Australia has always been known as a relaxed, laid back sort of place. A country that praises character, individuality and celebrates the weird and the wonderful. People are known to be easy-going, generous and generally hard to ruffle and any slight indiscretions are more likely to be met with a ‘No worries, mate, she’ll be right’ attitude rather than a standup argument or a psychotic rant on social media. Well, that certainly used to be the case but lately I fear our live-and-let-live attitude is being sorely tested on a daily basis . . .
I absolutely understand the need for rules and regulations. People need to feel safe, comfortable and deserve not to have their individual rights stomped on by those of a less considerate nature and although I may not agree with them all I have never considered myself to be a rule-breaker. (A rule-bender, perhaps—it would be kind of un-Australian not to be—but not a rule breaker.) At least I thought that was the case but—wow—it seems I was mistaken. Looking around at the multitude of do-not-must-not-absolutely-definitely-prohibited signage I see these days it is quite possible that I (and probably everyone else I know) have been easily breaking at least one law every day without even realising it, just by quietly going about my humdrum life. And it is really beginning to bother me. Maybe it is my age (ahem) but I suddenly find myself becoming very, very tired of seeing ‘not allowed’ every time I turn around . . .
I can’t quite remember what prompted the conversation but earlier this week we spent a very funny morning-tea happily reminiscing and relating tales (and hilarious consequences) of some of the games we used to play as kids. Among them were British Bulldog, Red Rover, Dodgeball, Freeze Tag and Scrag. (That last one I hadn’t heard of but the college manager (who is a Kiwi) assured us that dropping a rag into a rain puddle (of which there were always plenty) until it was saturated and then hurling it at your friends, was an absolute hoot . . . )
None of the games we loved best would ever be allowed in today’s school yards of course (although how a person is ever expected to get through life without learning how to ‘duck’ is beyond me). Even seemingly simple pursuits like running, jumping or cartwheeling are now frowned upon at some schools, and in NSW and Victoria swings, see-saws, flying foxes and roundabouts have already been banned. The once staple of our playgrounds, the monkey bars, have also been removed from many schools. (I know I have never had children of my own and am therefore not allowed an opinion but—really?)
Of course, children now will grow up dealing with the laws that are in place today and they know no different, so I guess this does set them up well for when they eventually become adults and have to deal with the morass of (ever-increasing) rules they will have to learn to live by.
Still, it seems a shame to me that many children today will never grow up to knowing the pleasures of playing frisbee or sand volleyball on the beach (so dangerous!) or riding a bicycle without a helmet (how all those Europeans manage to stay alive is a miracle) or, when older, having a quiet beer or glass of wine sitting in the sun while watching their own kids play in the local park while celebrating Grandma Alice’s 95th birthday. (Good luck finding a park that will allow you to bring beer or wine and please also remember, if Grandma’s family revellers number over 20 people you’ll need a special permit to use the park for your picnic . . . and don’t you dare bring the dog!)
Oh—and by then of course, everyone in their family will probably, by law, have to be wear a hat, and protective eyewear and ankle-to wrist-coverings before being allowed to venture out into the lovely Australian sunshine because, naturally, your average Australian obviously cannot be trusted to decide for themselves whether they are likely to get sunburnt or not.
Do I sound like I am over-exaggerating? God—I hope so.
Now look what’s happened. Writing about this has made me all bad-tempered and cross. Still, hopefully, sooner or later, a lot of other people are going to become bad-tempered and cross about it too and decide enough is enough with the silly minutae (perhaps we should start teaching the concept of personal responsibility again—there’s a thought) and maybe we can persuade the government to spend their time and energy (and our money) on more pressing issues and leave some of us lesser mortals to work out some of the smaller details ourselves. I guess time will tell.
So anyway—that’s my rant for this week and now I find I have only one more thing to say on the subject of our burgeoning nanny-state. . .
(. . . but don’t get caught doing this either. The Crimes Amendment (Sexual Offences) Act of 2016 bans mooning (and streaking). First time offenders face up to 2 months in jail . . . )