Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Pay & Display Dismay

One section of the UK population which irritates me immensely, as anyone who reads this blog knows, are those people who believe in a 'freer' Britain in which they can speed around , use their mobile phones and park where they like with impunity.  This is primarily associated with driving, whether in a car or a commercial van or lorry, but in fact this is simply because they feel they can talk about outrageous things in that sphere whereas in others such as re-introducing the death penalty and castration as sentences for courts and expelling any immigrants, would be challenged more vigorously.  In the field of regulation of driving and parking they constantly portray the rules as having nothing to do with safety but simply as a form of taxation.  I constantly come back to the fact that if you do not break the law, then this is a tax you are exempt from.  However, it is clear these people think very individualist behaviour in vehicles, which puts others' health and lives at risk is not a crime so they should face no charges.

Another issue has come up in this regard, brought into view by the Breakfast programme run on BBC1.  This is the rule that even if someone has a valid ticket to park in a particular location, if there are numerous other ones on display, they can still be fined.  The response has been vigorous, that this is another tax.  I am marginally more sympathetic to this argument because if these people have actually got to a car park, rather than believing they have some exceptional God-given right to park on a double yellow line with their lights flashing while they do the shopping, as I see so often, then that is a good step.  However, if your car, van or lorry is full of different, similarly looking tickets, why should you compel a parking warden to read them all to find if one is correct or not.  They complain about traffic wardens anyway, so why are they happy to give them more work.  Perhaps councils and the government should adopt the same approach and never bother taking down road signs when the road layout is changed.  Perhaps they should simply stick up signs that they have lying around rather than ones that actually relate to the towns that can be reached from the location where the sign is.  Maybe we should put up a selection of speed limit signs and say that drivers have to comply with whichever one is correct for the particular road.  This would be a major challenge for many drivers given that many cannot adhere to the speed limit even when there is a single clear sign.

I think, that if you cannot be bothered to keep your vehicle sufficiently tidy so that anyone can see simply whether you have the correct ticket or not, then you deserve to be fined.  The UK is better than some countries anyway.  I remember in France in the 1980s seeing people with a string of road tax stickers down their windscreen, but no-one in the UK would complain that we have to show only the current one on our windscreens.  Potentially I could have thirteen different road tax discs on my windscreen making it a challenge for anyone to spot if I had a current one, but, of course, that is seen as a silly approach.  Simply chuck away old parking permits.  Or, if that is really too much trouble, at least shove them off the dashboard on to the floor!

What this whole complaint stems from is the unhealthy characteristic that seems to have taken root in the UK and is growing like mold throughout our society.  This believes that the individual's desires (not even just their needs) must be satisfied and not constrained, certainly not by the safety or interests of anyone else, and certainly not policed by any state authority (just by who can shout loudest).  This is already impinging on road safety but is likely to spread into other aspects of society effectively implementing 'mob rule' in many things.  Examples of this spread can be seen in Simon Cowell's desire to have a political show that makes decisions by people telephoning in.  Of course, tabloid newspapers have long done this, I remember an opinion poll in 'The Sun' newspaper of the 1980s which told you to ring one number if you wanted the minimum sentence for certain crimes set at 20 years and another if you wanted it at 25 years.  There was no option for no sentence or 10 years or 15 years.  What can be seen as a 'free' choice can easily be engineered to channel you into backing a policy which has already been established (just ask any of the dictators who have run 'free' elections) and so seemingly giving it popular support.  Of course, the people peddling this kind of approach see what they do as simply based on 'common sense' whereas in fact it is based on assumptions and prejudices and excludes so many options that fall outside the very individualist approach they advocate. 

If you want to see this in action just watch an episode of 'Live from Studio Five' which is made by SkyNews (owned by Rupert Murdoch) and shown on Channel 5, Monday to Friday evenings.  It features former model Melinda Messenger, former footballer Ian Wright and a runner-up on 'The Apprentice' television show.  It is a magazine programme which mixes coverage of celebrities with discussion of news items.  This is where it is most dangerous as it presents a very right-wing perspective especially on social and legal issues in a light manner with the presenters indicating that they see pretty extreme views as somehow 'common sense'.  Fortunately it only attracts 230,000 viewers.  However, it is a good example of how the 'me first above anyone else' attitude is being fed into the popular consciousness and it is on this basis of assumptions about 'common sense' that more extreme steps are made to seem unassailable by those of us who would like an inclusive society that does not value freedom to behave how you like over the right of people to live in safety.

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