I last wrote on the Law of Unintended Consequences, and how I had experienced that law in action in the traffic jams of downtown Jakarta. I got a number of comments and responses, some of which cited other famous Laws; for example the most famous of them all, Murphy’s Law – “if something can go wrong, it will”.
This piqued my interest, and a trawl of the internet revealed a whole plethora of hitherto (to me, at least) unknown “laws of nature”. Some of my favourites, reproduced below in alphabetic order so as not to offend anyone, are:
- Allen’s Law: “Almost anything is easier to get into than out of”.
- Barth’s Distinction: “There are two types of people: those who divide people into two types, and those who don’t”.
- Baruch’s Rule for Determining Old Age: “Old age is always fifteen years older than I am”.
- Berra’s Law: “You can observe a lot just by watching”.
- Captain Penny’s Law: “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool mom”.
- Dieter’s Law: “The food that tastes the best has the highest number of calories”.
- Dykstra’s Law: “Everybody is somebody else’s weirdo”.
- Finagle’s Sixth Rule: “Do not believe in miracles – rely on them”.
- Meyer’s Law: “It’s a simple task to make things complex, a complex task to make them simple”.
- Las Vegas Law: “Never bet on a loser because you think his luck is bound to change”.
- Levy’s Eighth Law: “No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail”.
- Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
- Ruckert’s Law: “There is nothing so small that it can’t be blown out of proportion”.
- Souder’s Law: “Repetition does not establish validity”.
- Sturgeons Law: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”.
- The Peter Principle: “Every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”.
- Witten’s Law: “Whenever you cut your fingernails you will find a need for them an hour later”.
- Zappa’s Law: “There are two things on earth that are universal, hydrogen and stupidity”.
- Zymurgy’s Law of Volunteer Labour: “People are always available for work in the past tense”.
I also discovered that there are a whole series of Laws relating to travel, which I found to be remarkably accurate descriptions of many truths of life on the road. My favourites in this category:
- The Airplane Law: “When the plane you’re on is late, the plane you’re transferring to is on time”.
- First Law of Travel: “It always takes longer to get there than to get back”.
- Hollenbeck’s Law: “The direction of take-off will be opposite to that of the final destination”.
- Oliver’s Law of Location: “No matter where you go, there you are!”
- Parson’s Law: “No one is as ugly as their passport photo”.
- Snider’s Law: “Nothing can be done in one trip”.
- Stitzer’s Principle: “When packing, take half the clothing and twice the money”.
- Van Gogh’s Law: “Whatever plan one makes, there is a hidden difficulty somewhere”.
- Young’s Law: “All inanimate objects can move just enough to get in your way”.
And all of which led me to thinking: “wouldn’t it be totally cool if there was a law, preferably a travel related one, named after me?”
So, allow me to propose for the first time a self-titled law of nature: Uliel’s Law of Inverse Desirability. This Law can be simply stated as follows: “The Less Desire You Have to Visit a Country, the More Difficulty You Will Have Obtaining an Entry Visa”.
First proof, favourite places I have been – France, Italy, Greece, England, Spain, USA, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Morocco, Israel – no visas needed. Places I most want to visit one day – the Caribbean, most of South America, Iceland, Scandinavia, Micronesia – no visas needed. Be they in North or South America, Europe, or Asia, the places I most want to go are all places where I can just show up and walk right in, no questions asked.
Second proof: slightly lower down the desirability list, but still countries I positively wanted to visit, and still do. Places like China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Russia, and Ukraine. All these places require entry visas – usually whole-passport-page sized stickers with lots of official looking stamps all over them. These visas normally have to be applied for in advance, but don’t require much effort beyond fill in a form, send in your passport, and typically three days later, here you go, thanks for coming.
Third proof: Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. When I went to these central Asian republics for the first time, I confess that I was not entirely busting a gut to get there. Fascinating places for sure, but not first choice destinations for me. Suddenly, the entry visa requirements went through the roof.
As an example, I have just finished renewing my Kazakhstan visa, and even for a renewal I had to produce a formal invitation letter from someone in the country; proof of travel was required, the visa had to be applied for weeks in advance, and a personal visit to the Embassy was needed. Apparently other places where the entry visa process would be similar, if I ever decided to travel to them, include Nigeria and Afghanistan. Need I say more?
And then, at the far end of the spectrum, we find the ultimate proof of Uliel’s Law: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka North Korea), and Iran. Neither is a place that features on most people’s list of “ten places I must go before I die”. Uliel’s Law, if true, would therefore posit that obtaining an entry visa to these countries should be no easy matter, and indeed, it is so.
For the DRK, you need to apply months in advance for an entry visa (typically only possible via the DRK Embassy in Beijing), submit a small dossier of documentation, and book a full tourist package in advance, which will include being chaperoned at every minute of your stay in the country by two government approved “guides”. Plus, given entry and exit to North Korea is generally through China, you also need to have a valid multiple-entry Chinese visa (in itself requiring some effort to obtain).
In case this isn’t deterrent enough, the following excerpt from the US Department of State web-site should dissuade all but the suicidal or legally insane: “The government of North Korea imposes heavy fines and long prison sentences with hard labour on persons who enter the country without the proper documentation. Even with the proper documentation, visitors are subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and may not receive appropriate legal protection against inhumane treatment”.
And then there is the ever-fun loving, ever-welcoming, Islamic Republic of Iran.
Every visitor to Iran requires a visa (unless you happen to be from Turkey, Syria, Georgia and Azerbaijan – now there’s an interesting list….). “General” entry visa requirements include a completed application form with “no cross-out” (whatever the fuck that means), a valid passport and two passport photographs (and according to Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “women, and girls over the age of nine should wear a headscarf in their visa application photos”), a confirmation letter from your health insurer indicating extent and duration of coverage, proof of group travel and your hotel booking in Iran, a current bank statement, a reference letter from your employer, and a confirmed airline ticket out of Iran (lest you were contemplating making a dash for it and becoming Iran’s first ever illegal alien).
Plus, you need to make an appointment to lodge your visa application, and those applying for a visa to enter Iran need to be finger-printed. And, after all this, you are warned that you may yet be called in for an interview and the entire process could take well in excess of a month or two. Not to mention that Iranian Embassies around the world appear prone to being shut down randomly, depending on how belligerent the Iranian regime is being that week – another little challenge for the would-be visa applicant to navigate. Oh, and any evidence of even the teeniest tiniest intention to visit Israel in this lifetime, or even the next, will disqualify you automatically and without exception from entry into the land of the Ayatollahs.
Now, take for a moment the case of your hypothetical average Israeli, for whom it is safe to suggest that Iran would be the country on earth that they would most least like to visit (unless in the cockpit of an F-15). Needless to say, for your hypothetical average Israeli, an Iranian Entry Visa is absolutely, categorically and entirely impossible to obtain.
That’s Uliel’s Law of Inverse Desirability in action. Q.E.D.