

Our society today almost celebrates a lack of rules. And we see the results on our streets.

Our driving shows it. Basic courtesies such as signaling our turns and yielding right-of-way or maintaining one’s lane are but guidelines, if that. The attitude of many drivers seems to be twofold: 1) laws don’t pertain to me and 2) whatever you do, inconvenience others before yourself.

Even our marketing slogans show it, telling us over the years to “Just do it” or that there are “no rules” and that the customer is always right.

The Internet is rife with videos and stories of “flash mobs” – groups of unruly young people – overwhelming stores and shoppers and simply helping themselves to free items off of store shelves. This week, two separate street mobs in Philadelphia erupted into brawls. In one involving some 200 youths, 14 were charged with crimes; in the other, involving up to 100, an 18-year-old bystander was shot and killed.

The legacy of the ’60s seems to be that if you require anything of anyone – that they adhere to any kind of rules, for instance – you’re being uptight and need to chill.

“The generation coming of age in the ’60s rejected the old standards without a thoughtful replacement. They wanted no rules limiting their behavior. Their slogan was ‘If it feels good, do it,’” Gary Horne wrote in an article last fall titled “A Society Without Rules.”

“The influence of this anti-rules generation have spread throughout society – the universities, the media, the entertainment industry, and the courts. From these positions, they pressure the rest of us to not only tolerate, but give legitimacy to whatever they want to do, even behaviors we find repugnant or immoral.”

Indeed, voters and the media seem to be saying more and more that in our politics, at least, nothing matters anymore. As we’ve noted in recent editorials, disgraced and scandalized politicians who formerly would’ve been out of the game all together now just simply are put in a kind of time out. Then, after just a few years or even months, they’re welcomed back with open arms as if nothing ever happened. As if nothing matters.

Then there’s the Augusta National Golf Club and the game of golf.

In a society that increasingly takes a dim view of rules, the Masters is an oasis of order. In a time in which nothing seems to matter, at Augusta National, everything seems to matter.

The grounds are immaculate. The grass is mowed in a certain way. The blades of grass seem to exude a quiet dignity. We suspect even the birds in the trees have badges.

The patrons, while treated warmly, are expected to abide by the rules – which include no cell phones or beepers, no running and so on. Why, even on the grassy hills you’re expected to at least be up on an elbow, not lying on your back. It’s unbecoming.

Outside the grounds, you’re expected to obey the prohibition against buying or selling badges. People have gone to jail for it – which undoubtedly is a shock to the system, when so much of society pretends to enforce rules but does not.

The game of golf, too, is its own stickler for rules. Three years ago, golfer Brian Davis touched a marsh reed in his backswing during a playoff at the Heritage tournament in Hilton Head. He proceeded to voluntarily impose a two-stroke penalty on himself that cost him the championship.

That’s the definition of integrity. That’s the very soul of ethics. That’s the essence of reverence. It’s following the rules.

It may be an example of the extreme – but we’re seeing an example of the other end of the spectrum elsewhere in society. Which would you choose?

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon