“It is forbidden!” Even the sound of it is, well, forbidding. “I forbid you!” Ouch! I think it may be universal that prohibition of something that we desire to have, or something that we desire to do, stings a bit. The free will that we all have bristles when we’re told that we can’t. And if the forbidding seems arbitrary or capricious, it stings all the worse. But if nothing was forbidden, if we could do and say and have all the things we wanted, we would live a chaotic, anything-goes existence. We need some prohibitions to live together.
What is the purpose of forbidding something in the first place? Why are some things forbidden? And why are others not? Why are some things that were once forbidden now not forbidden? And why are some things that were perfectly fine in antiquity forbidden today? Seems rather, well, arbitrary and capricious, doesn’t it?
What is the purpose of forbidding something in the first place? I think it’s an attempt, by a person or a group, to control the behavior of other individuals or group members. Sometimes the enforcement is fully justifiable. Don’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. That makes sense. Sometimes the enforcement is totally unjustifiable. It’s forbidden to wear sagging pants in Collinsville, Illinois. No, really, it’s illegal. Silly, but illegal.
Why are some things forbidden and others not? That’s a hard one. If it causes harm it should be forbidden. No question. Beating your neighbor with a tire iron because his dog woke you up should be forbidden. But if you just don’t like something, but it causes no harm, then it shouldn’t be forbidden. It’s illegal for dogs to bark after 6:00 PM in Little Rock, Arkansas. Apparently, dogs in Little Rock carry watches. They would have to be wrist watches. See saggy pants in Collinsville above.
Why have things gone into and out of forbidden status? Another good one. There is a law in Illinois that says you must notify the police before driving your car into a town. I think we outgrew that one. In most countries slaveholding is illegal. It was perfectly fine a few hundred years ago. I’m glad we finally grew into that one. I think forbidden status should be reviewed periodically to make sure we’re still forbidding the right things.
In the final analysis, we need to forbid some things. And we need to make sure that what is forbidden is forbidden for the right reasons. Otherwise, we run the risk of looking all arbitrary and capricious. And pull up your pants, you don’t want the cops after you, right?