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Paintballable offences

In my Rules for Bicycling post I mentioned paintballable offences, so I thought I’d provide a little bit more detail on what I meant by those.

The basic problem, as I see it, is this: in our modern world (or at least in our modern metropolis), there aren’t enough societal units through which people can be told that they’re being idiots and/or jerks. Basically, there aren’t enough venues for the types of mild shaming that can correct minor forms of antisocial behaviour.

Now I don’t have rose-tinted spectacles about the past. Those forms of casual, identity-defining social units–parishes, unions, sports teams, tightly-knit neighbourhoods, etc–were (and are still) used to pressure people in rather intolerable ways, e.g. to pressure people not to date or marry people from other communities, or not to be gay, or not to violate other arbitrary and deeply dehumanising social strictures.

That said, our existing means of punishing jerks and idiots (broadly grouped into felonies andĀ misdemeanours) fail to address the frequent, minor failures of civility that we see every day.

So here’s my proposal: we should create a third category of legal offences that are open to vigilante justice in the form of hitting the offender with a pellet of brightly coloured paint, thus indicating in a durable but not permanent way that they were caught being an idiot and/or a jerk.

What sorts of things could be categorised this way? Here’s a list off the top of my head:

  • driving while talking on a mobile phone.
  • spitting on the sidewalk.
  • dropping your gum or cigarette butt anywhere other than a proper receptacle.
  • wearing baggy trousers with a suit.
  • pretending you don’t see that old person/pregnant woman who could use your seat on public transport.
  • being intolerably picky about food as a dinner party guest.
  • cutting a queue.
  • bicycling on the sidewalk.
  • using a mobile phone on a train’s quiet carriage.
  • that menacing type of loitering that British youths seem particularly good at.
  • clipping one’s fingernails on public transport (indeed: doing any type of grooming that requires an implementĀ on public transport).

There are lots of other things, of course, but hopefully you get my drift. I think this could be a fast, cost-effective way to punish malefactors–not evil-doers, mind you, but annoying-doers.

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