12 Jun 2020

Photo by Atharva Tulsi on Unsplash

The New Rules

Our world is changing, Karen.

Change is difficult. Change is scary. Change is inevitable and necessary. Society’s rulebook is now in the midst of a major rewrite, and that is a good thing. Someday we might reach the other side as better humans on a better planet. Some of the rules have been theoretically in place for a long time, but people are only just beginning to notice that we should actually follow them and that there are consequences if we don’t. Some of the rules are not yet widely accepted, but they are inescapable. One day they will be entrenched and taken for granted.

Right now there is a massive backlash against changing the rules. This is why we have Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Jair Bolsonaro. People, particularly older, white, male people, are afraid of doing things differently, especially when they believe the current methods are working out so well for them. I think the truth is that the current system is not actually working out for anybody. The very few who are presently winning the capitalist game are also fixated on maintaining their positions and are broadly detested. Do you think Donald Trump is a happy man?

New knowledge and widening understanding mean that humanity cannot help but evolve in the end. Gradually, we progress towards improving life for all people and the Earth which sustains us. This can only be truthfully perceived as a positive development. There are many new rules in various stages of acceptance, but here are a few of the most important ones, in my opinion.

1. Police can’t kill black people.

It seems as though it should have been a strictly enforceable rule for a very long time, but apparently not. This is one of those which many seem to finally realise that, as well as being written in law for hundreds of years, now must be actually followed. As U.S. states disband police departments and create new regulations, we can hope this rule will become more than a suggested guideline.

Here in Australia, we are even further behind. After a government inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in police custody in 1991, not one officer has ever been criminally convicted in relation to the 437 such deaths since then. On the very same day as huge nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, a 40-year-old Indigenous man died in a prison near Perth. This will change. Police will be held accountable for their choices and the sooner it happens the better.

2. Men can’t rape women and children.

Again, you would think this would be one of the central tenets of civilisation, but it is only in the past few years that we have discovered that this rule might also apply to men who are rich, powerful, famous or priests. Only recently we have acknowledged how extremely rare it is for victims to make false accusations.

It’s been an uphill battle getting these rapists to be held accountable in any way, much less put behind bars, but finally a few of them have been safely locked away. Eventually, it will become a generally acknowledged standard that sexual abuse cannot permitted by anyone, irrespective of how they might spend the rest of their time.

3. Humans can’t burn fossil fuels.

Many may find this one harder to take, but it is 100% necessary if we want our species, as well as all the others, to survive on this planet in the coming decades. We do want that, don’t we? In the next thirty to sixty years, we do not want a world which is continually ravaged by natural disasters, where much of the land is uninhabitable and unable to be farmed, where large sections of the population are displaced and searching for somewhere to live and where drinking water is a scarce commodity. 

Nobody seriously wants that, and the only way to avoid it is to rapidly transition to using only renewable energy sources. Every year it becomes clearer that we must leave the remaining coal, oil and gas in the ground. The alternatives are here. Even if they’re not yet perfect, we must make do because the climate breakdown scenario is unthinkable. The sooner we accept this, the greater chance we have of maintaining some kind of liveable world.

4. Humans can’t eat meat every day.

Sorry, but it’s true. Not only does meat production contribute to 14.5% of human-made greenhouse gases, but its effect on land use, water use, water pollution and biodiversity loss mean that it is simply not possible for humans to continue at our current rate of consuming animal products.

Last year a U.N. report stated that without a significant global shift to a plant-based diet, attempts to preserve food security and stop runaway climate change would not work. Basically, the less meat we eat, the more possibilities we have to survive this century on Earth.

5. One person can’t become excessively rich or poor.

Even billionaires agree that the present levels of wealth inequality are ridiculous. In 2018, an Oxfam report revealed that 26 billionaires owned more than 50% of the world’s population. This money is not trickling down and the wealth of the 3.7 billion poorest people is not increasing.

Apart from causing growing anger and social unrest, this disparity is not even economically sustainable. The billionaires cannot make money from their products or services without a large pool of people who can afford to buy them. Bringing people out of poverty improves all aspects of society, including health, crime rates and environmental protection. It is absolutely necessary for our quality of life.

Maybe you think some of these rules are too much: that they infringe on your personal freedoms or represent political correctness gone mad. Maybe. In the past people believed they had the right to own slaves, to kill people for being gay and to test nuclear weapons on populated Pacific islands. I think these rules are just a tiny foretaste of all the future ways we will discover to become better humans.

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