On the belief that people will always behave in disgusting or self-destructive ways, harm reduction is the object of all social policy in Britain these days. The policy’s latest manifestation is on view in the 18th century London district of Soho, long famous for its restaurants, nightclubs, watering holes for intellectuals, brothels, and pornography.

Public drunkenness en masse being now the Briton’s most fundamental human right, and it having been noticed that urine is eroding the fabric of Soho’s old buildings, the local council has wisely ordained that white plastic urinals be placed in the streets on Friday and Saturday nights for the use of revelers. That way, the ancient brickwork will be preserved and the sweetness of the air restored by Sunday morning, after the urinals have been collected.

However, as the German sage once remarked, of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made. Competent observers have noticed that many of those for whose use the plastic urinals are placed in Soho each weekend approach them and then—miss.

This could, of course, be merely the consequence of the incoordination of drunkenness, but somehow I doubt it. I have noticed a similar phenomenon in Britain with regard to public litter bins. People with litter approach the bins, pause briefly for thought, and then let drop their litter in the vicinity of the bin rather than in it. It is as if their moment of thought is also a moment of perplexity: the litter bin rings a vague bell in their minds as to its purpose, but failing to recall what it is, and not being used to the effort of prolonged ratiocination, they give up.

On the other hand, it might all be quite deliberate. The whole goal of their lives being the assertion of their ego, the urinators and litter droppers are not, as a matter of principle, going to comply with anyone’s suggestions or rules, however sensible. To do so would be an intolerable outrage to their freedom. And so they miss, thus telling officials what they think of them.

Of all the possible explanations, I think this is the most likely. But a question haunts me: is this how the Muslims in our midst will be made aware of the value and depth of our culture and civilization, the culture and civilization that offers them freedom and prosperity, unlike the one from which they have migrated?


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