Tuesday, 16 August 2016
I came upon this sign outside a bar in the delightful university city of Heidelberg - no doubt a valuable one to warn passers-by of undergraduates enjoying liquid inspiration to aid their intellectual endeavours. But it set me thinking....
There's a similar warning triangle outside our local church, but that one (reflecting the demographic of the congregation) shows two old people walking with sticks. They have a right to cross the road at that point, whether fast or slow; I have a right to be driving down the road, fast (within limits) or slow. But the exercise of those two freedoms creates a potential for harm, which is why I need to be warned. But what of the drunk? To what extent should I be expected to modify my driving just in case a drunk crosses the road in front of me? Or should others be warned if I am about to stagger into the street? And should that warning have legal force? It strikes me that everything we do depends upon the behaviour - good or bad - of others, and they likewise depend upon us. As soon as I drive on the public road, I am putting my trust in the road-sense of other drivers. We have to take human folly into account in almost all social arrangements, and no laws or warning signs can deal with all eventualities. Even the best organised of societies - and Heidelberg is, after all, in Germany - cannot fully legislate for all the potential interactions between fallible human beings.