Saturday, 23 March 2013

On complaints

It's needed saying for a while now: you have an absolute right to complain about the behaviour of another person.  You do not have an absolute right to see that person punished if they've done nothing wrong.

Now in this oft-repeated story there are two stereotypes who crop up again and again.  We have the Grumpy Granny, and we have Daily Mail Bloke.  The victim can be practically anybody, though teenagers, ethnic minorities, the working class and the poor all seem to have a greater than average tendency to fall victim to this.  Note that the name Daily Mail Bloke refers to the mindset of your average Daily Mail reader rather than the Daily Mail itself.  Although...

Scene:  A sunny Saturday afternoon.  A bunch of teenage boys are sitting on a park bench, discussing Life, the Universe, and Everything.  Alright, they're discussing football and women.  A constable approaches...

Copper:  Alright lads, do you mind telling me what you're doing here?
Boys:  Just talking with my friends, passing the day.  
Copper:  I'm afraid we've had a complaint from the Grumpy Granny, so I'm going to have to ask you to leave.  
Boys:  But we haven't done anything, we're just sitting here.  
Copper:  Yes, but we've had a complaint, you see.  We have to do something because we've had a complaint.  
I overhear this same discussion once a week around here.  It's ridiculous that people think like this.  We are all citizens, we all have a right to enjoy our city in whatever lawful way we see fit, yet half a dozen citizens at a time can have that right impinged upon by the authorities because the Grumpy Granny says she doesn't like the look of them.  It's a joke!

Radnor Gardens, the wee park at the bottom of my street, is routinely used by anglers fishing in the Thames. A couple months ago, Daily Mail Bloke walked up to an angler to tell him that he didn't like the look of him.  The angler - quite correctly - told Daily Mail Bloke to piss off.  Daily Mail Bloke went home and complained to the council that "the fishermen in Radnor Gardens are all very rude and antisocial".  Again, the word of one man against the characters of many.  Sure enough, fishing was banned for a fortnight in Radnor Gardens.

Are we serious?  Are we as a society so hellbent on ensuring that no complaint goes unremedied that we are willing to suspend all rights to leisure time just in case the oversensitive, bigoted sensibilities of the Grumpy Granny and Daily Mail Bloke are slighted by our presence?

No, but nor will we do anything about it.

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