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Creating Civility?

Years ago, we moved to Panama to start a charter fishing business. One day while tinkering with our boat in the front yard, a scraggly looking guy showed up on a motorcycle. He told me he had ridden his 350 Suzuki from Montauk NY to my front yard, en route to Ecuador, where he would meet up with his girlfriend. He naively asked me about crossing the Darien frontier without knowing anything of the Darien frontier. (I wasn’t amused) I informed him, there is no road through to South America from Central America, hence the name Darien Gap. Visibly flummoxed he gets around to asking if he could spend a night so that he could ponder his next move. We reluctantly allow him one night. He declines a bed in the guest room preferring the floor in the sunroom where he spends the afternoon sitting in a lotus position apparently pondering his next move. Just before dinner he informs us that he is a vegetarian and a teetotaler, body being a temple and all that. Betsy serves fish stir fry and rum and cokes. Later, drunk and bits of the nights meal caught up in his beard, his John Lennon glasses skewed on his face he tells us “This…is sooo goood.”

Our guest tells us he had joined a commune many years earlier that evolved to be the largest commune in the country. In its inception the commune had a set of rules based on a philosophy of “live and let live”, common courtesy and pulling your own weight. As more people arrived the rules grew, from a paragraph to something the size of a small phone book. Many of the rules addressing individual sensitivities and behavior in general. Live and let live no longer sufficed. Along with the rules the commune suddenly morphed into two separate entities. (Republican/Democrat?) The council meetings became contentious, uncivilized and decidedly un-commune like. It seems that legislating behavior in the name of creating civility often has the opposite affect.


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