I once challenged a Staffordshire Terrier owner whose dog had jumped up at one of my kids at the entrance to a playground. I asked her to control her dog. She said that he was quite friendly and wouldn’t hurt them. I pointed out that, however friendly her dog, my and others' kids might not like it jumping at them in that way. The woman and her male companion’s response was to repeat the words “Go away, go away” again and again in a rising crescendo of anger.
In the end I was grateful for my children’s presence. Not only were my fellow adult citizens public-spirited enough to modify the words “fuck off” which would otherwise have leapt to their lips as their preferred means of continuing the debate, but I didn’t have to take the three of them on armed with nothing but a large cuddly toy. And come to think of it, had my children not been there I wouldn’t even have had that.
There are plans afoot to train UK citizens how to deal with "challenging situations" like this. You know: people who are recreationally damaging things or who can't control their kids in public and - by extension, because these are the ones that are most likely to hospitalise me - people who throw litter everywhere or let their dogs defecate indiscriminately. Among the things to be taught are 'conflict resolution techniques' and 'negotiation skills'.
Leaving aside the question of whether the state should mind its own business, what fascinates me is the fact that we have let individual sovereignty over society go so far that the non-negotiable no longer exists. How many ways are there of negotiating someone out of letting their dog shit where the bus queue stands? You just don't let your dog do it, and you clean it up if it does, and if you can't work that out on your own I am not going to waste my time chewing the fat with you.
I'm going to tell you this just this once.