No breeding with that bunch of plankers

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
May 16, 2011 /

Click here to view original /

My very best epiphanies arrive in the wee hours. Recipes usually, but last night public policy. And late last night, in the sweaty, slightly hallucinatory haze of my electric blanket, I realised that in my hot little hands I held the solution to population policy. A solution that’s cheap, cutting-edge, and best of all, doesn’t involve Dick Smith.


Last week and police warned of the dangers of sozzled youth taking to the streets and lying horizontally on stuff. Over the weekend, police promised to divvy van anyone found engaging in the act. Now terribly, tragically, there has been a planking death. That’s appalling, and sad. But let’s look at the broader picture.

And really, convincing people not to do it is such a foolhardy response.

Instead of decrying this clearly innovative recreational activity, planking needs to be quickly and warmly embraced as the public policy solution it is.

My residential arrangements involve renting a pokey apartment on the 24th floor of a building in Melbourne. Such a minuscule apartment means that frottage with visitors is, sadly, completely unavoidable. To delay the inevitable, I often suggest my balcony as a distraction to pace proceedings.

Empirical observations indicate that the initial behaviour of gentleman callers out on my balcony will, inevitably, eventually, encapsulate their personality entirely. The addictively adorable one with vertigo, for example, who used to dash out there on the mornings after, fighting his fears and pantingly re-entering proclaiming triumph.

Or the thoroughly lovely tradie who shook my Perspex panels, proclaimed the whole construction a building code violation and never went out there again.

The fey and entertainingly-accented designer who saw fresh air as a cue to whip out a cigar and decry the Western suburbs. The stilt-walker who threw fruit off there to see how quickly it would fall. And how many passersby he could hit.

Yet to happen, but one day there’ll be a planker. A chap who, like most of them, will enjoy a tipple, who will inaccurately gauge the width of the Perspex, who will hand me his camera phone and will climb up for a plank.

And in that one act I will know everything I need to know about him.

Police are, predictably, viewing planking as something perilous, as reckless and potentially fatal behaviour with dire consequences for society. And maybe it is these things.

Yet it’s all too easy to have a knee-jerk reaction, to rush into nanny-state mode and to threat and fine and legislate. Instead, policymakers should see this as the low-cost population control option that it is.

The desire to plank involves a number of perquisites. A penchant for substances of addiction for example. Intellect of the sub-par variety. An unhealthy addiction to social networking.

People with these afflictions are ill-advised to both vote nor breed. Should they be too inebriated to properly balance on a Hungry Jacks sign, should they come to the epiphany too late that train tracks aren’t the best place to lie down, sad, sure, but it’s also natural selection at its most beautiful.

A policy idea alone, of course, is not enough. Without initiative, proper implementation and promotion, planking could – God forbid – die the rapid death of other such “crazes” as flash mobs. Unacceptable.

While a good start for sure, it won’t be enough for the police to solely step back, gesture absently at would-be-plankers and – to quote my grandfather – simply say “go for your life”. A more pro-active approach is called for.

Poorly-constructed planking pillars. Government funded shonky step-leaders. Six-packs, for example.

Instead of condemning planking as some modern day Kool-Aid it needs to be championed as a way of signposting the deeply foolish and genetically disadvantaged among us. That would save no end of trouble. They should just be left to lie there … the last thing we should do is breed with them.

© Lauren Rosewarne