"Think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of 'em are stupider than that." - Saint Carlin
In that quote lives the fatal flaw in the argument, "Divers should just be allowed to do whatever they like."
"I like diving this configuration in wildly inappropriate environments!" "That's just the way we do things around here." "But my instructor told me that's the best way to do it." "Usually I don't bring people on this dive, but you guys are special." "This is the only way of doing things, and if you do it some other way you're a know-nothing twerp." "I've got a c-card, I know what I'm doing." "It'll probably be fine."
These are all statements I've postulated on to greater or lesser extent. And sooner or later some version of "the scuba police" gets mentioned.
I realize that even in those quotes above there are interesting, subtle shades of misguidedness painted. In some ways those quotes are wrong because they're similar; in some cases they're both wrong even though they are diametrically opposed. But, as they say, the devil is in the details. The subtlety is worth being discussed despite, or perhaps because, it is the the hardest to understand.
To not discuss these subtleties (politely) can be a great loss. And I very much feel that when you are in the honest position to recognize potentially dangerous - or just silly - patterns you have a moral obligation to help the people around you break them. If you see something, say something, right?
Some people aren't going to listen. They've got their little tribe around them telling them they're awesome or they're that capable of cognitive dissonance that they can ignore any message contradicting that awesomeness. At that point, sadly, "Meh... what can you do?"
I suppose it's easier to abdicate responsibility towards the community, to trust that people are smart and good and that it will all work out in the end. That level of optimism in one's fellows demonstrates, in my opinion, a great strength of character. Which I lack.
I tend to think that people are, by and large, dangerous, barely-sentient monkeys that spend the majority of their lives one narrowly-missed crap decision that would kill or injure themselves or those around them.
It will probably be fine.
Really. It probably will.
But sometimes is isn't. And it is critically important to remember at all times: when things do go wrong in even the most benign diving environments they go wrong fast and they go wrong big.
No, I don't trust the average diver to make an informed decision on the distinction between when it will be fine and when it won't.
I trust training. I trust experience. I trust practice. I trust conservative, sober decisions. I trust the opinions of those people with more of those things than me.
I absolutely reject the "live and let live" attitude in diving. Because sometimes people make stupid bloody decisions and don't live. Then, in a wave of impressive mass infallibility, the whole community goes, "Well that was dumb." Everyone conveniently ignores the fact that if anyone had said something beforehand they would have been accused of being a narc for the scuba police.
No, you're going to instantly die if you use split fins. Or a jacket BC. You can safely dive using those things (it's worth pointing out that you can also eat soup using a spork. It's ineffective and more frustrating than it needs to be... but possible).
But when I start positing on those subtleties, or when I start getting a little more imposing about some of the things I know... I promise it's not because I'm just being a busybody because I like to be in charge of things (I don't).
It's because I actually have seen people get injured and die doing this. And I don't like it. I want to see it as little as possible.