Avoid petty laws and useless officials – The Georgia Guidestones Principle 7

Avoid Petty Laws and Useless Officials. Pause and have think about this for a minute. Try breathing in and then out, slowly… what an interesting idea.

Following on from last week’s post about Vogon Planners and a local council, I’ve had my very own encounter with petty laws and useless officials (an unjustified parking ticket) so this feels very relevant.

“Avoid petty laws and useless officials” is the seventh of ten principles  which are inscribed on the Georgia Guidestones which are located in Elbert County, about 90 miles from Atlanta.

The Guidestones have been described as the American Stonehenge, obviously by someone who’s never been to the real Stonehenge or Avebury or seen any of the Neolithic structures we have ‘just hanging around in fields’ in Wales (see later).

The Guidestones are a fairly controversial structure, here’s few highlights to whet your appetite:

  • They were erected in 1980 just outside Elbert, Georgia;
  • They are exactly 18 feet tall made of Georgia granite;
  • There are six slabs weighing more than 14 tons. One slab stands in the center, with four arranged around it, and are topped with a capstone;
  • A message consisting of a set of ten guidelines or principles is engraved on the Guidestones;
  • The principles are engraved in eight different languages, one language on each face of the four large upright stones;
  • Moving clockwise around the structure from due north, these languages are: English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Russian; and
  • The stones are astronomically aligned… uh ho… there’s something going on here… tin foil hat alert!!!!

I did say they were controversial. If you are into conspiracy theories, there are plenty linked the Georgia Guidestones. The ‘theories’ are as much to do with the ‘principles’ the Guidestones promote as the ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ they arrived in Elbert.

I’m not going to list the ten principles, have a look at the illuminating Georgia Guidestones entry on Wikipedia. The interesting stuff is who built them?  Nobody really knows. If you fancy digging a bit deeper into a conspiracy theory around them; have a read of Brian Dunning’s skeptoid blog.

Avoid petty laws and Useless Officials. On the surface this is really attractive idea. But as usual it’s far easier said than done. A massive challenge a local level (*wave* to the Parking Enforcement Officer who ticketed me – you know who you are!) let alone worldwide.

Interestingly I’ve recently observed discussions around rules and principles for the use of social media in organisations. There is a strong tendency to develop rules based on risk avoidance and to ‘over regulate’. This seems to be at the cost of focusing on how the organisation could use social media to make things better. Petty rules enforced by useless officials?

Discussions have ended on the point that, if lots of (pointless) rules were imposed, the best the organisation could expect to get was compliance with the rules. On top of this they probably wouldn’t even get compliance as people always find ways around rules they think are pointless.

This article from the New York Times shows how students have thwarted the bans on Facebook in schools. I blogged about this topic a while back in stop the social media arms race in schools.

However (in my dreams), if organisations trusted people a little bit more, this would help to create an environment where people are engaged. This might even get a bit more commitment to the organisations aims. Surely an organisation where people are engaged and committed has got to be better than one where they are forced to be compliant with rules the think are pointless?

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. We could all do with fewer, petty laws and useless officials.
  2. Trusting people to do the right is fundamental to achieving this situation.
  3. Trying this with the use of social media in organisations could be a good test and a way of building up trust.

If anyone is interested… Here’s a lovely image from one of the Neolithic structures we have ‘hanging around’ in Wales. This is Bryn Cader Faner (The Hill of the Throne with the Flag). Pretty impressive after 2000 plus years of sitting on a hillside. It would have been even more impressive if it hadn’t been used for target practice during WW2… (sigh!)

Image Source: Mark Simmonds via Google Maps https://www.google.com/maps/place/Bryn+Cader+Faner/@52.8982125,-4.0113643,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipNjJbDVMrnL6Xuam_xT3G0G96W08hadBMIbQ7zr!2e10!3e12!6shttps:%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipNjJbDVMrnL6Xuam_xT3G0G96W08hadBMIbQ7zr%3Dw152-h86-k-no!7i5312!8i2988!4m5!3m4!1s0x4865741b5c52f8cd:0xed0ca9f5a720216d!8m2!3d52.8982125!4d-4.0113643#

Georgia Guidestones image source: Wikipedia. Dina Eric – https://www.flickr.com/photos/viryakala/15396415432/in/album-72157647773659459/

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here: https://whatsthepont.com/churchill-fellowship/

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