I headed out to [LOCATION REDACTED] to see a show with some bands. Up first was Colonel Parmisan who did some slick looping noise and feedback. Oliver/Reeg was next in a more electronic form (which I guess is called "AC-DC") and they played a sort-of experimental-alternative rock instrumental kind of thing. Next was Autumn In Halifax who are still a strong favorite of mine … the poetic lyrics over equally-interesting electrically-modified acoustic is just the ticket. Finally was out-of-towners Deleted Scenes who also put on a good show with their experimental-alternative rock.
Unfortunately, I can't really talk about where I was because it's a secret. See there's that fairly new law that the City has been using to shut down non-commercial music events — as opposed to out-of-control house parties as it was "intended". As such, the shows are quietly announced through word-of-mouth, and only friends get told where to go.
Although it was a double feature, I decided to go late to see just Vanishing Point at Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.). On the surface, it was a simple tale of a guy running from the law in a fast car. But my take on it was that the guy — Kowalski — represented freedom itself. Super Soul — the black, blind DJ — seems to recognize this, and even spells it right out.
I found Kowalski's encounters on the road to be one-dimensional allegories where you can just substitute "freedom" for "Kowalski":
At every turn, the law is out to stop freedom.
The hippie couple gets along with freedom.
Racists try to stop Super Soul from talking about freedom.
The gay couple tries to rob freedom — perhaps out of desperation.
Freedom goes all over the desert.
The religious group sees freedom only as a malicious stranger.
The first thing we noted was there were several signs declaring that no alcohol was permitted in the park. This was not mentioned earlier and we intended on having a *ahem* good time, so our cooler was filled with quite a bit of beer and wine coolers. As such, we said nothing and quietly circumvented the rule by using cups and keeping it inside the tent. It was only because the park was minimally staffed that we — and some significant percentage of other campers (10% to 75% would be my guess) — were able to imbibe.
I imagine the rule was created to allow rangers to eject "rowdy" campers. However, it's really just a way to circumvent the inherent unfairness of a subjectively applied rule like "no alcohol abuse". The personal prejudices of a park ranger would directly come into play — perhaps as innocent as permitting attractive young women to "keep it quiet" or as sinister as searching the camps of black people for illegal contraband.
I end up stuck at a crossroads about it all. On the one hand, I think it's important to allow a certain subjective leeway in interpreting the law — after all, it's part of the checks and balances devised in the Constitution. But on the other hand, I want law itself to be, well, law — such that it defines the boundaries of permissible behavior.
As it stands now, it appears that determining which laws are "Law" and which are "suggestions" is a collectively agreed-upon and largely arbitrary process — molesting children?: no way; talking on your cell phone while driving?: only if you won't get caught. It goes back to what I said before: laws are entirely voluntary. Personal behavior is not defined by law, but it often correlates because laws — in my opinion — should codify only universally unacceptable behaviors. A tall order indeed — and in all likelihood, too tall to actually accomplish.
All I'm saying is that laws should either be all absolute or all suggestions but not an arbitrary mix.
Anyway … where was I. Oh yeah, camping.
So Ali and I got set up pretty well and spent the first day kind of lounging around. Well, that's what we did most of the rest of the time too. We did go on a hike around the rim of the gorge … a long, tiring hike indeed.
We also swam in the man-made, stream-fed pool. It was a clever dam structure in the gorge to offer a swimming area that included a kiddie section and another section that went as deep as 8 feet. It was very cold — around 60°F. I had been in the water already so I was prepared but Ali was quite shocked by it. I found that I could get used to it, though. It was also quite nice that, despite the silt in the water, there was no chlorine so it left you feeling nice and fresh.
We also spent a lot of time exploring the gorge — another illegal activity that a large contingent of park visitors freely violated [thank goodness for funding cuts so there were no rangers to kick us out!]. I particularly liked the larger waterfalls, one of which included a deep section you could jump into from a short rock ledge, and another had a blast of cool water that you could let pound on your back like a friggin' 200 gallon-per-minute massage. The stream varied in width and flow-rate, depending on whether it had cut through depths of the slate bed. Some of the deeper troughs had enough flow and were smooth enough that you could use them like a water slide. The rough patches in the slate bottoms were enough to rub holes in my 20-year-old swimsuit, though.
We left the campground once to get ice cream at The Stony Brook Farm Market (10895 State Route 36, Dansville) — a nice excursion in the middle of the weekend. Ali had accidentally booked through Monday so we got to stay late on Sunday. The place cleared out right at 11 a.m. — check-out time — leaving us with just a half-dozen other camps in sight; much different from the fully-booked state over the weekend. We got back in the afternoon on Sunday and tried getting back into the swing of things with limited success.
I was just thinking this morning that laws are entirely voluntary. I mean, it's actually impossible to force someone to do something — you can coerce them, but if they are unwilling, then they won't do like you want.
Think of it this way: it's not the law that guides behavior, law just measures common morality and codifies it. So it wasn't that people looked around at the chaos of everyone killing one another for fun and said, "hey, maybe we should make a law that says that people shouldn't kill one another", but rather that people were mostly not killing one another and someone thought it would be a good idea to write that down. The contrapositive is also true. So if someone made a law that nobody ordinarily does, then nobody would follow it. If New York made a law that said you had to cut off the little finger on your left hand, I guarantee that nobody would follow it.
Law tries to be precise to ensure that it's clear what's being asked for, but what about something like driving faster than the posted speed limit. It's very clear but almost nobody obeys it. So why not make it "everyone must drive responsibly"? Well, that's not specific enough and the law would be bestowed with very little authority by being subjective.
I guess therein lies the thing that people like so much about them: authority. It makes people feel their ideas are validated if the ideas are formally agreed to be "correct". It's like a trump-card of cheap debate, "well, it's the law". Unfortunately, it's also a very weak argument. I mean, can you imagine a presidential debate where one candidate says, "well, it must be true because it's the law". On second thought, please avoid imagining that because we're not far from that being a valid debate tactic. [Rather, imagine that both candidates get to have TAZERS.] My point is that one should be able to argue the validity of their argument without the crutch of the law — in other words, law itself has no place in debate about a law. It's simply a populist argument — argumentum ad populum as they say.
And when the authority of the law gets too big for its britches, there's always civil disobedience — which, in the context of this discussion, is simply the recognition that what I'm saying is true: laws are entirely voluntary. And civil disobedience is most effective against laws that are irrelevant to one group (often a majority [and through typo, came out as "mojority", which seems like an awesome word itself]) but directly effect restricted behavior of another group, especially when that restricted behavior itself has no effect on the first group.
But what is it I'm supposed to say on the Internets about this kind of thing? IANAL or something?