Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A matter of degree

I note that the NSPCC is shoving its oar in again; apparently we want retailers to impose a no-smacking ban in their stores. Brilliant. There's no need for smacking so lets stop it now. As with so much today I note the omission of a certain detail - let's pretend you're in one of these no-smacking stores with a child 2 years of age. He spots something on a shelf he wants, which you've walked past. He starts screaming and throwing a tantrum. What do you do?

a) Go back and get it - what a good life lesson, scream hard enough and you'll get what you want.
b) Ignore him he'll get tired - so now you're carting a screaming kid around the store, getting embarrassed and getting dirty looks from other shoppers
c) Threaten him with punishment - not going to work unless it's a big punishment "Can't go to the birthday party" type big. Kids this age have short-term memories in both directions.
d) Discuss logically the advantages and disadvantages of getting this product, feel free to reference Socrates and Plato - yes I'm joking.

Pain is an easy lesson to learn and it normally works. So long as it's a one-off, so long as it's not repeated frequently and so long as it isn't too hard.

So why are the NSPCC on the case? Who's complaining about parents smacking their children? Sure there's a difference between smack for being naughty and a smack because daddy's getting fed-up with your behaviour, but you can't paint over that with such a broad brush.

Once again another attempt is made to remove decision-making from people individually and apply it to a society, the trouble is that removes the need to feel responsible for events too.

With that note I'll talk about the forthcoming ban on smoking in enclosed places coming into force in July. It's a ****-up, no really it is. I'll carry on the theme in that it removes a decision from people. Now I don't smoke, but I was brought(dragged)-up in places that had lots of people who did so it's something I'm used to.

So here's the deal - you visit a place where they smoke, you don't like it you leave. Enough people leave, the place makes less money and the owners will voluntarily make it a no-smoking area; no law required. If it makes money then the people in there obviously don't mind so you're only truly inconveniencing them.

So onto one of the major ****-ups. As per the law by default enclosed places will be no-smoking, and yet owners of such places will need, of their own accord, to put up signs telling people this. Failure to do so constitutes an offence and is punishable with fines. Perhaps I should also put up a sign telling people that they can't ride their motorbikes/cycles/mopeds in here as well. 'No naked people allowed', 'No guns", "No snakes" hey it just says no dogs. These are all the things we take for granted, they're the ground state, the default. So why, if you should be assuming that this enclosed area you're heading for is no-smoking, should you need to put up no-smoking signs?

Finally I don't object to smoking in enclosed areas, I object to smoking in non-enclosed areas. Watch people smoke, in an enclosed area if they're sitting down the cigarette (or whatever) is kept on the table, standing up at a bar it's on the bar. Standing up elsewhere it's hanging down by their side, but if they're doing this the area is normally busy and people react differently, they move out of the way. Compare that to people smoking outside, standing still in groups they're like those standing up indoors, but they expect you to go around them. If they're moving then the cigarette (if not in their mouth) is in a hand hanging by their side.

Take a young child and stand them next to an adult. Where does the hand of the adult reach on to on the child, about head height. Now have lots of adults smoking outdoors and send in children who have a habit of not looking where they're going. Between the chances of catching something from the inhalation of second-hand smoke or blinding a kid, why are we concentrating so much on the former?

Before anyone takes umbrage, I know it takes a while and prolonged contact to set fire to something with a cigarette, and you'd have to be really unlucky to happen to catch one in the eye; but as risks go it's got to be comparable to second-hand smoke inhalation. Yet not a peep from the anti-smoking brigade or the government.