It’s Sod’s Law, I suppose, that has given us the greyest, wettest day of the summer for the Stony Stratford uprising: the greatest of respect to all those involved for defending our real interests.
Courtesy of Man Widdicombe, Dick Puddlecote has a recording of the local radio interview in which Councillor Paul Bartlett attempts to defend his proposal to ban smoking on the streets of Stony Stratford.
Listening to it is not an edifying experience as Councillor Bartlett is less than clear on his motivation. My interpretation is that Bartlett – who sounds as though he may not be blessed with 20/20 thinking – is either a petty dictator or, more likely, he wants to be liked; looking for approbation, he blindly jumped on the New York smoking ban-dwagon believing he had discovered a sure-fire, PC winner.
He certainly covers all the nanny-state bases – litter, children, health and the environment (he doesn’t go quite as far as saying that smoking causes global warming though he’ll get there soon enough) but there is no commitment, no evidence and no coherence. So lacking are these qualities that if I were of a cynical bent, I’d say his proposal looks like a shoo-in..
Meanwhile, over at Underdogs Bite Upwards, Leg-iron mentions two drug-related deaths – one from a prescribed drug and the other – allegedly – from a recreational drug. As LI points out, the media reaction to each is quite different; the first is treated as a tragic accident, the second is framed as the inevitable result of some silly girly indulging in illegal activity. The truth is that both are equally awful and both may have been avoidable (the death of the clubber may yet prove to have been a natural death).
‘What’s the difference?’ asks Leg-iron. ‘One is state-sanctioned while the other isn’t’, say I – although I suspect Leg-iron knew that already.
But it did set me thinking about how little individual autonomy we really have. We are surrounded by the likes of Councillor Bartlett and his ilk all determined to make us live and die only in ways that meet with their approval; to hell with us determining the course of our own lives.
There is no escaping this nannying: it’s on your cereal packets, cigarette packets, nuts, booze, toy packaging – everything (I haven’t seen it in the UK yet but in France, pre-packed ham even attempts to environmentally guilt-trip you by providing the carbon footprint of the pig); it’s on every train and every station, it’s in every surgery, it’s on every plastic bag, it’s in every other advertisement, it’s on the BBC, it stops pancake races and it’s now creeping on to every motorway sign.
Do this, don’t do that, Danger of Electrocution!, contains scenes of a disturbing nature, Wet Floor, Cliff Edge, shares may go down.. We’re told to eat 5 fruit and veg a day, drink less than some totally made-up safe quantity of alcohol, limit our red meat intake, cut out sugar, cut out salt (oh, as you were!), drink red wine, don’t drink red wine, diet, eat (you became anorexic on your diet). We’re chided about what we say, what we think, our weight, for watching TV, for spending too much time on the net, for sitting down, for going out when there’s a bit of snow on the ground…
We are being systematically infantilised. We’re being conditioned into believing that we’re stupid, that we’re not responsible, that the state will take better care of us than we can ourselves.
Which – you’ll be pleased to hear – brings me to what prompted this rant..
In a barely disguised plug for his new book, Theodore Dalrymple takes up one my pet peeves and asks why Britain has such a litter problem:
An Englishman’s street is now his dining room, and his country ishis litter-bin. When Englishmen – or a sizeable number to judge by the results – arrive at a beauty-spot their first impulse is to chuck at it a vividly coloured empty bottle or tin of revolting drink with which they have recently refreshed themselves.
Drive down the A14 from the M6 to Huntingdon or Cambridge and every verge, every roundabout, is littered by the thousand, or the million. Such filth is not the handiwork of a handful. Until I drove down and saw it flapping in the trees, I hadn’t appreciated how much polythene there was in the world. Where does it come from? Who knows? Even more to the point, who cares? Certainly not the local authorities, that have so many other bigger worries – like how to pay the pensions of staff who took early retirement.
From observation, I know that much of the litter in my own area is caused by our rubbish collection service. On a windy day, a considerable amount of paper escapes the recycling boxes between the lids being removed by one dustman and the bin being emptied by another.
However, it cannot have escaped anybody’s attention that so many people now treat the outside world as one vast rubbish dump:
Britain was not always so filthy. I suspect that it is the result of a toxic mixture of excessive individualism (there is no such thing as society), and of an easily inflamed awareness of inalienable rights (who are you to tell me what to do? I know my rights). What I do is right because it is I who do it; the customer is always right, and life is my supermarket.
Being a fan of individualism, I celebrate many excessive examples who have advanced thought and deed in engineering, science and the arts but if Dalrymple is talking about exclusive individualism – ie, a lack of social commitment – I think he’s probably bang on the money. But what has brought it about?
My preamble was not for nothing, dear Reader..
It seems to me that the carelessness of littering – along with many of our more serious ills such as family breakdown and a general decline in civility – has been brought about as an unintended consequence of the nanny state (not the welfare state which though in need of overhaul, serves a vital purpose in a purportedly civilised country) and nanny’s insistence on living our lives for us.
Nanny has spent decades weaning us away from the notion of personal responsibility: by way of example, we have developed an entire generation of politicians with no apparent understanding of the concept. Until nanny realises that personal responsibility is the key to respect for ourselves and for others, the country’s decline will continue.
Stand down the politicians, stand down the ‘experts’, stand down the social workers, stand down the nutritionists and for pity’s sake, stop telling us to take our belongings with us.
Return to us the responsibility to lead our own lives and the freedom to make our own mistakes. What blessed relief that would be.