Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Breaking the rules, not breaking the rules

I was watching one of my favorite shows recently, Fringe, on FOX Cable.

This show kind of being the new millennium's X-Files (some have speculated that Fringe Division took over after X-Files Division were closed down). The Wikipedia article on the show says, "The show has been described as a hybrid of The X-Files, Altered States, The Twilight Zone and Dark Angel." So there are plenty of warps and twists and questioning ethics and physics, for that matter.

So on this one episode, the character of the genius scientist, Dr. Walter Bishop, finds an envelope in the FBI Fringe Division's Special Agent's coat. He is waiting on her to fill out a report and it will influence whether he is sent back to the (Mental) Hostpital, so he has quite a vested interest in what it says. So, he reads it. But then, he says nothing about it to her. Most of you would be thinking, "And so? So, what? What's he going to do? SAY something about it, when it was wrong for him to have looked at it in the first place?"

Well, yes, precisely so. And that got me to thinking.

Super Special Agent Olivia Dunham

Well, it is implied that to do that, to go into someone's things and take what is there's, and misuse it (that is to look at something confidential, whether it is about you or not), if you break the rules and read it, read something that was for all intents and purposes, in someone else's "possession" (it wasn't in her hand, but in her coat), then it follows that you need to follow the rules from that point forward (related to this matter) as if you hadn't actually broken the rule and read it.

So, any information you discovered, at that point, you are supposed to say nothing about it. Right? Because, if you are going to break that initial rule, then in order to cover up your transgression, you then have to follow that rule as if you broke no rule at all. Right?

So, why is that? "What a stupid question," you think. Right?

Is it?

Well, if you let them know, they know you have crossed the line of reasonable expectation of privacy. If this is a professional, especially, a Federal job, you may in some obscure way (or not obscure at all) be breaking a law. If you are friends, which they are, you have now compromised their privacy in a different way, by knowing what was confidential, and possibly embarrassed them.

Embarrassment. That, can be a killer. The one thing my Ex if anything, could not stand was to be embarrassed. She could handle a lot in life, but to embarrass her, was anathema to her. She would rather die, I think, sometimes, rather than be held up to the light of negative scrutiny in the public forum. She loved the "limelight", but not if it wasn't in the most positive of ways possible.

If you have gone into what is confidential and private, you have broken your "trust" with them. A trust of  various levels. Trust of expectation of privacy, so that is a breech on several levels of privacy. Trust of theft not being a concern between friends, coworkers, and authoritarian and subject. Three things, three levels.

I could probably go on with this train of thought, but I don't want to bore you, or waste your time further than necessary and I think I've now made my point. Whenever you step over the bounds of accepted behavior, you take the chance of breaking something. Not infrequently, many more things than you have given consideration to.

This example from a TV show is minor in the real world, the world we live in. After all, it's between characters who are friends and coworkers in extraordinary circumstances however. Where the Special Agent knows the quirks of the Doctor, of his mental aberrations and unique vision of Life, with special circumstances that extend even beyond our known Universe, and even another known Universe.

So with Walter, she might take it more lightly than if another Special Agent had done this to her. Or if her boyfriend, Peter Bishop, son of the Doctor (depending on which Universe, or in which timeline you are referring), had been the one to break trust with her. But, I think you can see both, how finite and infinite this example is. My point in the end however is that this is really no big deal. Except perhaps, to the characters in a play.

But consider, if you did this in real life, what are the ramifications to your life with your girlfriend, wife, lover, or anyone you have a relationship with? Consider if rather than reading a confidential letter, you broke a trust of emotional fidelity or, what most would consider a far worse scenario, that of physical fidelity. Let's skip going into any detail about the ins and outs of those two minefields.

So to summarize, to break one, small, simple rule, returns not one repercussion, but rather multiple, but also on various levels, with domino like ramifications that can exacerbate yet other things. In some cases, you can bury yourself under a morass of ill feelings and life events until you end up only wishing you could reverse and go back to make the original decision all over again.

So one has to ask oneself, why not just make the right decision in the first place? Yes?

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