Idiots' right to be stupid doesn't trump others' right to life

Fred Khumalo Watching You
People jogging and walking with their dogs at the promenade at Sea Point, Cape Town, after the relaxation of lockdown rules. Some however didn't bother to put on masks. /Misha Jordaan/Gallo Images
People jogging and walking with their dogs at the promenade at Sea Point, Cape Town, after the relaxation of lockdown rules. Some however didn't bother to put on masks. /Misha Jordaan/Gallo Images

It was in 1991, and I was in my mid-20s, when I first travelled overseas. Back then there were no direct flights from SA to North America, so we flew from Johannesburg to London, where we spent a night.

We were a big group of students from different disciplines. We were destined to spend some time - in some cases two years - at different institutions of higher learning in the UK and Canada.

I was from the warm climes of Durban, and when we arrived in Canada in the middle of winter, and saw snow for the first time, we were traumatised.

I know people think dancing in the snow or throwing snowballs at each other is so romantic. But when you are a kid directly from Durban, with only a thin jersey, no boots and no long johns to protect you, snow is not fun.

I was assigned an internship at the Toronto Star newspaper. I suddenly realised I was all alone in the financial capital of Canada. All my fellow South Africans were now in different parts of the country.

To reduce the trauma of seeing snow every day, I found myself a flat that was less than 100m from the underground train station.

So, every day - now properly dressed for the Canadian winter in layers of clothes and gloves and boots - I would sprint from my apartment, into the underground station.

From my destination station, there was an underground channel that would vomit me into the lobby of our offices. I didn't have to walk in the bloody snow!

I soon learned that many malls in the city could all be accessed in the same manner. That solved my problem of unwanted encounters with snow.

I only ventured above ground when winter ended and snow - oh terror of terrors! - finally disappeared.

This is the story I related to my kids recently after they complained that staying at home felt like prison.

So I said count your blessings. This is nothing compared to being alone in a snow-drenched city.

But my kids still thought the lockdown was too much. I can understand the sentiment. We are animals, after all.

Every now and then the natural instinct to want to venture out, run down the street with careless abandon, will manifest. Natural as that instinct might be, we have to sometimes suppress it.

I am glad the president has relaxed some lockdown restrictions. But I am equally concerned. Some time ago we were told that we couldn't buy readily cooked meals from stores, including pies and roast chicken.

The explanation was that the cooking was done in an uncontrolled environment. These conditions were conducive to the speedy spread of the virus. The ban made sense. With the new proclamation, we are now allowed to order from Uber Eats. What has changed?

The relaxation of some rules doesn't seem to be backed by any scientific evidence.

Then there were those morons in Cape Town who, on the very first day marking the relaxation of the rules, rushed to the promenade in huge numbers. With no masks, they mingled as if they were at a party.

Everyone has a democratic right to be stupid. But I do mind if their stupidity might just speed up the spread of the virus.

Don't act on instinct. Think.

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