There’s a fine moment in the first season of the superb American TV show Billions when Paul Giamatti’s character, Chuck Rhodes, the DA for the Southern District of New York, is walking in the park with his dog when he sees a guy slink away from the shit-pile that his own animal has just deposited on the sidewalk.
He calls the guy out on it, reminding him that picking up after his animal isn’t just the law of the land but that it respects that other great and unwritten rule, the law of civility.
The guy, who recognises him almost at once, asks him why he doesn’t “let it slide.”
Rhodes launches into one of the diatribes which have made him such an effective prosecutor and leader.
“Let it slide … that sounds simple. It’s just some dog-shit. But those are three devious little words. If I let your dog-shit slide then I have to be okay with this whole plaza filling up with it, which it would, before we know it. Then it would be on our pant-legs and our shoes, and we’d track it into our homes and then our homes would smell … it would be easy to let it slide. So why don’t we let petty larcenies slide too? Some kid steals five bucks from a news-stand … who cares? Maybe next time he decides to steal your TV …. But who cares? Because, by then, we’re all living in shit anyway.”
To me this is a fantastic distillation of everything the law is supposed to do.
It civilises us. It keeps the world from going to shit.
Respect for the law starts at the most basic level, with the little things.
That’s why enforcement starts in the same place.
Back when the global health crisis started, we all had a choice to make; we had to decide if our own needs and wants and desires could be put on hold for the greater good of the community.
Almost all of us did that. There were holdouts. There always are.
But for the most part, people realised that their own actions could have consequences not just for themselves but for other people and they paid heed both to the law and those greater laws, the laws of civility and civic decency.
Some people have no respect for the rules or for the laws.
We should not be surprised at the dripping contempt for those things within Ibrox.
The club which plays there is born from a denial of reality and built on a lie.
Their entire short history is an exercise in sneering contempt for the rest of us; it is best encapsulated in the grotesque insult to our intelligence which is inherent in this “going for 55” stuff.
That club and its enablers have forced that onto the rest of us, those who are willing to accept it and those, like me and some others, who never, ever will.
Ibrox is constructed on that open scorn for the rest of us.
The club is steeped in arrogance, in modes of supremacy.
Whichever club has played there, the old or the new, their entire ethos is constructed upon the idea that they are special, that they don’t have to observe the common decencies and the courtesies … and why should they think otherwise?
For decades the old club got away with restrictive employment practices. Their fans were allowed to belt out anthems of bigotry and hatred. When the new club was formed they had a chance to cast aside all the baggage of the past; instead, they pulled it ever tighter to themselves. It is not in their nature to respect the rest of us.
Which is why the governing bodies and the agencies of law and order have to be ever watchful about what goes on over there. It’s why the media needs to do its job better. It’s why rules have to be enforced ever more rigorously on them … because they already have an in-grained belief that those rules do not exist for their observance.
You cannot let people who already hold to that view fall into a habit of acting as if it’s a fact. Those Peepul need to be put on notice that they have to play by the same rules as the rest of us. The minute you let something slide, they take advantage. If you then ignore that you are inviting greater and greater violations. You are amplifying their contempt.
Over the last few months, they have been allowed to flout rules which the rest of us have been told to consider inviolate. When the Scottish Government treated them with kid gloves over the failure to have test results for players before playing a match I knew it was a matter of time before there were other violations.
When they were praised in the aftermath of the next one it was inevitable that there would be a third.
The lack of a robust response at that point guaranteed the fourth … and here we are, with their fans now openly flaunting their disregard and the club applauding them for it.
What did people expect?
This club will continue to go as far as it’s allowed to.
They will step over the line again and again and again and again and they will push further and further until someone finally tells them they’ve gone too far … usually much further than the rest of us would be allowed.
They will keep on doing it until they are made to stop.
Next week they will roll into Celtic Park either as champions already or needing a draw to clinch the title. Their fans have already vowed to meet at Celtic Park or to march there. They are planning an open air party in George Square and in other parts of the city.
This is already well known, being circulated on social media.
Police Scotland has already shown a willingness to ignore the law.
To “let it slide.”
And you wonder what else they would be willing to let slide.
You wonder what else this government might be willing to permit.
You wonder what Gerrard might say or do next to make matters worse, and if the governing body of football is going to simply wait for that to happen.
Gerrard has again refused to condemn this behaviour.
Police Scotland has issued a mealy-mouthed and totally inappropriate response.
They took a tactical decision not to enforce the law.
If you’ve ever seen footage of them “enforcing the law” you should be in no doubt that they know exactly how to do it.
If the Green Brigade shows up at Parkhead next week for a counter-demo you better believe we’ll see that up close and personal.
And the Peepul?
They’ll be there, for sure, unless today’s events spark the kind of reaction from the government which is necessary.
Those thousands of people didn’t all spontaneously appear … the police should have dispersed them the moment they started to arrive in their dribs and drabs. Today’s failure to implement public safety regulations means that next week’s wider outbreak of disobedience will be larger again, and even harder to contain.
That’s what you happens when “let it slide”.
When you turn a blind eye to one small thing.
To one group. To one “culture.” To one Peepul.
This virus is being suppressed explicitly because most people are observing the laws both written and not, the legal frameworks and those laws of decency which the Peepul never have respected and never will.
The end result of today’s violations and the inevitable ones which will happen as a consequence of “letting it slide” could mean an extended lockdown for the rest of us, but the Peepul involved simply don’t care.
That’s why those who set the rules have to.
That’s why enforcement should have been the priority today, and why it has to be next weekend.
Because otherwise, it’s a matter of time before we’re all just living in shit.