"All animals are created equal but some animals are more equal than others."
Unlike most people who may think the current state of our world more closely resembles George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984", I see more parallels to his allegorical "Animal Farm". The words above, uttered by the pigs, have been echoing through my mind for months.
I've been thinking a lot lately about the "more equal" animals and what they seem to get away with. Whether it's simply a matter of money and power, or this faux meritocracy that seems prevalent in New Zealand, I'm often shocked, amused, and/or terrified by the outcomes.
When preparing this column, my Google search brought up Dictionary.com: "The sentence is a comment on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to a small elite."
We see this at all levels of government — local, regional and national — but lately I've noticed an attitude of self-important superiority popping up other places. Although examples vary, the common theme appears to be: those rules don't apply to me.
Take surfing, for example, where there is a recognised code of conduct. According to surfertoday.com:
1. Right of Way
The fundamental rule in surfing tells us that the surfer closest to the peak always gets priority.
2. Don't Drop In
In surfing, the general rule of thumb is: one man/woman, one wave. In most cases, you can't have two surfers riding the same wave in the same direction.
When you disrespect the right-of-way rule, you're "burning" someone's wave and showing the utmost lack of respect.
3. Don't Snake
Snaking is a very common and disrespectful behaviour. Paddling around one or more surfers to get closer to the peak and gain priority is rude conduct.
Although all surfers know the code, those that are "more equal" need not abide: those rules don't apply to me.
Surfing serves as a great example of how one navigates life and society. After all, it literally consists of ups and downs! In this instance, it illustrates the value of codes, rules, laws, and the problems that occur when some see themselves "above the law" or "more equal than others."
Similarly, there appears to be a breed of "more equal" parents who afford themselves special priviledges at school pick-up time by parking over dashed yellow lines and parking on the verge. (ie, dropping in and snaking other parents.) Never mind that these activities put children at risk by reducing visibility: those rules don't apply to me.
I've noticed those who engage in such behaviours usually respond with indignation when confronted. When you've been "more equal" long enough it becomes an expectation that dare not be challenged: those rules don't apply to me.
Recently, I caught Madonna on a radio interview saying, "Honesty is a commodity right now, because if you tell the truth you might offend people. Because people don't like to hear the truth." I nodded my head in agreement tinged with a bit of horror. When truth is devalued the rule of law follows.
What concerns me most about this "more equal" trend is that it is extremely dangerous to environmental conservation, which will increasingly rely on the rule of law and require everyone pitching in to do his or her share.
As resources become more scarce and storms more frequent, only an effort that includes all hands on deck will suffice to meet the challenges. We can ill afford the pigs opting out because the rules don't apply to them.
Dr Nelson Lebo does not speed, park on the verge, or drop in on others while surfing.