Newton’s Third Law says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
This may be true in physics but not in real life; drop a hammer on your mate’s foot, and the reaction is out of all proportion to the gentle thud of iron hitting flesh; it comes in colour, sound, and possibly taste and smell.
His foot turns blue, and so does the air around him as you learn more about your mother’s antecedents than you ever imagined; the volume of sound this history is delivered in is excessive; in extreme cases you may taste blood in your mouth as he gives you a “snotklap” – Afrikaans is the most descriptive language; and if he is of a certain age, involuntary bodily functions may overpower the scent of jasmine which no doubt pervades your space.
This rule definitely does not apply to the ladies; my long experience of female reactive behaviour inclines me to that old English saying “you may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb”.
You may find yourself staggering about in gumboots as the floodwaters threaten to engulf your house – something which happens with tiresome regularity in our Village – but dare to set foot inside to escape the elements, and the wrath of ages shall fall upon thine head!
I admit that this reaction to mud on the pristine floor is instant and could be seen to be equal and opposite, even if out of all proportion.
But how do you explain what happens when, due to the influence of so-called friends, you are induced to imbibe excessively, and eventually roll unsteadily home as eight bells sound in the Middle Watch – that’s somewhat before dawn in landlubber language – and you crash through the door, tramp on the cat, wake the household, and meander noisily to the nuptial bed.
When you awake, probably in the spare room, you will have no recollection of anything said in your direction before floating away with the fairies; but you will become aware of a distant chill, as of a forgotten Ice Age; and you won’t find the Disprin packet which you know for certain was in its accustomed station just yesterday.
Time will pass; she will need money; she will talk to you again.
The point is that the reaction to the gumboot dance is no less severe than that of the pre-dawn invasion. Unless, of course, in the strange female universe, both crimes rank equally?
Then we have the consequences of breaking the law of the land. In countries where they actually do what they get paid for, expect a swift reaction from the Forces of the Law should you transgress!
In sport, rules certainly rule; rugby players regularly get sent off for misbehaviour. Football players hardly ever get sent off, even if they bite the opposition; I don’t know why they don’t make gum guards for soccer players compulsory, then they could all bite each other without the danger of passing on rabies.
It’s only when you don’t have law and order that you see in action the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Take our Traffic Dept as a typical case. A few Mondays ago it is said that only three traffic officers pitched up at work. In any case, they are seldom seen except when enormous funeral processions clog up the roads, when they suddenly appear in droves to assist in frustrating the normal motorist.
So we have virtually no traffic policing; people have given up complaining about the behaviour of taxi drivers, probably because most motorists have adopted the same rules.
For example, officially you are supposed to come to a complete stop when the traffic light is red; to slow down and stop when it turns from green to orange; and to proceed happily when you arrive at a green light.
In real life, you act as follows:
Green light: slow down and watch for people shooting the red light from the transverse direction before proceeding across the intersection.
Orange light: accelerate and get across the intersection as soon as possible.
Orange changes to red just as you arrive: as above, because you know they program in a few seconds before it actually changes to green.
Red: stop and curse.
Now this course of action is the norm in advanced cities like New Delhi, Tehran, Rio and many others in the free and easy non-First World; but definitely not in Australia, where you will be sent to the naughty corner by the nanny state for breaking any number of regulations which our citizens don’t even realise exist.
And, dare I say it, this casual approach to traffic rules actually works in Port Elizabeth, which is happily free of anything like the traffic snarl-ups which are one of the attractions of big centres like Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Traffic tends to flow more easily, traffic cops are not actually necessary, and I doubt whether the number of accidents has increased since they disappeared from sight.
In this case the lack of a traffic department has had an unintended and beneficial consequence; now if we could only get rid of the City Council….
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