Monday, 21 September 2009

Dystopia

Reading the blogs and news sites on Sunday morning, I was struck by how the awareness that we are heading to a future society we have only previously imagined in sci-fi is beginning to creep into the most unlikely places.

Blogs, of course, have been at the forefront of this, unburdened by 'don't rock the boat' editorial policies; Constantly Furious has a good post about the creeping onset of the nanny state, and some blogs based their entire reason for existing on highlighting these areas.

Well now, two columns in - of all places - the Guardian's 'CiF' have begun to ask important questions.

Catherine Bennett looks at the way the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act was nodded through parliament 'for the children!':
Not once, on its journey towards the statute book, does a peer or MP appear to have expressed the objection that now unites critics from every side: that a presumption of malice on this scale can only poison relations between generations. Nor, extraordinarily, was there sustained pragmatic criticism, casting doubt on the impact of all this costly officialdom on reducing a crime that is usually committed within the family. Up to a point, you can understand their reluctance. It was a trick of Parmjit Dhanda's, the minister who bustled the bill through the Commons, to suggest that such critics wanted to make life cushier for paedophiles.
So our lawmakers are either cowed, or lazy. And as a result, we get laws that practically sit up and beg the Law of Unintended Consequences to pounce...

Jackie Kemp relates some horror stories and a particular instance of her own:
The constant undermining of parental rights in these times, justified by one or two horror stories, is felt in every aspect of life. Recently I took my children to the swimming pool. Despite the fact that swimming is free for children where I live, we were the only people in the pool: I soon discovered why. Within 10 minutes, the lifeguard had blown her whistle three times. At one point my eight-year-old walked to the deep end and dived in. The whistle sounded. Treading water nearby, I inquired as to what we had done wrong. Despite the fact he had recently completed a course of lessons designed to improve his confidence, he had apparently not convinced her that he was capable of swimming 25 metres. "What's the danger?" I asked.

"The danger is that the pool is full of water," she replied. It appeared that the lifeguards saw themselves as heroically foiling my constant attempts to murder my children in their leisure facility. In another case, a neighbour, an elderly widow crippled with arthritis who lives in a bought council flat where she has been for 50 years, takes her life in her hands every time she climbs the stone stairs to her flat. Her son wants to put in a stair lift, but the council says he can't in case a child decides to play on it and hurt themselves.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that there are people who positively relish the holding of power over others; they don't all aspire to high office, some of them are perfectly content with being a traffic warden, council worker or lifeguard. We've always had a small number of such people among us, and I don't believe the number has significantly grown as a percentage of the population.

What has changed is two things; first, that they are no longer considered to be a figure of fun by the wider population, someone to be laughed at and got round or simply ignored in favour of common sense.

Think of the character of Hodges in 'Dad's Army' - though his role should require respect, his manner and the way he delights in finding fault and sticking to 'the rules' earns him the contempt of all, even the usually happy-go-lucky Pike. It is made clear to the audience that this is one of the people who should not be allowed power over others because he is incapable of handling it. And indeed, laws made 30-40 years ago were made carefully, with an eye to redress for those subject to the depredations of the small minority that would abuse them.

However, we have moved away from the judgement of the majority that something can be safely ignored, even ridiculed, despite being the stated desire of the State, and into the realms of the state's minions being the final authority.

And the second thing that has changed is that the lazy attitude to making laws, as seen above, no longer restricts the power of the small minority of petty despots. Hence, an unelected council official takes it upon themselves to overrule a mother in a public place and she feels no choice but to obey, because otherwise, that unelected official will have the full backing of 'the authorities' to bring about some unpleasant consequences for her.

Those two 'CiF' columns are both worth reading in full (especially with comments), and particularly with regard to these stories in the media:

Self-defence 'no justification' for hitting a 15 year old pupil

Challenge the safety of a vaccine? You must be mad!

'Offend' someone of another religion by simply discussing yours? To court with you!

Want to eat lunch during Ramadan? Not while Muslim colleagues are around, you don't!

Nice society we are building, isn't it?

12 comments:

Pavlov's Cat said...

I think you could also add the attempted victimisation of the solicitor who actually had the temerity to actually stand up to the councils and win.

North Northwester said...

"Nice society we are building, isn't it?"

Yeah - it's called 'a colony'.

North Northwester said...

Mind you, reading the teacher story and looking at the people involved,
and knowing who they are, and who and what brought this situation about, I can't help but feel th eurge tolaugh sarcastically for a couple of weeks.
In fact, I think I shall link to the story from my place to share the laughter with anyone who's unlucky enough to have missed this post.

woman on a raft said...

Thanks for the heads-up and for mentioning Mr Hodges.

One story element we Dad's Army fans point out is that Hodges displays cowardice. He is the contrast to the other men, each one of whom displays courage no matter what other failings they may have.

Hodges yells 'Napoleon' at Mainwaring, but it is Hodges who is really using the black-out as an excuse to persecute his countrymen, his piffling level of authority being misused to cover up his own inadequacies and fear.

The ARP warden - probably a slur on many good watchers - is one of the darkest comic characters ever written and is right up there with Gogol - and I'd like to have seen Gogol write 13 series of anything.

The character says what could hardly be said then - and can't even easily be said today - is that if the Germans had walked in, Hodges would have been the first in there, dutifully supplying his new masters with the names of Jews, the gypsies down the lane, homos, people with secret radios or weapons, confiscating caches of food and other property, and all the while calling it the best way to protect the public.

The character so transcended caricature that Pertwee later complained that the cast simply could not get past the idea that he was not really Hodges and continued to shun him off the set, even though they obviously knew it was all acting.

I disagree though, about there being a small number of Hodges in real life. Hodginess is a character trait which can be encouraged and rewarded, and thus multiplied in a population. That's exactly what we have done.

Jeff Wood said...

I think it right to say that when I was younger, this sort of thing would have been laughed out of public life, just as Hodges was a natural comic figure.

Yet the Righteous have taken root in the system, and now seem to own it. They are certainly beyond being laughed out - they themselves have no sense of the ridiculous.

So, what to do? There comes a point where we need action, not words, or this is it for generations to come.

Stewart Cowan said...

Jeff Wood - "So, what to do? There comes a point where we need action, not words, or this is it for generations to come."

You're right. I was saying this on my blog this morning: 'We have to take our country back'.

At least people are waking up a bit (me included). That's a big start.

Anonymous said...

Seeing the one about the hotel owners - Enabling Act anyone?

dr cromarty

JuliaM said...

"I think you could also add the attempted victimisation of the solicitor who actually had the temerity to actually stand up to the councils and win."

Oh, yes. I missed that one. Good for her.

"Mind you, reading the teacher story and looking at the people involved, and knowing who they are..."

Oh, yes. A real 'hoist on their own petard' situation, I'm glad to say.

"The character says what could hardly be said then - and can't even easily be said today - is that if the Germans had walked in, Hodges would have been the first in there, dutifully supplying his new masters with the names of Jews, the gypsies down the lane, homos, people with secret radios or weapons, confiscating caches of food and other property, and all the while calling it the best way to protect the public."

Exactly!

"Seeing the one about the hotel owners - Enabling Act anyone?"

It's getting to have that whiff of 'deja vue' about it, isn't it?

Von Spreuth said...

Want to eat lunch during Ramadan? Not while Muslim colleagues are around, you don't!

So offering them a piece of my ham pizza would not be allowed in Britain then?

Thought they looked at me funny on Friday.

Na well, at least Germany is still FREE!!!

James Higham said...

Fraser's words - how prophetic?

Leg-iron said...

The pool was full of water? Dear God, who on Earth let that happen? Don't they know the danger?

Someone might get wet!

One of these idiots is going to be found beaten to death, sooner or later.

Fausty said...

Will Muslims be told not to eat in front of Christians during Lent? Or will Lent be outlawed because it is an 'affront' to Muslims?

"We" are not building this ghastly society. Politicians we are desperate to get rid of it are - eager to have their palms greased by big business, eager to appease Muslims.

I have more sympathy for Israel by the day.