By Jeremy Clarkson (TimesOnLine)
As we know, one man once got on one plane in a pair of exploding hiking boots and as a result everyone else in the entire world is now forced to strip naked at airports and hand over their toiletries to a man in a high-visibility jacket.
In other words, the behaviour of one man has skewed the concept of everyday life for everyone else. And we are seeing this all the time.
Last month a Birmingham couple pleaded guilty to starving their supposedly home-schooled daughter to death. Now, of course, there are calls for parents who choose to educate their children at home to be monitored on an hourly basis by people from the “care” industry, and possibly to have their toiletries confiscated.
Then we have calls to ban sexually provocative pop videos from the television until 9pm and put Loaded magazine on the top shelf. Will this prevent teenage boys from seeing girls’ breasts? Well, whoever thinks it will has plainly never heard of the internet.
We see the same sort of overreaction to paedophilia. Just because one man in your town likes to watch schoolgirls playing netball, you must apply for a licence if you wish to take a friend’s kids to school in the morning. And I now run the risk of having my camera impounded by the police if I take pictures of my children playing on the beach.
Likewise, if I decide to take a picture of St Paul’s Cathedral I will be hurled to the ground by anti-terrorist officers and possibly shot six times in the back of the head — just because one person in Bradford once made a speech about the infidel.
We seem to have lost sight of the fact that throughout history 90% of people have behaved quite normally 90% of the time. Agatha Christie, for instance, was home-schooled and at no point was she forced to eat breadcrumbs from her neighbour’s bird table.
Of course, at the extremes, you have 5% who are goodie-goodies and who become vicars, and 5% who build exploding hiking shoes and starve their children to death.
It’s this oddball 5% that is targeted by the tidal wave of legislation. But making it more difficult to teach your children at home will not stop kids being mistreated.
It just changes the pattern of everyday life for everyone else. This is what drives me mad.
We now think it’s normal behaviour to take off our clothes at an airport. But it isn’t. Nor is it normal to stand outside in the rain to have a cigarette or to do 30mph on a dual carriageway when it’s the middle of the night and everyone else is in bed. It’s stupid.
And last week the stupidity made yet another lunge into the fabric of society with the news that government ministers were considering new laws that would force everyone to take a test before they were allowed to keep a dog.
No, really. Because one dog once ate one child, some hopeless little twerp from the department of dogs had to think of something sincere to say on the steps of the coroner’s court. Inevitably, they will have argued that the current law is “not fit for purpose”, whatever that means, and that “steps must be taken to ensure this never happens again”.
The steps being considered mean that every dog owner in the land will have to fit their pet with a microchip so that its whereabouts can be determined from dog-spotting spy-in-the-sky drones, and that before being allowed to take delivery of a puppy, people will have to sit an exam similar to the driving theory test. The cost could reach £60, and on top of this you will need compulsory third-party insurance in case your spaniel eats the milkman.
So to ensure that someone in the north called Mick doesn’t shove his pit bull into a primary school playground to calm it down, I will now have to computerise my labradoodle and answer a lot of damn fool questions about when my dog should be on a lead.
In other words, the normality of dog ownership will be skewed. Instead of spending your free time with your pooches, throwing balls or tickling them under the chin, you will be forced to provide tea and biscuits for someone from the department of dogs while he inspects your cupboard under the stairs for evidence that they’ve eaten the cleaning lady.