Punish Manspreaders, Jaywalkers, Lane Hogs: Mathew Kenneally’s Plan For Reimposing Social Order

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In Mississippi three people have been arrested for cheering at a graduation. In Ferguson Missouri a 67 year-old woman was arrested for failure to pay a trash removal ticket. In New York two Latino men appeared in Court charged with ‘man spreading’. In America, the police are tough on manners.

I was distressed, though, to discover that in my old hometown of Melbourne police booked an elderly jaywalker. I love jaywalking, and do it safely and often. From a young age I was mentored in the ancient art of “looking left and right” and “not walking out in front of moving traffic”.

Police have asked jaywalkers: “is it worth the risk?” Yes, because I know how to do it. Most of us can cross a road, and most motorists are not homicidal.

The counter-argument is it may be fine for me, a jaywalking Jedi, to march across the road during a break in traffic. But what if everyone jaywalked? How would the city function? It would be anarchy.

My response: this would never happen! Everyone is not going to jaywalk. If left to our own devices we will cross at the lights on the insistence of the little green man because it is easier, and safer. The survival instinct is strong in all of us. If everyone starts jaywalking all the time it won’t be a failure of policing. It will be because of a fast spreading virus that attacks the brain, making humans incapable of exercising common sense. Or the oil has run out. Either way, tickets are unlikely to help.

Ticketing for jaywalking, man spreading, and cheering all represent an intrusion by the criminal justice system into every day life. It reflects a belief that the law must be enforced, and the criminal law is an appropriate way to enforce social norms and public order.

But do we really need all these crimes? Leaving us to our own devices might be healthy. It encourages us to be active citizens, to enforce social norms ourselves. Not by being vigilantes, although I do like the idea of putting on a mask and beating jaywalkers for their own safety. No, we can ask people to move over on the train. We can sneer at those who do not. Sure, I need the police to protect me from violence but I can handle loud people at graduation myself.

However, if the intrusion of the criminal justice system into civic life is going to continue than I have two requests.

First, at lunchtime I try to swim. Pools allocate speeds for lanes – slow, medium, and fast. In an ideal world, voluntary adherence would ensure we all work out at our preferred pace and return to our cubicles refreshed.

Manspreading.

But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where people who are swimming breaststroke occupy the fast lane. We live in a world where, oblivious to the chaos they are generating, people doggy paddle aimlessly.

We live in a world where the people we trust to guard the pool – teenage lifeguards – look on while anarchy reins in our public pools. We live in a world where teenage lifeguards are too afraid to stand up to the rule breakers (often twice their age), lest they be accused of “lacking respect”.

So we need PPOs, Pool Protection Officers.

Is this really a serious problem? Well is obesity a serious problem?

Throughout Australia, hundreds of people are burning less calories every day because of pool anarchists. Weekly calorie counting plans are being thrown into disarray. It is only a matter of time until fast swimmers take the law into their own hands and use violence to assert their right to a high velocity work out.

We need not police pools forever. After we’ve jailed a couple of grandmothers, everyone else will get the message. Australia must make a statement that the law will be enforced on land and on water (unless the water is an ocean, and you are on a boat minus a visa, in which case no law for you).

Second, escalators. There are two lanes: the walking lane, and the standing lane. Last week, during peak hour, myself and other commuters in a hurry decided to walk up. Suddenly, a man moved from the standing lane to the walking lane, stood still, turned around and told everyone behind him to “be patient”. This malevolent act left six, possibly seven commuters hopelessly waiting for 10 to 15 seconds.

I know what all the city commuters are thinking: how is this not punishable by prison time?  What kind of person deliberately obstructs his fellow commuters during rush hour?

A dangerous man. If a man is willing to inconvenience everyone on an escalator just for the “heck of it”, what’s to stop him deciding to blow up the subway “for fun”. Nothing.

It’s about time we used the criminal justice system to improve my quality of life. Tickets for man-spreaders. Tickets for hipsters having an earnester-than-thou conversation about the Avengers within earshot of other humans. Tickets for people who get to the front of the line at a café and do not know what to order.

You had five minutes to decide on your mixture of milk and caffeine, get it right or I’m calling the newly formed police, latte division.

Mathew Kenneally

Mathew Kenneally is a stand up comedian who moonlights as a lawyer. He's a regular new Matilda columnist and is the co-author with Toby Halligan of the satirical blog Diary Leaks. He is also the co-founder of the topical comedy room Political Asylum.

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