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Saturday, July 22, 2017

A STICK-UP MAN'S CODE: Creeds, Mottoes, Slogans and Rules that have Shaped America

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from swift completion of their appointed rounds" 

Coffee shop buddy Ed (I miss him) loaned me Brian Burrell's book, Words We Live By--three different times--because he thought I'd enjoy it. He was right. It is filled declarations, creeds, mottoes, slogans, sayings, advice and rules--everything from the unofficial U.S. Post Office motto to... 

Looking down the barrel of a gun
A Stick-Up Man's Code: (from a list of personal rules that were found in his wallet when he was arrested):
  1. I will not kill anyone unless I have to.
  2. I will take cash and food stamps--no checks.
  3. I will rob only at night.
  4. I will not wear a mask.
  5. I will not rob mini-marts or 7-Eleven stores.
  6. If chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by a vehicle I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.
  7. I will only rob seven months of the year.
  8. I will enjoy robbing from the poor to give to the poor. 
Other words include our Declaration of Independence and the many official documents that shape our lives... the sublime and less so.

A sign in New York's Empire Diner says: "Be nice. Don't shout. Sit up straight. Don't play with your food. Have a nice day. Take care. Don't be a stranger. Murray, call your mother." 

There is a Declaration of Principles by the Pacific Ice Cream Manufacturers' Association, Robert's Rules of Order that governs democratic meetings, The Boy Scout's code, The Marquis of Queensberry rules for boxing, ("No hitting below the belt,") A Mid-Wife's Oath, Parkinson's Law, ("Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."), not to be confused with Parkinson's Law of Triviality, ("The time spent on any item of the agenda will be inverse to the sum of money involved."), Murphy's Laws, ("Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, No good deed goes unpunished, A short cut is the shortest distance between two points,") and so forth. Every organization has bylaws and rules that govern its purpose.

Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues is there as are Sir Walter Raleigh's Instructions to his Son. And Google says "Do no evil."

The book also includes our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, the Ten Commandments, AA's 12 steps, The Chicago Cubs team rules of 1913 (which make no mention of never winning the World Series for at least 104 years), Jack London's Code, The Official Creed of Elvis Presley Impersonators International (Yeah, really), The Hippocratic Oath and The Clown Code ("No more than 18 in a car at any time," No shoe size smaller than 34 EEEE, etc".) OK, so I fudged that last one... but clowns do have their rules.

Most of all though, it has The Golden Rule stated in many ways:

"I got a simple rule about everybody. If you don't treat me right, shame on you!" Louis Armstrong said that in the 1970s. 
In 325 B.C. Aristotle was asked how we ought to behave to our friends. "As we wish our friends to behave to us," he said.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," in one form or another, is found scripturally in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. It is a moral acknowledgement of how to lead a good life.

Socrates, Aristotle, Samuel Clarke, John Wise, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Sedgwick, Petr Aleksevich Kropotkin, Malcolm X, Alan Gewirth and Louis Armstrong, to name just a few, have stated in writings and speeches... in many, many languages... in many different words... from so many ages... their expression of The Golden Rule.

It is not to be misconstrued as "He who has the gold, rules," or, "I don't get mad, I get even." These are usually followed by a hollow laugh, as if to say, "Not really."

But, really!

We sometimes seem to live more by those 'anti-golden rules' than the real thing. We have had wars forever, you know. I guess I'm feeling especially moralistic today. As a society of humans, wouldn't you think we can be better than we are?

Yeah, really!

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