“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~George Eliot
Sorry, George, or rather Mary Ann Evans, if in fact you ever said this, which I seriously doubt, you being always a pretty level-headed “guy” — but yeah, and by definition, it is often or indeed almost always “too late to be what you might have been.” None of us has the capacity to magically and continually reinvent ourselve; the choices we have made and the paths we have taken necessarily, and almost always, preclude turning back to make the “other” choice and take that different path. Is it possible, sometimes, to turn my back on the choice I made, to go into, say, advertising, quit that and write the Great American Novel — well, a novel, anyway — instead? Yes, that’s sometimes possible — if it’s not too late. It would be, however, the exception that proves the rule, which is that for most all of us, most all of the time, it’s really too late to become what we might have been.
I’m ruled by laws … and our country is run by capitalism. Companies have a right, and an obligation, to generate profit.
Since I have no desire to dispute that “our country is run by capitalism” — however badly expressed that may be (actually, I thought our country was “run” by a Constitution and a government that adhered to it and 50 state constitutions and state governments that adhered to those, but no matter) — or that “(c)ompanies have a right, and an obligation, to generate profit” (which is indisputably true of for-profit companies, but not non-profit companies, or not-for-profit companies, or other forms of companies that legally have no “obligation” to seek profits of which I am not aware — I’d rather speak about individuals who somehow believe that they are “ruled by laws.”
Sorry for this long preamble but until I saw this tweet I didn’t know that there were any people who were “ruled by law,” let alone a person I know, a friend (well, now a former friend), who felt (I won’t say thought since I don’t think he was really thinking when he said it) that he was ruled by laws. This surprising-to-me tweet was the last of a back-and-forth that I had started, unwittingly, with a tweet supporting Net Neutrality, one of many that I have posted over the past few years.* and to which I had then replied, admittedly intemperately, “sorry, but that’s a stupid comment; you and i are ruled by community values every day of our lives, capitalism aside.” I had intended to add some color and detail to this, but soon found that my interlocutor was no longer available on Twitter — Sorry, this account can no longer be found, or some such words from Twitter — and only later discovered later why: My friend had blocked me from responding further. Apparently the argument between us, at least on Twitter, was over as far as he was concerned. His privilege, of course, but…
Let me make my point here, a simple and, I think, rather obvious one, fully worthy of a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun: You, gentleman that you are — and you are a gentleman, otherwise you could never have been a friend — are not ruled by laws. You, like me, like most all of us, are ruled by custom, by civic and community rules and regulations and understandings, by duty, by morality, by ethics, by common sense, by etiquette, by fairness, and last but by no means least, by politeness (even when you impolitely — and stupidly –“block” me). (Or, okay, when I impolitely call out a comment of yours as stupid). Fairness et al. are all things above and beyond the law, sometimes informing it but almost always both grounding and superseding it.
I happen to live 10-stories up in an apartment building, and one of the things I never do is sweep snow off my balcony, not because there’s a law against it — although I suppose there must be such a law — but because it’s not right to dump snow on people. I don’t spit on the sidewalk, not because there’s a law against it but because it’s impolite and unhealthy. And I clean up my dog’s shit not because New York City law says I must but because it’s unsanitary and it’s not right to leave my shit in the street.
Of course, I always knew that my friend was a right-winger, although whether of an Ayn Rand- or Rand Paul-type, I never cared to inquire. But I try to imagine what kind of person it is who truly believes that he is ruled by law, rather than by custom, ethics, you name it, and the only kind I can think of is, perhaps not so paradoxically, the kind of person who really believes in no law but his own, the kind who refuses to abide by accepted tax law (I won’t pay taxes promulgated by an unjust government), or who bombs government buildings (Don’t Tread on Me), or who takes multiple and childhood brides (because, well, whatever). Whether Ayn Randian or Rand Paulian, my normally mind-mannered (former) friend is not that kind of person at all, so he really shouldn’t be saying that he is ruled by law.