Standing up to yobs

This week has seen the disgraceful case of a woman, Linda Buchanan, being pushed onto a railway line by two young men, apparently after she had reminded them that smoking isn’t allowed on stations. Interviews the following day give a slightly different version of events, suggesting that Mrs Buchanan had spoken to them about smoking on a previous day, and that on Wednesday, the same two men had made obscene gestures at her as she walked past. She suggested they should grow up, at which point they pushed her.

The fact that smokers become so irritable when they are not allowed to smoke anywhere at any time, or when someone reminds them that they are breaking the law by smoking, is simply an indication of how they are addicted to smoking. They may not realise it, and claim they are simply angry at being “persecuted”, yet addiction lies at the core.

Of course, the “have your say” sections of online news articles have brought out some despicable views, such as people saying it “Serves her right for not minding her own business”. So there are people who think that asking someone not to smoke in an area where it is illegal, or even, as in this case, asking someone to grow up for making rude gestures, is a valid reason for pushing her onto a railway track where she could easily have been electrocuted or run over by a train. It isn’t even as if it was “not her business” – that would only be the case if the men were alone on the platform, and the lady had been driving down the street in her car and had stopped especially to speak to them. As it was, Mrs Buchanan was waiting on the platform, an area where smoking is illegal under the railway by-laws, where she had every right to expect to wait in clean air, unaffected by tobacco smoke. For most of the history of railway stations, people were allowed to smoke where they liked, and anyone who didn’t wish to breathe in the smoke had to move to another part of the platform. That was something non-smokers had to accept, as smoking was permitted. Now times have changed, and it’s no longer legal to smoke on the platform, so it is the smokers’ turns to face a slight inconvenience while waiting at the station.

Another way of looking at it is, if anyone really believes it is OK to push someone (even if not deliberately onto a railway line) for just asking someone not to smoke, why isn’t it equally as valid to take action when someone is smoking, or carrying out some other sort of anti-social behaviour? Equivalent actions could be snatching a cigarette, or throwing water over the person. Of course, none of these actions is acceptable. But how has society become such that so many people believe any sort of behaviour is OK, no matter how unpleasant or antisocial it is, and that the only thing that is taboo is politely asking someone not to do something that’s bothering others?

This doesn’t only apply to smoking, but also dropping litter, using loud, obscene and abusive language, harassing a lone woman, or playing music out loud instead of using headphones. The same people again will complain that the country has too many laws restricting what people can do, with too many on-the-spot fines. The reason is that people are too inconsiderate now, and take no account of how their actions affect anyone else around them. They believe they have a right to do what they want, never mind what that means for other people. Selfish people are the reason for more laws.

If we want to live in a pleasant, clean environment where people feel safe travelling on public transport, we need more people to stand up to yobs and louts. We need more Mrs Buchanans. The first course of action can be to find a member of railway staff, but failing that, I for one shall continue to remind people that smoking isn’t allowed on platforms (naturally explaining that I wouldn’t like them to be fined for their honest mistake); and I shall continue to politely call after people who have dropped something on the pavement, in case it was something they wanted, of course. There’s no need to be confrontational. But at the same time, we can’t allow out society to turn into one where yobs spoil places for everyone else just because no-one will stand up to them.

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