Health and Safety

If you were asked to come up with bywords for a Happy Life, then Safety and Health have got to be up near the top. Life isn’t nearly so much fun without your health, or when living in fear.

But when you put the words together and form a government quango1, the effect is ruined. Health and Safety. Two words that, while outwardly laudable and fluffy, are the antithesis of everything that got humans where we are today.

Let’s deal with Health first. It is clear from my many posts that I do not rank or value human beings, or human life, higher than other forms of life just because we are replete with raincoats, railways and rubber wellies. Let’s face it; we got lucky. The mutations were in our favour. I believe – sorry, wrong word in this context, I know – that Evolution has resulted in our present form. Survival of the Fittest, only the strong survive, all that jazz.

Put simply, if you weren’t healthy, you died. So, if everyone was healthy, evolution would not have caused us to become the fine, upstanding sentient carbon-based bipedal lifeforms we are today. So Health, in the context of the species, is not helpful. Health, as I have argued it, is contrary to the progression of the species from a genetic standpoint.

So to Safety. Taking risks is one of the things that makes life worth living. They have discovered that certain people are more predisposed to taking risks than others. These days the adrenalin junkies jump out of planes and off tall buildings; the closer you are to death, the more you feel alive. It is the adrenalin junkies of old – or yore, if you will – who progressed the species.

Where would we be if Greatn Uncle Tharg hadn’t gone out of the cave to kill mammoths because it wasn’t safe, or if people hadn’t travelled the world, wanting to see what was beyond that horizon? For one thing, I wouldn’t be here writing this. These people did not perform a risk assessment to consider the safety implications of setting out across an ocean of unknown size. They just went ahead and did it. A disregard for safety is one of the things that has led humans to our place in the world.

As a case in point, there was a story in yesterday’s Times about a volunteer member of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency2 who felt compelled to resign because he had rescued a teenage girl from a cliff without stopping to perform a risk assessment and don the approved protective equipment and got in trouble as a result. A spokesman for the MCA stated that they were “not looking for dead heroes”. But they’re the best kind!!!

Society has given us many great things, things that could not be imagined without the comforts of health and personal safety. It could be argued that, for the vast majority of us, Health and Safety, enshrined in standard and law, are key to delivering the society we want. But do we really want to have to jump through quite so many hoops?

On the outskirts of society, where the ages old battle of Life against Death finds you hanging off a cliff by a tuft of grass, the rules of society are instantly rendered mute, impotent, meaningless by the overriding imperative of preservation of Life.

So, I salute Paul Waugh, 44, of Cleveland, England3, for being a Great Human Being and reminding me what being Human should be about.

1 The Health and Safety Executive. You may as well call them the Department for the Prevention of Humanity.
2 about the use of the word “Agency” next to a British organisation smacks of an attempt to get some of the cool to rub off from “The Agency”. I’m embarrassed that they even tried…
3 So as not to confuse the Americans.

Of real and frightening things

Let’s just get something straight here.

“You” is a word. “U” is a letter. It is a component letter of the word “You”, but does not actually take the place of the word “You”. This is because, if you remember from earlier in this paragraph, that “U” is a letter and not infact a word.

These are established facts.

I accept that language evolves and changes. I just maintain that such change should be brought about by a survival imperative or need, not laziness – a point I have laboured over before.

Now that the UK education authorities are happy to accept letters in place of words, and even alphanumeric sequences that grind my brain to a halt in an attempt to parse, I fear.

I fear for the younger generations and how stunted their minds must be, or at least becoming. English is no longer mandatory. The merest glimpse of understanding from their text-speak programmed fingers is enough to gain them an education that will see some of them one day gain places of real and frightening power.

By extension then, I also fear for the generations that follow, because it is today’s maleducated kids who, having installed themselves in the upper echelons, will one day steer these future progeny on their educational course to a similar level as their own.

And when I write a letter to complain, they won’t understand.

New year, old tricks

I like recycling. I think it’s a great idea and I’m into it. What I like better than recycling is the reduction of my own personal carbon footprint – don’t leave monitors on, switch lights off when not using them and don’t leave the television on standby. One particular favourite of mine is either the reuse or non-use of stores’ plastic bags.

I shop with a rucksack so that I might pack my groceries in it rather than suffer my hands slowly being sliced into by cheaply made and omnipresent plastic bags (like hanging from tree branch or blowing past your feet in the street). As a species, the imperative is to lug heavy loads on our backs as our ancestors demonstrated and not to voluntarily sign up to a supermarket-sponsored portable rack. I like having my bones and tendons lengthened by the traditional methods of calcium or iron infused from a healthy diet, not through these bastard means of torture.

I also like the idea of helping yourself. Not self-help, but being able to do things on my own without someone either having to do it for me or even just scrutinising each miniscule task as I seek for their approval so that I may move on with my jolly day.

To that end, I therefore applaud these new self service lanes in supermarkets. Scan your own items, pay your way and even bag it up yourself – or not.

I had the good fortune to use such a self-service lane this weekend and packed my items into my aforementioned rucksack. After three items had not been placed in the supermarket’s own bags, I was told to wait for a “supervisor” who would grant me “permission” to continue scanning and packing my own God damn groceries in my own God damn bag. And even when I was allowed to continue my insanity, it was met with puzzlement as to why I wouldn’t want to join them in their plastic revelry.

What confounds me about this system is that it’s items I’d already scanned and (one could quite innocently assume now that they were ‘in the system’) I intend to pay for. Had I secreted away three bottles of Dom Perignon and two lobster that I did not scan into a branded plastic bag and was infact stealing them for a banquet here at the Palace later tonight, I imagine there would no fucking problem.

Three things then:

  1. There is nothing ‘self’ about self-service systems.
  2. They were actively preventing me from purchasing food until I was given permission to continue.
  3. They don’t care about the planet.

There are two outcomes my mind, in it enraged state, can form from these facts: they are either trying to rule the world (badly and at a really low level) or they want to destroy it.

Caucuses and The Non-Caucasian

I have just watched some speeches made by the Democrat and Republican candidates after Iowa voted for their preferred Presidential runners. In time I will no doubt find that it is just me, but I think it is worth noting that the man likely to come out of the caucuses in the lead is not Caucausian. History will be my judge.

The Republicans struck me as wet fishes, even though Mike Huckabee had CHUCK NORRIS1 behind him. No surprise that he won the Republican vote – “Vote for me, or it’s The Norris for you!”. Hillary had Philandering Bill standing behind her, and where did she come for the Democrats? Third. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. On a related note; Is there nothing CHUCK NORRIS cannot do?. Why isn’t he running for President? He could sort out the Middle East single handed.

Listening to Barack Obama’s speech, I get the impression that he’s a sound bloke and I was swayed by his words and his oration. Given Dubya Bush’s mass destruction of the English language, in all her beauty, Obama gets my vote purely on the grounds of being able to form a cogent sentence and deliver it with gravitas and conviction. The last eight years of mumbling, smirking and embarrassed silences will no doubt have convinced many that the ability to communicate clearly is a core skill no statesman should be without.

But it also struck me that this is a speech designed precisely to engender these feelings. How am I to know if this is what he really stands for, or is he just saying what it takes to get elected?

Like examinations for kids, elections, and the campaign trail in particular, seem a colossally flawed method for choosing a government. From a purely theoretical standpoint, it seems perfectly logical to pick your best candidates and then let the people decide which one they want.

The problem is that the vast majority of people are deciding based on what they see on TV and what they read in the papers. They have no idea what a particular politician actually holds dear or what they will do once elected to office. They are forced to choose based on information that is skewed from reality. The magnitude of the skewing is the unknown factor; really, it is this single unknown that stops the theoretical ideal from working in practice.

Unfortunately, while the problem appears to be simple, it a flaw which is in all of us. Humans are selfish and trusting animals. We generally accept that which is presented to us, even if, on inspection, it is flawed, baseless or not in our own self-interest.

That said, and to take the place of a human for the merest instant, I though Barack said all the right things and, more importantly, he said it in the right way. “Change” must be the Democratic message for this campaign, but I didn’t believe it when Hillary was saying it, due, no doubt, to her smiling doofus of a husband perched over her left shoulder (see, you got to get The Norris).

At this point, I am unaware of any sleaze that has been levelled at Barack Obama. Every other candidate (OK, maybe not every candidate, but the main ones), to quote General Taylor in Good Morning, Vietnam, “lugs a trainload of shit behind him (or her) that would fertilize the Sinai.” Now, maybe Barack’s people bought one of those ex-Soviet stealth missile trains to haul his shit about in, because, although I haven’t given it my complete attention, I can’t say I’ve detected any spin from his camp.

And that’s the point. Despite only watching four videos and no seeing Barack Obama’s name colocated with the word “Liar” on reddit, digg or elsewhere, I am confident to declare him the next POTUS. It will be interesting to see how they all get on in New Hampshire in a couple of days.

Now the comedians can get on with the business of coming up with Black First Lady jokes and mildy-racist Secret Service codenames.

1 I didn’t type this in caps, but Blogger wouldn’t let me correct it. Damn, Chuck Norris is all powerful…