I came across a piece of news the other day: according to a report, a council within the Mornington Peninsula is set to pass a new law that doesn’t allow people to make any noise on their own balconies, or any other outdoor area of their own homes (patios, backyards, pools, etc.) past 11 pm. To do so could incur a penalty of up to $3,000.

I don’t know much of the legitimacy of this piece of information, since I have yet to confirm the report myself.

I’m hoping there’s not much truth in it, but the specific report is far from the only one of its kind that I have heard recently. Apparently, all of this is being done in an effort to quiet down noise coming from rented houses through AirBnB, which seems to be the affordable-entertainment-of-choice for young people these days.

It also seems to be that Australians themselves have asked for such strict policies. They demand harsher penalties for anyone that would disturb the order of things.

Everyone must obey the rules and for those who don’t, there must be severe consequences, so that they know not to overstep their boundaries next time, or even worse, they should be removed, so that there can’t be a next time.

Coming from Greece, a country where rules are very rarely upheld, the civil protection system is in shambles and people have nowhere to turn to (pretty much the opposite of Australia), I find it strongly ironic that I felt much more comfortable walking around in the silent city streets of Athens than I ever would in downtown Melbourne.

I recall when I first arrived here, hearing a dear friend of mine describe Melbourne as “the nanny state” I couldn’t think of a more appropriate characterisation. It gives me the sense that people are constantly in fear of something threatening them and they always need to turn to the local government for new, additional laws to limit other people’s freedoms, as if this fear makes it more of a necessity to impede others, than it is to actually maintain their own liberties. And this limiting in turn leads to more outbursts, which is why crime is and will always be a constant issue for the country (as stated by Newton’s third law: “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”)

Don’t get me wrong; in no way does this mean that the situation in Greece right now is a preferable one. The laws there exist mostly on paper, people are in turmoil and everyone operates individually, only for themselves. It’s what drove the country into chaos and brought the economy to the ground. So yes, of course there need to be rules, fundamentals that separate where one person’s liberties end and another’s begin. Boundaries that must be respected. Laws that will actually be upheld by everyone on equal terms. Greece could learn a lot from Australia in that regard.

But these two individual situations make me wonder: isn’t there a middle ground? Do we need to go from “no one will stop anyone from doing whatever they want” to “you’re not allowed to talk after 11 pm or drink after 1 am?” Can’t there be laws that protect us, but also have enough respect to not say “you cannot be trusted with yourself?”

Perhaps I’m being too much of a dreamer; too idealistic. However, I find it quite undignified that a government needs to come in and tell us what time we need to stop drinking, what time we need to stop making noise and by what time we need to be home. What’s next? A personal surveillance officer to tuck us into bed and cameras to make sure we don’t stroll around at night?

On the other hand, a part of me feels that if we are indeed left too much on our own, the end result will pretty much be what happened to Greece. A country where people don’t seem to care much for one another and where the saying “rules were created to be broken” was born. But at least there, people are learning from their own mistakes and I have faith that eventually things will turn around for the country and all these hardships will become the foundation upon which the country builds a shining new future. With people full of respect for one another. What makes me believe this is that I’ve seen a large number of Greek people (myself included) that change their behaviour once they set foot in a new country and become decent, law-abiding citizens. They very easily adapt to their new environment and some of them even move on to become very hard workers and highly-regarded members of their communities. So the potential is there, it’s just that their own country doesn’t provide it for them and they have no faith in their own political system. A lot of them these days find that they have to leave their own homes behind with a heavy heart, in order to accomplish anything in their lives.

I find the entire situation a little sad. Sad that people from Greece are needing to change countries and their way of life. Sad that people here in Australia feel so under threat that they constantly need to ask for new rules in order to feel protected from themselves. Sad that people seem incapable of living with one another in a supposed multicultural country. If only we could learn to communicate better with one another, maybe some of these rules would become entirely unnecessary. But with our lives being taken over by so many obligations that we barely get to choose who we spend our days with, it’s no surprise that most of the time we have no idea who it is we’re talking to.