This article was first published in City Press on 12 September 2022
The Unlawful Entry on (sic) Premises Bill, 2022, recently published in the Government Gazette, ignores the common law, common sense and common decency. It is a non-sense, like so much legislation produced by the dark, satanic mills of our parliament.
Unfortunately we, the common folk, have a disastrous tendency to think that written laws have some magical air of authority, of wisdom, of special insight that elevates them above the mere opinions of their authors. Some collective has a cathartic experience on a committee, reels off a series of mindless misanthropic motions, and suddenly we have a law we must obey? Include me out.
Why do people I did not vote for, whom I do not like or respect, who happen to have received an arbitrary number of votes in an election I did not engage in, now get to tell me what to do, with all the force of law? Well, that’s democracy, you say. It's the best we've got, you say. It's how we’ve always done it. Some must suffer so that all may prosper. What rubbish!
What regulations does your local supermarket enforce upon you? Only one, really, and it's unwritten. You must pay us for stuff you take at the price we advertise. As Wal-Mart demonstrates, you can pretty much wear what you like. You can take as long as you like during opening hours. You don’t have to complete any forms, submit any documentation, speak to any manager, in order to complete your shopping experience. And they go to extraordinary lengths to minimise the time you stand in queues.
This regime of regulations, this riot of rules reached its peak during the recent Covid insanity. Petty health officials spewed forth a cascade of life threatening rules, unscientific, impractical, and deeply contemptuous of citizens' rights. Beaches, open-toed sandals and roast chickens were banned. But because they were written down, somewhere, because they were “officially” approved, because they came with draconian “legal” threats, we rolled over with barely a note of dissent.
“But a society without rules would be anarchy,” I hear you worry. “We must have road rules to prevent chaos. People would die!” The fact that people do die, in their millions, despite the many road rules, should give a smart person pause for thought. Perhaps there are better ways to manage the roads than by adding endless layers of rules? One recommendation (not even a rule), practised in enlightened countries all over the world, reduces road accidents dramatically – AVOID COLLISIONS.
Rules, even when written in very big letters on very expensive paper, do not guarantee compliance. Compliance is a cousin of consent. If I think your rules are stupid, if you force them on me, I will not comply with them, even when they are occasionally sensible. I will not consent. If you want my cooperation, convert your rules to suggestions. I might consider them, if they make sense. As opposed to a knee jerk rejection of your compulsion, I might even recommend them to others.
Ninety percent of the rules you need for life you learnt in kindergarten. Don’t hit others. Don’t take their stuff. Be nice. Be wary of strangers. Have fun.
Just because it is written doesn’t mean it's right.