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Monday, July 31, 2006

 

Zero tolerance

Every so often the press have a go about yobs on the streets and zero tolerance policing. Well, excuse me if I don’t join in. Zero tolerance means every law, including littering and parking rules is enforced fully and without mercy. Spitting on the floor – that’s an offence, as is riding your bicycle on a footway, letting your dog take a dump and not pick it up for disposal – that too. All offences under the laws of England. Add to that common assault (Which can be committed merely by tapping someone on the shoulder), behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace (Being a bit loud and too full of the party spirit), etc. They are all offences under statute. Never mind about the serious stuff.

Now let’s take a few moments to think about how many times each and every one of us has broken a law in the past week. Not sure? Don’t spit? Of course not, filthy habit. Littering – Perish the thought. Ride a bicycle on the pavement – don’t have a bicycle. Exceed the speed limit even by only half a mile per hour – Who me? Parked beyond due time on a restriction – No? Uttered an opinion which might be construed as sexist, racist or prejudiced against any number of ‘protected’ minorities – Even by allusion? There was once even disciplinary action against a teacher in the early 1990’s for having allegedly used ‘Racist body language’. Not to mention accusations that Police Officers were guilty of the same. Pardon the paucity of links, but a lot of this stuff doesn’t get posted on news sites.

If passing laws could make a difference the world by now would be a utopia. Just passing laws alters nothing; it just means that the mesh of the sieve gets thinner and thinner. To enforce them the Lawyers and politicians will demand more enforcement of the petty stuff, more Parking Enforcers, more speed cameras, more CCTV. In the end almost all of us will be unable to avoid being criminalized.

My point is that we need a certain tolerance, but that a line in the sand has to be drawn somewhere. From my point of view this is down to the initiative of the individual enforcer, where this is allowed. Personally I draw the line that if they can drive away before the ticket is printed off – I can’t do much about it and perhaps the person concerned will be more attentive to the lines and signs next time. I hope. I also hope that we don’t get so cussed crowded that the lines and signs have to spread. Firstly it means I have more ground to cover in the same time (Honestly, at the current rate of increase I’ll have to jog to cover my allotted beats), and secondly it means a little less freedom for everybody. Which is a shame really. We all need a few rules but we as Humans need the space which moderate freedoms afford or we can’t function fully as sapient beings in a relatively free society.

In the words of T S Eliot from the final lines of his poem ‘The Hollow Men’
“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.”

Excuse me, I’ve just watched the DVD of V for Vendetta and I’m feeling a little melancholy.

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Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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