Seán Moncrieff: It’s pleasurable to stick it to The Man. Even when there is no Man

Daily life is so full of rules, it feels good to occasionally break them

‘There’s a modest dopamine hit when you’ve taken a risk and got away with it; when you’ve stuck it to The Man.’ Photograph: iStock

It’s crime time. Because I can work at home for a few hours in the morning, I take public transport in and out of the office and therefore appear more virtuous than people who have to drive. I’m not a fan of driving anyway. On a train or a bus, you can read or do Wordle or work or make a list of your enemies. In a car there’s nothing to do but drive.

Occasionally, I have to do a long-distance day trip. But most of that time is spent in the slightly surreal nether world of motorways and service stations. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been anywhere.

Driving into the centre of Dublin is even worse; a series of short journeys between sets of traffic lights, and because I do it so rarely, it seems like the road layout has changed each time. To get to the car park I’m aiming for requires driving into town, then out of town and doubling back.

Which is where the crime comes in; if it’s safe, and if I can get away with it, I sometimes do an illegal turn.


If you’re open-mouthed with shock and arming your Twitter account for Kill Mode, you can hang on for second; it gets even worse. Herself does something similar, except she does it every work day to save time. That’s my family. When it comes to traffic violations, we’re like the Kinahans.

Off you go now and have us cancelled. But when the mobs form outside our house, we’ll issue a dignified statement pointing out a couple of things.

Firstly: there’s one thing I do on the radio at election time. We get in various candidates and party leaders and ask them a series of quick-fire questions; one of which is: do you have any penalty points? The overwhelming majority of politicians have said yes.

Secondly: these politicians are reflecting a sizeable clump of the electorate. When counted up last year, over half a million people in this country also had penalty points. About 20 per cent of all full license holders are driving too fast and ignoring traffic signs.

No, this isn't a rant about how people in Ireland are terrible drivers. That's what social media is for. I don't think they are anyway; or at least, no more terrible than anyone else. Then again, I haven't a clue.

It’s more to do with how many of us, including elected representatives, draw a mental distinction between illegal and immoral. Obviously, there are things that are both illegal and plain wrong – murder, assault, theft, fraud – but there are many other areas where we take a utilitarian rather than an ethical approach. If we can get away with taking an illegal turn without doing any harm, many of us will. We might walk on the grass or skip a queue or not put paper in the recycling bin.

They are venial sins that we commit for our own convenience, yet they can also be oddly pleasurable: there’s a modest dopamine hit when you’ve taken a risk and got away with it; when you’ve stuck it to The Man. Even when there is no Man. We are constrained by so many daily rules, rules that are sensible, rules that we may fully approve of, that it feels good, even necessary, to occasionally break them.

Of course, you have to be careful. Rule breaking can become addictive. One day you’re making illegal turns, and the next you’re buying balaclavas and casing banks.

You can also do it so often that you forget that it’s illegal. Which is what happened to Herself when she was flagged down by a Garda. He was nice about it though, and let her off with a warning. Next time it’ll be a fine and a penalty point. She promised she wouldn’t do it again, but I don’t know. There’s that Thelma and Louise glint in her eye.