Friday, July 11, 2008

Law and Order

The Romans were very fond of snappy catchphrases, many of which have survived through the centuries, unlike the witticisms of a Harriet Harman or Gordon Brown which fortunately die on the spot.
‘Cave Canem,’ ‘Cui Bono,’ and, very appropriately for government statements, ‘Cum Grano Salis,’ are all as fresh and relevant today as ever they were in ancient Rome.
One rather verbose contribution was: si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi: “if you are in Rome, live in the Roman way; if you are elsewhere, live as they do there.” This would probably not have caught on had not an alert sub-editor on the Forum Times seen its potential and condensed it into a rather more manageable “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” which, in popular parlance was even further truncated into “When in Rome” followed by a series of dots. Quite how this was represented in Latin I know not, but you get the idea.
The phrase, in Churchillian terms, set Europe ablaze and, by and large, with a few nasty exceptions, most accepted that it was a civilised matter to behave according to the mores and customs of one’s host.
The phrase crossed the Channel to Britain but it seems that the message did not.
Even during the Hundred Years War, when British soldiery were rampaging through France, Froissart, himself something of an Anglophile, remarked, “The British in France enjoy themselves in their own miserable fashion.”
Thus it should come as no surprise to find that many British abroad see no reason to feel obliged to act in compliance with the laws and customs of the land they are visiting.
Dubai has one of the most tolerant and far-sighted regimes in the Arab world, making it an almost crime free and secure nation for both residents and guests.
No doubt it comes as a surprise to some British that, in return, they enforce the laws of their nation. This is rather the reverse of standards in the United Kingdom where grandmothers are hauled into court for protecting war memorials against the depredation of mindless vandals and citizens are not allowed to protect their own property from state coddled yobbery.
A land of Topsy Turveydom.


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