The Rule Circle – 3 – Taking Advantage.

Low-level predators such as cock-roaches are not the only people who straddle the Rule Circle, although perhaps they are the only ones to do so deliberately. There are plenty of people who do the same, consciously or unconsciously, by demanding certain social privileges while breaking social rules.

Now, I’m using “privilege” in the traditional sense of the word: – “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”. A privilege is NOT a right. It is not universal. It is granted to members of our society by our society. It can carry social obligations as well as benefits. In order to secure that privilege, there may be standards of behaviour one is expected to adhere to.

The classic example is the verbally or even physically abusive women who demand to be treated “like ladies”. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that “being treated like a lady” is a privilege. “Being a lady” requires one to subscribe to certain social standards.  If a woman not only fails to meet those specific standards, but does not even come close to the bare minimum required for standard social intercourse, people may refuse to treat her special.

Although we’ve probably all seen a specimen of the above sort, there are plenty of other types who engage in similar behaviour. Any label that awards anyone any kind of special treatment can be misinterpreted by some as giving them carte blanche to break social rules with no repercussion.

In my old job, I lost count of the times I got called out to deal with situations where elderly people had been verbally abusive or even violent towards teenagers, didn’t get the result they wanted, and then felt they had the right to call the cavalry because the kids “were being disrespectful”. Shock, horror, people may not feel inclined to respect their elders when those elders are behaving like louts. “It all started when they hit me back” is not a good way to start a complaint to the authorities.

My current favourites are the people hiding behind the “customer is always right” motto. They will scream, swear, have tantrums, and generally act like overgrown toddlers in an attempt to get some kind of special treatment. Unfortunately for us all, in a society where most people are employees, tasked with keeping customers happy as their first and foremost consideration, that kind of strategy works all too often. Alas, I’m self-employed. While I’m forbidden by law to discriminate, I can be discriminating: the customer might be always right, but nobody is my customer until I decide they are. Watching horrible people absorb that fact makes me feel all warm inside. Yes, it costs me money, but not having to deal with them twice is absolutely worth it.

I personally find this kind of behaviour either aggravating or entertaining, depending on where it’s aimed at. However, it is also dangerous. There are plenty of people out there to whom a slight is just cause for a punch in the face (or worse), after all.

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