11 March 2010

Can you fix stupidity with regulation?

No, you can't.

I don't know why, but people think that you can. Or probably more accurately, they are afraid that they'll get sued if they don't mitigate every possible act of stupidity that the public's infinite diswisdom can think of.

Someone was killed last year in Brighton after getting into a wheelie bin drunk and then falling asleep. A refuse lorry came along, emptied the bin, and he was promptly crushed to death, his body later found at a waste transfer site.

While this is tragic for the individual and his family, the 'revised guidelines' that have been issued for waste collectors are just absurd. Commercial wheelie bins will now have to have locks on them, and where possible they will have to be kept away from public areas. This won't stop people climbing into public (i.e. not commercial) wheelie bins of course, or the large and very comfy looking communal bins that feature on hundreds of streets in Brighton.

Why must we do this in response to every random act of stupidity? Yes, the guy made a mistake, he was drunk and it was raining, and it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It's tragic that the bin happened to get emptied the following morning before he woke up. But it was a one off, stupid mistake.

If people are stupid enough to sleep in wheelie bins, then the responsibility for what happens to them lies with them. You can't devise regulations to cover every possible eventuality, and nor should you have to. Just the reporting in the media of what happened to this particular man should be enough for people to think twice before setting up home in a bin.

What will be next? You can't put broken glass in your bin, someone might climb in it and cut themselves. You can't throw rotten chicken in the bin, someone might come along and eat it; you must write "Warning, this chicken is not for eating" on it in biro, and THEN you can throw it away*.

Honestly, the complete lack of personal responsibility that we have today frightens me. Someone wrote on Twitter yesterday "Had an accident that wasn't your fault? Well suck it up and put it down to experience". I couldn't agree more.


* UPDATE Following publication of this post, I have been informed by someone who works at a well-known chain of shops that they are indeed told to pour blue dye over any waste meat before they throw it away. We're doomed, we are ALL DOOMED.

1 comment:

Urban Cynic said...

I couldn't agree more - when you buy a packet of cashews with 'this product contains nuts' written on the side you know something is wrong.

I remember years ago seeing a serving suggestion on the side of a tub of marg, the suggestion was that you might opt to spread it on some bread... there was even a diagram.

I remember the wheelie bin fella & it was a shame but ultimately an accident. He won himself a Darwin award just like every smoker in the country. You can't pander to every idiot on the planet - we'd be here all day!