And another thing

There are some days in a social crusader’s life where it seems like the good fight is just never going to end. No matter how much energy I put into trying to educate you all on what’s wrong with the world today in my very worldly manner, there’s just something or someone else who’s going to come along and fuck it all up again.

But that’s where the negativity ends. In light of the somewhat melancholy, lights-down-low, soft-piano-music-on-the-jukebox kind of mood I’ve got the Palace swaying to tonight I’m not going to bitch about it. Too easy is it to slip into cynism and despair and cry havoc at those around us who claim to lead us. Too inviting is the obvious ageist/racist/homophobic rant or anti-rant (I’ll let you work that one out – I just can’t be bothered with proper sentence structure this evening).

No, what I’m going to do is something a little more difficult so bear with me for a moment.

You know when you’ve done something that, to you, is so cool that you can’t stop beaming about it and you have a big stupid grin on your face and you feel warm and content inside? Like, physically warmer on the inside? I like that.

You know when your mate is heading to the local shop (store if you’re in the US I guess) and when he comes back, he’s bought you a chocolate bar for no reason other than buying you a chocolate bar might please you? I like that.

You know those mornings when you wake up and you’re on the way to work and, all of a sudden, things start to feel Just Right™ – your thoughts coalesce into this single stream of conciousness and nothing at all matters because right now, this very second, everything is right with the world? I like that. I like that one a lot.

You ever had a sneeze that’s made your whole body tingle? I like that.

I like a well formed sentence (more than I demonstrated earlier in this post anyway), a well put together query or a good solid use of a compound term. I like the proper and structured use of language and I like it when it is used subtly, moreso than I ever can.

You ever just hung out with yourself? Like, just you and maybe you’ve made yourself a nice dinner or you’ve gone for a walk or you’re just listening to some music and, without really becoming aware of becoming aware, you realise your smiling and you’re having a really good time and that’s just cool? I like that.

I like it when people let me skip ahead of them in the queue at the supermarket because I only have a couple of things.

I like it when complete stangers smile back at me when I’m walking in the park. I like seeing couples out holding hands, walking slowly and generally soaking up each other’s existence. I like the idea that to them I don’t exist. I like the fact that to others, I do.

I like it when the news has that one story about the guy who did the thing and wasn’t it crazy when it all happened, because, yeah – yeah it was totally crazy and I thankyou for telling me. I like it when I get a stupid answer to a serious question and a serious answer to a stupid question. I like the colour blue and the number 7. I don’t know why I like them as much as I do and I like that fact.

I like being proven wrong; I like to learn new things. You know when someone admits they’re wrong? I like that. But I also like it when people who think they might be wrong but just go with the gut feeling anyway because something inside says “do it”.

I like being told I’m doing a good job. I like being told I’m doing a bad job, but I like it better when I’m told I’m doing a good job.

I like the idea that right now you’re maybe thinking: “What the fuck is this all about?” (I like the fact I can say “fuck”). I like the fact that, even if I knew you, I wouldn’t have to explain myself, but I also like that I’m gonna anyway.

It’s too easy to forget that we like liking things a lot more than we like hating things. One is harder to admit than the other, and the other all to easily becomes default and [Forgive the sentence that didn’t end. It’s my fault. Had to give BoosterBoy some electroshock to keep him on topic and it always screws with his short term memory. Ed.].

Not liking things is as easy as pretending it’s not even there. Ignoring it is almost the same thing as not liking it and takes nearly no effort. Liking things and making sure others know you like them takes effort and can be hard work, offers no guarantee of reciprocation and can lead to exposure and embarassment.

And I like that.

What do you like?

Politicians vs Humans

It’s been a while since I’ve done a ‘Vs’ post (the last one was back in February of last year, the provocatively named Women Vs Men) but the arrival of BoosterBoy to the Palace’s ranks – well, rank – has caused an element of competition, so here we are.

A common thread through some of my posts is about social responsibility and how the government is creating an ever more nannying state due to the hordes of people who haven’t got the common sense1 to look after themselves. I’m talking about obesity, education, that sort of thing: important social “stuff”.

As I’ve mentioned before, it seems clear to me that the nanny state exists because the Government feels that it has to help out the barely cogent hordes out there who fuck up their lives just a little bit more every day. So, rather than let them fuck it up and deal with the social and political fallout, they get a bit proactive and remove the responsibility which they’ve proven incabable of shouldering.

The point is that it is the few that force the changes, which means minority rules. Now, I’ve got a piece of paper round here somewhere that says we live in a democracy (from the Greek demos people + kratos strength) where the people decide what goes down. What we have is more like a fuckoffracy (from the Palace of Righteous Justice fuckoff people can fuck off + racy politicians can do what they like), where the politicians bend us over.

Elections are pointless anyway, because the politicians do what they want. Elections exist to give the electorate the illusion of control, that somehow we decide how the country is run. And they wonder why electoral turn-out is so low. I haven’t voted ever – not true; I voted once, for the Green Party, back when I though it mattered – because, as the years roll on and governments come and go, nothing changes. Labour got in a while back; can’t say that I noticed the difference.

So, we elect a new government because they tell us lots of good stuff about lower taxes and more cops and nurses; all good, progressive stuff. However, they then spend the next four years doing the following;
a) shoring up the mess left by the last lot (or at least blaming them for it),
b) spending all the cash looking after;
1) the people who can’t look after themselves,
2) the people who could look after themselves if they could be bothered.
c) try to sort some foreign dispute,
d) while failing to address pressing domestic issues.

Not forgetting the big omission which is to fail, spectacularly and conspicuously, to deliver on any of the promises they made during the election campaign. Now, we know all this. If you were to collar Joe Public in the street and ask him whether he believed that the government will lower taxes, he’ll scoff and walk on. So why do we even bother going through the whole rigmarole?

It is the job of the Opposition party to keep the pressure on the ruling party, which boils down to them standing up in the Commons and saying “Does the Honourable Gentleman really expect us to believe…”, to which the Rt Hon. Mr P. Minister replies, with utter conviction, “Yes, I bloody well do!”, to which the Opposition laughs, makes loud scoffing noises and mutters “Well, we don’t” under it’s breath.

None of the above advances society a jot. It doesn’t change peoples lives for the better. In fact, I’m struggling to see what governments actually do for us.


1 Is there anthing less common than Common Sense?

Obesity: A growing social problem

It’s pretty clear that obesity is a growing issue in modern society. Studies show – meaning they threw some numbers at the wall and wrote down the ones that stuck – that over half of the UK will be obese by 2050 and that treatment of obesity cost the NHS £7bn in 2002, a number that is only going to increase. That’s a lot of new schools, hospitals and policepersons.

Now, I accept that many people are obese through no fault of their own, but the sad fact is that there will be a significant proportion of obese people who could get thinner but are hiding behind the excuse that the genuinely, genetically obese people provide.

The other twist is that there will be some obese people who don’t give a damn about the ‘ideal’ body image projected by society, who are quite happy with their weight and who, if given the chance, would eat burgers for their rest of their days in complete contentment. Are we telling these people that they’re not allowed, in a free society, to do what makes them happy?

The truth is that society is not free. Society is a trade, economics at it’s simplest. a democracy gives you various wonderful freedoms to enjoy but, in return, these freedoms need to be policed and you have a responsibility not to impinge on the freedoms of others. Do not threaten another man’s freedoms, lest he threaten yours.

The problem I have with the linked article is that they make the blanket statement that obesity ‘is not individual’s fault’. In some cases, that will probably be true, but in a lot of cases it will be complete rubbish. It’s yet another case of the powers that be removing responsibility from people.

I can understand that They think that evidence shows that people can’t control themselves so They have to take responsibility. But what this does is remove the onus from the individual. Gradually, our dominion over our self is being removed. More and more we are told what to do, where to go, what to eat, what to think: soon there will be no part of us that does not fall under the aegis of some faceless government agency and the notion of ‘individuals’ will be no more.

I was going to go into some extremist rant there about how we should abandon people to their fate and provide only basic support, thereby forcing people to look after themselves. But then the little bloke in white on the other shoulder piped up with “what about the people who can’t look after themselves?”.

Which means that since – and while – society is beholden to those less fortunate, those who are only pretending to be less fortunate will have a free ride and consume resources better spent on those that really need it. It means that the few – the freeloaders – are ruining it for everyone. In other words, minority rules.

Once again, those who take responsbility for themselves are going to suffer because of those who do not.

The View from My Window 15/10/07

I’ve exhorted and lampooned the exploits of the workies round the office before: either the construction site next door or the spidermen cleaning the roof and trying not to fall off. Today it’s the turn of Shug1 and Wullie2.

Shug is larger, younger, clearly the boss and is wearing a bobble hat without the bobble. He looks like one of the guys from the office but with a bobble hat on. Wullie is older, balding, fluorescent and has the look of a man whose mental faculties require multi-million pound, lottery-funded refurbishment.

Shug and Wullie are cutting the grass round the office. In their defence, being Scotland – and Autumn – the grass is wet and the ground is pretty mushy. So it’s no surprise the Wullie has managed to bog his tractor.

By the time I joined the pantomime, Wullie had already committed the schoolboy error and had buried it to the axles. Judging by the length of the ruts, he was in trouble for a good few meters but, with laudible application, kept his foot in it until the last minute. Plan B was then to hitch up the other lawnmower – this one not a wee tractor but the kind you walk behind, albeit on an industrial scale – and pull out the tractor.

This was a goodish plan with only a few flaws: 1) The puller weighs half as much as the pullee, 2) the puller has only two wheels on the same wet ground as the puller, 3) Shug has tied to the tow rope to the deck of the tractor. The upshot is that, when they give it beans – after failing to tie a knot worthy of the name for over five minutes – what little power the mower generates goes directly into ripping the deck off the tractor.

While evidently not gifted with mental furniture by Chippendale, Shug does stop short of actually ripping the tractor into tiny bits. Plan B is abandoned.

At this point, half the company is offering support from the first floor window. I say support – mostly it’s along the lines of “that won’t work, you idiot”. Plan B having failed, Shug gives Plan A another go, which produces predictable results. Unbowed, Shug gives Plan A another good five minutes, while the tractor merrily spins its wheels, rapidly going nowhere.

Wullie is hiding at this point; probably crying in the back of the van, or on his council-mandated break. Shug, having spent five minutes on the grown up equivalent of a kiddies fun ride – and not swearing (audibly, anyway) – gives way to reason and lays Plan B to rest. Plan C ensues.

Having no doubt been forced to watch some nature programme by his wife, Wullie resorts to the tried-and-tested “put lots of shit under the wheels” approach. Which, annoyingly, seems to have worked. Admittedly, the grass now looks like the Somme (1918, not 1914), but he’s out.

I had hoped that this would have turned into one of those “four hundred firemen take six weeks to rescue small dog from well”-type stories, but, disappointingly, Shug and Wullie, with resourcefulness belied by their apparel and noms du guerre, have managed to un-fuck themselves without having to resort to heavy lifting equipment and appeals to local businesses for bottled water.

Hey ho. A good 15 minutes entertainment nonetheless.

1 Glasgow version of ‘Charles’.
2 Names have been guessed at to protect the incompetent and enforce the stereotypes.

You’re toeing yer bag rite oot

That title should probably also have “by the way” at the end of it, but you wouldn’t appreciate it.

I don’t mean to insult – I know for a fact that the full readership of this mighty tome are of a highly educated sort with bleach blonde hair and are at least 6 feet 2 inches tall. I know this because I know myself rather well.

That said, there is no way, even here with the full potential of the Palace at my fingertips, that I could ever impart over the Web to you, dear reader, how this “by the way” is meant to sound. Meant to sound such that you can precisely appreciate my point and, to get to the point, my fear.

I’m a word guy. I like words. I like learning new words so that I might expand my ability to express myself in new and ever more subtle ways. The subtlety of the spoken word is the thing that has defined our nation over generations, and allowed subsequent generations to keep alive those anecdotes, stories and memories. The English language in particular has a certain high status on Earth not just as the international language of commerce, but also from the air that surrounds those who are naturally educated in British English. That air is the air of sophistication and grace that comes from being the language that conquered and ruled the world for hundreds of years and merely uttering British English invites that response from others who have heard of it, but have never actually sampled its delights.

Imagine then my delight, my sheer joy at hearing a new form of communication. A new language even. Sure it used English words, but not in any fashion I had previously encountered. We have Queen’s English and King’s English for when she’s not in. We have Scots English and Irish English. Over the ponds are American English, Canadian English and Australian English. All different and yet all the same. But this was something else, and an example of which I have provided for you already in the title of this here rant.

For don’t be fooled by my gay manner and flippant statements. “You’re toeing yer bag rite oot, bai th weye” (I’m trying my best with phonetics here) conveys no meaning. It is not a statement of intent nor of immediate want or concern. It achieves nothing other than allowing me the displeasure of becoming aware of the speaker’s existence and their ability to offend mine ear!

Glasgow English is becoming a great irritant to me. As much as it sometimes scares me, I like change – things evolve. But that implies that there is some genetic prerogative for that thing to advance in some way: to take what it has learned and apply that knowledge in new and interesting and, goddamnit, useful ways.

The English I know and love is one which long ago broke free from its embryonic torpor and produced what amounts to the lexicographical equivalent of stereo vision, opposable thumbs and a sense of decency.

This English is something that has regrown its erstwhile vestigial tail, covets its appendix as a new and wonderous organ and digs ants out of the sand with twigs.

All of my keenly honed sense of snobbery aside, ultimately I’m afraid.

I fear for my next generation, my progency. I fear this is an English that, if I have them, my kids will one day speak.