The human mind is wired to accept ridiculous reasons as if they are legitimate. Studies have shown that people are more likely to agree to a favor if the word "because" is used in the request. It doesn't seem to matter what follows that word. As long as the sentence is in the form of a reason, people accept it as though some actual reason is present. (See the book Influence.)

I've often used this method. I think I've mentioned these uses before, but I will reiterate to set up my larger point.

Guys tend to argue over who picks up the check after dinner. In cases where I know this situation is likely to arise, I prepare a ridiculous "because" reason that I trot out when the moment is right. After allowing the other guy or guys to make their ceremonial attempt at paying, I say something like "I'll pay today because this is the seven month anniversary of when you bought your car. Congratulations." I'm exaggerating slightly, but it isn't hard to come up with some trivial reason why you should pay. The funny thing is that any reason you offer will settle the discussion. It works every time.

Another situation in which the ridiculous reason works is when a large dinner group is being served and only half of the people have their dishes. Everyone sits there staring at their food as it cools, trying to be polite. In these cases I say loudly "According to etiquette, you can start eating as soon as three people have been served." Everyone instantly digs in. I think I read that rule of etiquette somewhere, but it's clearly a random number. There is nothing special about three. Ridiculous reasons win again.

I mention these examples because I think the world needs another ridiculous rule to solve some big problems. And it's no fair saying my new rule is ridiculous because that's exactly the point. The new rule would be this: Any land controlled by a country for 50 years straight is legitimately theirs. It's like a statute of limitations for armed resistance.

Obviously the people living in the disputed lands will reject this rule when it kicks in. It's really for the benefit of others who might be inclined to help the continued struggle for independence. Most struggles depend on outside help. This rule allows the outside helpers to withdraw without being dishonorable.

While the 50 year rule is clearly arbitrary and ridiculous, our minds allow us to accept such things as if they are real rules. So in time it might influence the inhabitants of the disputed lands to accept their situation. Realistically, if a country is controlled for 50 years, it's probably going to stay controlled. Continued resistance doesn't benefit anyone.

Consider all of the international struggles that involve lands conquered more than 50 years ago, or approaching that. The partisans need a reason to stop fighting that doesn't sound like they are a bunch of quitters. Honor is at stake. The 50 year rule is the non-reason reason.

I am aware that this rule, if followed, would sanction enormous unfairness, subjugation, apartheid, and worse. But those things would happen with or without the rule. The only difference is how many innocent people die trying to change a situation that is unlikely to change.
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +20
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Apr 28, 2009
I would like to read the book Influence. I searched the amazon.com but there are several books with similar title. Would you post it's author or ISBN? Thank you so much for your help. I personally enjoy your books a lot as well.
Best regard with work and family
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 28, 2009
Seriously, why haven't the UN snapped you up & put you to work globally? Aside from the occasional bout of verbal diarrhoea, you talk such sense that it should be immortalised in bureaucracy.
Apr 28, 2009
Unfortunately for this latest Monkey Dance routine, your simple solution ignores several realities. One of those realities is that if people are still willing to die for their chunk of land (usually there is an economic interest and political determinism tied into such resistance movements, along with possible religious and cultural factors), no silly rule will change that.

Of the outside supporters, a bunch tend to be fund-raisers and expatriates who still have ties back home. They won't be giving up - they had the chance when they left. But they're raising funds, supporting the resistance, etc.

The idea of 'having your own homeland' with 'your own culture/religion/laws' is such a powerful notion (even if it is largely a fiction) that a lot of our 6 billion people are willing to die fighting over it. Having your own economic security and your own place (or thinking you can win these) is also a powerful notion.

I hate to burst your bubble, but no cartoonist-cum-futurist sitting in his home office suggesting how to solve this problem is going to convince these sorts of people to abandon their lethal intentions in defence of what they think is their land, backed or not by any legal documenation or ancestral claim.

Frankly, as horrible as it is, the majority of successful land grabs have resulted from a potent combination of benefits granted to some of the people to co-opt them into the new regime (then they are part of the system, not fighters against it) and brutal, possibly genocidal, violence directed against those who oppose the new regime (kill enough people over a long enough period and the opposition just won't have the bodies to be too big of a problem). Look at most of the successful land grabs in history and this is the pattern you'll see. You could add in the third leg of the stool - overlay the landscape with imported population from the home country and teach everyone the home country's cultures, laws etc - that will eventually help quash out all but a last fanatical seed of pointless resistance.

So, a willingness to absolutely crush and destroy is the prerequisite. And now, you have suggested how this unfortunate (nay - horrible) situation may be ensconced in law and given legitemization under some airy imagining that this will reduce the aggregate amount of dying. Your fundamental premise seems to be that quality of life is less important than life itself - that surviving is more important than living the way one would choose to. Some people may feel that way, but you'll find an awful lot of people do not. There have been a lot of times in history where groups of people have understood that their version of right and moral has involved facing up to the prospect of death or a long, seemingly insurmountable struggle because living wasn't as important as living right.

Until you can remove that basic moral/ethical instinct from the human being (and I dare say I don't think you should even if you could), we'll have freedom fighters/insurgents, terrorists/patriots, asymetric conflict, revolutions, rebellions, etc.

Pretty much business as usual, human style.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 28, 2009
I know you've proposed this 50 year rule to provoke a response, but here's my moist robot brain responding anyway - by that rule, you'd argue that India's independence movement should have given up and accepted their fate long ago. The British Raj effectively started after the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, when the British Government took over from the East India Company, but 90 years passed before India finally gained independence. Considering that the most concerted efforts & outside help came towards the end of that period, a 50 year moratorium on rebellion would've meant they would have given up just as they started to get somewhere.

There's a similar example in Ireland. 50 years is nothing when you're fighting for your country's independence.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 28, 2009
Is it just me, or this ridiculous reasoning often used by pregnant women?

"Can I go first, because I'm pregnant?"
"I can't stay extra hour because I'm pregnant."
"I forgot your birthday because I'm pregnant."
"I didn't send you a thank you note because I'm busy pregnant."
Apr 28, 2009
I'd make that rule 80 years, because that's the average life expectancy. The people who started the problem had all die by then. No reason that the new generation should be troubled.
Apr 28, 2009
Regardless of how silly or flimsy it sounds, I doubt that "because they have weapons of mass destruction" will never be believed again.

Weapons of ass destruction on the other hand...
Apr 28, 2009
I just note that under that 50 year rule, the French would not have provided us any assistance in the American Revolution, which would then have probably been unsuccessful.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 28, 2009
"The new rule would be this: Any land controlled by a country for 50 years straight is legitimately theirs. It's like a statute of limitations for armed resistance."

Is this a super national rule for nations? eg. After 50 years all other countries must ceed claims to controlled land. If so who would enforce? Rules without enforcement are quite hollow.

Or a national rule for citizens? eg. If you have been conquered for 50 years you no longer have the right to keep fighting. This one really doesn't make any sense since they never had a right under national laws to fight. (possible exception is Canada where we let the seperatists vote on whether they want to seperate...) Why would this new rule change anything?

What would the world look like now if this rule was in force (somehow) 500 years ago?

Apr 28, 2009
Scott, do you have non-reason reason to use when browsing around a small shop without intending to buy anything? Or going into a small shop just to get a $3 item like a can of paint? I say small because nobody at Wal-mart cares if you walk in just to get a pack of gum, but small shop owners sometimes make you feel as if their store will go out of business if you don't make a big purchase.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 28, 2009
Hey Scott, about yesterday's blog. Yer right. I wasn't gettin much out of those previous comics, but today's definitely got a LOL out of me. That battery pack idea wuz great!
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 28, 2009
Your rule is no more ridiculous than how Europeans divided the New World:
"Its mine!"
"Because I got here first."
Apr 28, 2009
Is it also a "brilliant" idea to announce, quite publicly, the stupidness of the idea before suggesting it? Doesn't that just defeat the whole point!

Bah! And you think you're so shmart eh, Scotchie Boy!
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 28, 2009

Have you ever watched "Yes Minister?" It was an English TV series about the day to day life of a Minister and probably did more to explain about how the UK government actually works than a thousand textbooks on the subject ever could.

I'm asking because your mention of a 50 year rule reminded me of the "30 year rule" that our Government actually has, regarding the publication of secret documents. It was the subject of one of the episodes, and aptly showed why 30 years was settled on. It seems like an arbitrary number until you consider a few factors:

1) The Official Secrets Act is not designed to protect secrets so much as it is to protect officials.
2) After 30 years, any elected officials will probably have long ago left office
3) After 30 years, any high ranking non-elected officials (ie Civil Servants) will probably be deep into retirement or have passed on
4) Any junior non-elected officials who are still in the Civil Service, could well be damaged by mistakes from their early careers. This provides leverage for any of their rivals who are at a similar level, who can then get them "kicked upstairs", essentially given a title and promoted out of harm's way.

A great example of the invocation of the 30 year rule was Margaret Thatcher's response to questions about the sinking of the Argentian ship, the Belgrano, during the Falklands war.


During this interview you hear her say "in about 30 year's time" regarding the release of documents pertaining to her actions during the Falklands, and once you understand the 30 year rule you realise why.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it I would thouroughly recommend it. It seems like it would fit your sense of humour.

Apr 28, 2009

I enjoy your strip and the blog. Don't always agree, but enjoy it anyway.

Why the reference to a book by the Olsen twins ?

Was it to demostatate the power of ridiculous reasons?

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 28, 2009
you are a very smart idiot
Apr 28, 2009
Interesting idea, but 50 years seems much too short. For one thing, it's well within the lifespan of many of the inhabitants of the occupied/annexed country. I think it should be more like 150 to 200 years.

By the way, anytime you're in the Boston area, I'm free for lunch, and promise *not* to fight you for the check.

Apr 28, 2009
"Realistically, if a country is controlled for 50 years, it's probably going to stay controlled."

VERY hard to make a case for that statement with countries like Ireland and all of Eastern Europe (controlled by the Ottoman Empire) around.
Apr 28, 2009
I have always thought this. I'm not an expert in international law, but I would be surprised if something like this didn't already exist.
Apr 28, 2009
Why wait 50 years? Seems to me if I got my arse whooped it would be in my best interest to get over it and move on as soon as possible rather than letting a grudge fester for 50 years.
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog