The argument over legal and moral integrity of rights and etiquette

Sand trapped
Sand trapped

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2014 — From the earliest inappropriate human behavior, someone was there to point a finger. Perhaps this was Adam who cautioned Eve not to take the apple.

What is “proper,” and what is then improper, or wrong, or illegal conduct, has evolved and today conduct is governed around the world by probably trillions of rules, standards, regulations, norms, commandments, decrees, edicts, rulings, directives, and laws.

What is the origin of “proper” or “improper” conduct, and given that no-one is G-d, who has the right to make that call?

Short answer: Mostly, we know what is right and what is wrong, and we have the right to expect, and demand, appropriate conduct.

Second short answer: Attorneys are mostly in business because so many disagree about what is right and what is wrong.

Clearly, every thinking person agrees that individuals have “rights,” and that “wrongs” are to be labeled and in some manner dealt with, leastwise society would ultimately fail. In essence, we all agree that we must play nice in the sandbox.

Alan Dershowitz, one of our country’s most respected attorneys, in his book Shouting Fire postulates that “rights” come from an examination of “wrongs.” He says he believes that because we can never have anything approaching consensus regarding what constitutes perfect justice, any attempt to derive a perfect theory of rights from an ideal of justice will inevitably fail. There is, however, widespread consensus regarding perfect injustice… the Holocaust, the Stalinist mass murders, the Cambodian genocides, the Rwandan massacres, slavery, the Inquisition, and the Crusades are instances of perfect injustice never to be repeated.

He continues: rights are based on the experiences of humankind with the injustices of those societies that have denied individual rights in general and certain fundamental rights in particular.

Religion answers the “who has the right to tell us” inquiry. Atheists will disagree.

Historically, religious laws played a significant role in resolving secular matters, and this is still true in some religious communities, such as in Jewish and Islamic communities. Islamic Sharia law is the world’s most widely used religious law and Jewish Halakha is the oldest collective body of religious laws still in use and has been adopted in every field of actual day-to-day life for thousands of years.

Laws are man-made, and as such, of course, are not universally accepted. Law sometimes drastically differs from country to country, and even here in the United States, from state to state. Nonetheless, we give the “right” to legislatures, executives and judges, those to whom we place our trust, and allow them to dictate what is, and what is not acceptable.

Law is generally divided into two categories. Criminal law deals with conduct that is considered harmful to society and it provides that the guilty party can be punished, meaning taking life (death sentence), liberty (imprisonment) or property (fine).

Civil law governs the resolution of lawsuits where disputes between individuals or businesses are concluded with orders to act (sell the house), to refrain from acting (stop advertising something false), or monetary damages.

Law is not the only standard that governs us. Ask Emily Post.

Do you need to write a “thank you” note, and if so, is a text or an email okay? Do you need to acknowledge the thank you? Is it okay or is it rude to invite someone to an event using EVite?

Etiquette (the word originated around 1750 in France) is a code of ethical, social, and professional behavior that speaks to conduct in dealings with others. In other words, we are “told” the proper and polite way to behave. Merriam-Webster says etiquette is the conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life.

There are seemingly a countless number of etiquette books that tell us what and how. The Etiquette Advantage in Business, 3rd Edition; Baby Shower Etiquette 101; Wedding Etiquette, 6th Edition; Golf Etiquette 101; etc.

Sit up straight. Say please and thank you. Don’t put your elbows on the table. Most of us were drilled from an early age in proper manners and etiquette.

What happens when you leave your home?

A firm handshake is seen in some Eastern cultures as a sign of aggression.

Belching in Taiwan is considered a compliment to the chef.

Pointing your feet at another person or displaying them, for example, by resting your feet up, is considered an insult in most of the Middle East.

Orthodox Jews will not shake hands with someone of the opposite sex, while a strict Muslim woman will not shake hands with a man.

Who sets the rules? A Muslim man will shake hands with a non-Muslim woman. The norm appears to be that people in these cultures generally avoid touching people of the opposite sex who are not family members.

Don’t you hate it when you are talking and someone interrupts you? Cultural differences may produce different answers. Many believe that interrupting someone is rude, and that before speaking another should wait until whoever was talking was done. A large number of people however “grew up” in a culture where it was a normal thing to interrupt.

Alan Dershowitz, in his book Taking the Stand, My Life in the Law, relates that in his family, directness was more of a virtue than politeness, and interrupting someone was a sign of respect. It meant “I get it, so you don’t have to finish your thought.” Nobody ever got to finish what he was saying.

Conduct is certainly measured, wherever and whatever we do, by those around us. Perhaps the best analogy for correctness is golf.

Unlike many sports, golf is played, for the most part, without the supervision of a referee or umpire. The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and most golfers abide by the Rules. Conduct is disciplined, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times.

Once again, who makes the rules?

The sandbox owner makes the rules, but we all understand we should play nice there.

Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website

His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order 

Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website and “like” the concept on the Facebook page

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  • Peter J. Stanton

    The question of right or wrong has been an issue since our cave man days when the strong dominated the weak. This is our animal nature. When we domesticated animals and grew crops we were able to establish communities and rules were needed. All sorts of systems have been tried both secular and religious, democratic and autocratic. Today it seems that a liberal minority in the media defines what is right and wrong rather than consensus which has been the norm in American society until the 1960s. Those same liberals who railed against “the system” and traditionalism now seem to be the most intolerant of opposing views. That’s why we have freedom of speech. Tolerance? Sure but for all points of view. Even Don Sterling’s ugly viewpoint.

  • Bitter Cold

    The notion that equality somehow depends upon the unequal treatment of unique individuals is one of the main intellectual frauds perpetrated by the quacks and charlatans who preach from collectivism’s altar.

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