Monday, 16 July 2012

Come on you New Puritans, lighten up and let people live a little?

The world now knows just how annoyingly officious British authorities have become:

E-Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt also took to Twitter to express his outrage. He said the stars had planned a final encore number before the sound was cut off.

The 61-year-old said: 'One of the great gigs ever in my opinion. But seriously, when did England become a police state? Is there just too much fun in the world? We would have been off by 11 if we'd done one more. On a Saturday night! Who were we disturbing?

This was a big deal but we’re pointing the finger at the wrong target. The truth is that, had Westminster Council allowed the event to run even a minute past the allotted finish time – the licence – that killjoy with a stopwatch somewhere within earshot of Hyde Park would have been on to them threatening action.

We have become the antithesis of ‘live and let live’, a nation of nosey parkers, busybodies and fussbuckets. Too many people are ready to point out every last minute infringement – just so long as it’s done safely by ringing up (or these days e-mailing) the authorities.

We seem unable to allow other people to have a modicum of pleasure. Youngsters making some noise in the town square after a good night? Binge drinking – get it stopped! Introduce curfews, ban outside drinking – whatever it takes get them away from where they might (just might) offend our ears or eyes.

A karaoke night at the local round the corner on a warm summer night (oh, for one of those) – a few folk stray outside for a smoke or perhaps a snog. And we’re on to the authorities about the pub’s license the next day. How dare these people enjoy themselves in my presence?

Or the wedding party at the club – good times, dads dancing, uncles getting a little drunk and cousins simpering over the best man. And children running around getting under everyone’s feet, wallowing in the excitement of staying up late. Nine o’clock arrives and our busybody is complaining - the licence says no children after 9pm.

Everywhere I look, I see fun being spoiled by our inability to let others live a little. We seem unable to tolerate a few minutes inconvenience so as to allow others to celebrate. We’ve forgotten that urban places – and we most of us live in urban places – are sometimes noisy. And we seem to believe that licensing – the exercise of mostly pointless control – is the way to proceed.

I recall, on one of those warm summer evenings, sitting outside a nice bar on Street Lane in Leeds only to be ushered inside at eleven “because of the licence”. So fifteen or so (anything but young) people dutifully traipsed inside, finished our drinks and then went home. Our pleasure was curtailed because some official in that big wedding cake building in the middle of Leeds, backed up by councillors and urged on by fussbuckets had decreed that drinking outside a quiet bar in the posh northern suburbs of the city represents the precursor to drunken violence, mayhem and chaos (and might be a little noisy).

Can’t we arrive at a place where we no longer have the officious enforcement of arbitrary time restrictions and move instead to a place where we agree reasonable behaviour? A world where every now and then it’s OK for a few (hopefully well-behaved) children to remain after nine? Where a group of no longer young folk can sit outside a bar after eleven on a warm evening (when they’re doing no-one any harm)?

And where thousands of people who’ve paid a lot of money to watch a concert (and aren’t about to riot) get to see the full set because someone’s seen sense and allowed the band a little bit of leeway on finishing time.

But I guess this won’t happen. It seems the new Puritans have won. And we are a worse nation for it.


1 comment:

Simon Cooke said...

Posted for NiteOwl who has phone problems!

The Problem is something called "legalism" it was once part of religious law but now its part of secular law too.

Its the idea that you shape human behaviour through rules, laws, regulation and such.

Thats not what the law is for, its to tell you where the boundaries are and state the punishments for crossing them.

Thus the twerps who killed the lights in this case were trying to shape the behaviour of people at future concerts. Instead of letting things go, writing off a warning or maybe slapping on a token fine.

Labour are also a great example of this trend. They blame everything on the regulation "the moral code was not followed, not us guv" they make no distinction between governance of rules and rules. The rules are the end in themselves, the moral absolute.

This is not a left/right thing totally, its a symptom of the orange grove theory of history.

We got rich and we got stupid. Evolution and mother natures way of keeping us in check.

Hope all that makes sense?