Rules are useless unless they are enforced. Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the meaning of that simple statement. Yet society is ill-served and over-burdened by unenforced rules. So why have the rules in the first place, right?
This assessment comes after reading a news article Tuesday on the first anniversary of a deadly stampede at a Chicago nightspot where 21 people were crushed to death following a panic rush for the exits. The incident began when a security guard used pepper spray indoors to stop a fight. The panic that followed injured nearly 300 and left 21 dead.
What's amazing about this tragedy is that an abundance of city ordinances and nightclub rules were simply not followed. Had they been, it is apparent the tragedy would have been avoided.
With much public fanfare, Chicago city officials said Tuesday that they had new rules in place to avoid just such incidents. But the underlying sad fact is that rules already on the books a year ago would have accomplished the same end - had they been enforced.
The lack of enforcement is most certainly not limited to Chicago or nightclubs for that matter. Our community and virtually all others have rules clearly in place that accomplish little for lack of enforcement. It often - as you well know - takes a tragedy before enforcement begins in earnest. And equally as sad, over time those new enforcements often become lax and the cycle is repeated.
I believe we're all guilty of "fudging" on the rules from time to time, of looking the other way too often and using some odd rationale for our actions. Absent tragic consequences, we get by. In examples such as Chicago, some people don't. And as predictable as humidity in the Bootheel summers, we'll repeat this cycle until our hands get slapped.
We should either enforce our rules or abandon them and be honest about it. That applies to our community. Let's not have a "tragedy" - and that includes a decay in our community structure - before we implement new rules for new problems that could easily have been avoided had we enforced the old rules in the first place.