Cover credits: Coat, R58,600 from Ermenegildo Zegna. Hat, POR, from Crystal Birch. Scarf, R3,595, from Paul Smith.
Cover credits: Coat, R58,600 from Ermenegildo Zegna. Hat, POR, from Crystal Birch. Scarf, R3,595, from Paul Smith.
Image: Tatenda Chidora

Ed's letter | Playing by the rules

The results of a recent survey have apparently taken an entire nation by surprise. It says that Australians, on the whole, are immensely rule driven and thoroughly compliant in the face of a state sanction. Who knew? Their recent docile behaviour with regard to the country’s Covid-19 regulations underscored their law-abiding national attributes. Basically, Australians are lambs.

However, in their minds they are all renegade Ned-Kelly types, in bulletproof armour, jaywalking like they be hella bad. Yeah, right.

Professor Michele Gelfand, author of Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire our World, just published a study in the Lancet Planetary Health, which tracked 50 countries and showed how national loosey-goosiness versus a spot of tightness had an impact on Covid-19 outcomes. You don’t need me to tell you that looser countries had five times the number of cases than tight cultures, and eight times as many deaths. The final tally on this Covid malarkey is obviously still out, but it seems that communities with histories of chronic threat — natural disasters, infectious diseases, famines, invasions, and so on — have stricter rules, and looser groups have faced fewer threats and are much more permissive. What it boils down to is fear. Loose cultures had less fear of the Corona than tight nations. I will not mention India. Or the US.

I love a questionnaire. Give me a personality test and I will take it, quick sticks. Naturally, I took Prof Gelfand’s quiz. And it turns out I am an Australian. There I thought I was a maverick, up for a bit of chaos, drama, and general jaywalking. Nope. It transpires I am totally, moderately tight.

Sheesh. That’s disappointing. The good professor says not to worry, no personality is right or wrong. We all have our role to play. My one consolation is that I am nothing like the dodo, Donald Trump, or Boris Johnson — all pretty loose, I imagine. The dodo had an evolutionary mismatch with its environment. It had zero fear and is now totally dead. Sadly, I can’t say the same for those other two. Ancient Greek historian Herodotus noted that, “If one were to order all mankind to choose the best set of rules in the world, each group would, after due consideration, choose its own customs; each group regards its own as being the best by far.” Exactly! Moderately tight rules.

X Aspasia

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 Aspasia Karras is acting editor for Wanted, and publisher at Arena Holdings.

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