January 17, 2007

Gigging the system

Should intentionally being a prick be against the law?

Woman settles case over flour-filled condoms

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - A U.S. college student imprisoned for three weeks for trying to take flour-filled condoms onto an airplane has settled her lawsuit against Philadelphia for $180,000, a city spokesman said on Friday.

Janet Lee, 21, a student at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, was arrested at Philadelphia International Airport in 2003 after police and security officials thought the flour was an illegal drug.

She was held in Philadelphia on drug-trafficking charges and released only when tests proved the substance in the three condoms was flour.

The condoms, which are sometimes used to smuggle drugs, were a joke among the students, and Lee was taking them home to Los Angeles.

Her civil rights case against Philadelphia, which had been set to go to trial on Thursday, was settled for $180,000, said Ted Qualli, spokesman for Philadelphia Mayor John Street.

When I was a kid I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. While I'm sure you'd all love to hear more about that, and how cool we all were back then, I mention it specifically to bring up the idea of intentionally causing chaos.

In Dungeons and Dragons your characters would choose an alignment, which represented their moral and ethical standards. In addition to the general good vs. evil, there was also the concept of lawful vs. chaotic. Lawful folks recognized the need for order and used order to their own ends while chaotic folks felt differently; they leaned towards anarchy as the surest route to freedom, and bristled against the rules and regulations of an orderly and structured society.

It was a fun game, and in my youth it was fun to be intentionally chaotic within the confines of the game, just like it was fun to pretend to be a wizard, or how it's fun today to dress up in your elf costume and watch all three of the Lord of the Rings extended edition DVDs over and over and over... But in reality, in our civilization, chaos just doesn't work.

Our history as a species, our civilized evolution is marked by the slow and steady march from chaos to order. We organize into families, into tribes, into societies, and establish laws and standards and ethics and social contracts. We co-exist because we all have a reasonable expectation of each other's behaviors, and it's only the exceptions that make news. Our society functions because we all agree, tacitly or implicitly, to adhere to certain guidelines. Order brings safety, and safety brings prosperity.

So what should be the punishment for an adult who intentionally increases the chaos in the world? As a very good friend commented recently, is that not the surest definition of evil?


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