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Rule-based or rule-breaking?

Lloyd P. Gulston

Rule-based or rule-breaking?

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ONE MUST DECIDE if one wants a society that obeys the rules and follows instructions, or breaks the rules and chooses which instructions are appropriate to follow.

We have, for some time now, acknowledged that many in the Barbadian society lean towards breaking the rules rather than abiding by them. If we were to be specific, we could easily look to our political institutions for a few examples, or our various institutions and wider society for a whole lot more.

Rule-breaking in Barbados is common as it is prolific at its various levels. It can be viewed, for example, in the simplest practices where good work ethics and right attitudes are the basic rules for dispensing good customer relations. Or, it can be as complex and surreptitious as circumventing the rules of good financial governance for reasons other than what the rules are trying to stop or prevent.

What makes rules stringent or flexible, good or even bad, is the role authorities play in their reasoning, execution, enforcement or even creation.

You cannot have rules that are stringent for one set of persons and flexible for a next. This is simply a recipe for malevolence and querulous discontentment.

Serious penalties

Such rules only serve to widen the chasm of the great divide when their penalties are applied aptly to one rule breaker, for example, as in stealing, and justified and not applied to another rule breaker under a different nomenclature and classification as a spurious misappropriation practice that is not defined along the same lines as stealing or thieving.

Rules must be enforced and executed in a way that causes people to respect them and abide by them. They must apply to all people from all walks of life and statuses of society. They must be irrespective of class, rank, stature or creed, and the penalties that follow the rules should be serious enough to cause fear and evoke a sense of responsibility in individual conduct, based on the seriousness of the systems that support them and the people who enforce and adjudicate on their behalf.

They must also evolve to suit changing times and be amended when their purpose for today have no relevance when they were written to address matters now part of history’s past.

It is an unfortunate reality that where rules may control behaviours in one part of the Barbadian society, another part just wallows in the comfort of knowing they do not have to worry about them ever being applied.

Lloyd P. Gulston