The Rossio railway station, Lisbon, is the site of a famous statue of Dom Sebastiao, the young Portuguese king killed in battle in Morocco in 1578. His body was never identified, which gave rise to a legend that he would return to Portugal to rescue the country in times of trouble. Unfortunately, the king never returned in person but instead his story was immortalised in the form of the statue, which sat between two arches at the station and was completed in 1890. This station is a protected monument, which means no interference from the public although photographs are acceptable. And certainly no climbing, damaging or painting the monument. Last week a would-be photographer decided that he would ignore the no climbing rule and clambered up to take a selfie.
This would not be news if the story ended here, but unfortunately there were disastrous consequences: the statue fell from the pedestal and shattered. The selfie-taker attempted to flee the scene but was caught by local police officers and will appear in court at some point in the not too distant future: the government department responsible for the statue, Infraestruturas de Portugal, are planning on pressing charges against the unnamed 24-year old man.
The "selfie" is one part of how people forget manners, respect or even considering the consequences when using technology. Pedestrians walk through cities and cross streets, barely raising their eyes from the small screen a few inches from their face. It's banned in some cities. Drivers ignore road signs when following their navigation system and then there are selfies – pictures taken by oneself including oneself. These might be considered a modern day plague and the trend has spawned a number of traits, such as duck-faced poses using an iPhone's rear camera and a mirror, handsets such as the HTC Desire Eye including a flash and respectable front facing camera, the amusing photobomb, the deliberately inappropriate and those taken under circumstances that are dangerous or damaging to life or property. This includes historic monuments: in 2015, two Californian women carved their initials into the Roman Colosseum with a coin, and last week the toppling of the Dom Sebastiao statue. Perhaps it's time front facing camera-equipped device manufacturers start to include a disclaimer when launching the camera, as car manufacturers do with built-in navigation systems.