Nothing Is As It Seems

Three lovely old ladies, good friends thrown together by circumstance and now sharing a house, decided they liked a vase they’d seen in a second hand shop window. It would brighten up their dining room. It was just £30 but their pensions weren’t huge. However, they decided they’d each chip-in with £10, so they saved up over a few weeks and eventually had enough in the kitty.

Money in their purses, off they set one Saturday morning and to their relief the vase was still there. Without any further ado, they paid the nice lad in the shop and set off home with it.

Just seconds after they’d left the shop manager came out from the office where he’d been doing a rough-and-ready stock check and said to the lad, “let’s mark that vase down to £25, it’s been hanging around for ages and it’s never going to sell.” The lad said he’d just that minute sold it to three old ladies. The manager, without a moment’s hesitation, told him to run after them and give them five pounds back – “it’s only fair”, he said.

So the lad grabbed five pounds out of the till and ran after the ladies. But while he was nice enough, he was also a crafty one, and when he caught up with them he gave them back just one pound each and kept two pounds for himself. “Well,” he reasoned, “they’re still going to be happy.”

So that meant the three old ladies paid £9 each. Three multiplied by nine is twenty-seven. The lad kept two pounds for himself. Twenty-seven plus two is twenty-nine. Where did the other pound go?

Nothing is as it seems.

This week I caught a glimpse of a not particularly imposing church while out near Wittenham Clumps but in fact it’s Dorchester Abbey – one of the oldest Christian sites in Britain.

The establishment in Britain is currently working out how best to deflect the resurgence, yet again, of claims that some of its leading members were, perhaps even are, involved in child sex abuse and/or covering it up. They’re doing the inevitable and setting up enquiries and investigations left, right and centre. I think it was either a ‘Yes Minister’ or ‘Yes Prime Minister’ episode that made the joke about an enquiry being just a way of kicking a problem into the long grass.

In the 80s I was told that you could tell which ‘top people’ the press knew were ‘fiddling with little boys’ by whose photo was printed next to other stories about paedophiles. I have no idea whether that’s true; the chap who told me is long dead. The point is, this is not a new story, in the same way that Catholic priests have been ‘joked’ about as fiddling with choir boys for far longer than I’ve been on this planet.

The establishment will always put a lot of effort into pouring oil on troubled waters – being seen to do something positive while in fact doing nothing apart from saving itself. As they do so now, it’s always worth remembering that nothing’s as it seems, not even simple maths.

Dorchester Abbey - ancient Christian site

Not an insignificant church

Treated With Contempt

This week, the government is saying it’s promoting cycling with a load of extra funding. The figures bandied about vary: £148 million is probably the most commonly cited, at least by the politicians; £77 million is often repeated too.

Let’s leave aside everything else – that it’s a drop in the ocean*; that a lot of it will be spent by incompetent local councils et al to no positive effect; that a lot of it probably won’t ever be spent, as has happened with town centre regeneration funds … and so on. Let’s leave aside all of that.

Let’s just focus on the sums involved. In reality it’s just £52 million of new funding. The rest has already been announced.** That is just a fact.

Another fact is that it’s not at all surprising that it requires other people to do the research to find out the truth about the sums, to find out the reality behind the numbers.

You could say any politician citing £148m or £77m as if it were new money is trying to fool us. You could say they are a liar. You could say they are treating us with contempt, as idiots. And you’d be right.

And that should be what we all take away from this announcement about funding for cycling: that once again our political classes are treating ordinary people with contempt. Anything else we might take away from it is, surely, far less significant.

* The figures in (some sort of ) context.

** How the money breaks down (1)

** How the money breaks down (2)

When The Law Doesn’t Work

Injustice is – what? Depressing? Sobering? Not surprising? I don’t know what’s a realistic response. For whatever reason, I had not come across the CTC’s Road Justice campaign until lately. Now I have, and over the last few rides I’ve found myself thinking about just what it means for that campaign to be necessary.

The issues it campaigns about, of course, I have been aware of. (I can even say that in the past I’ve donated my poker winnings to the Cyclists’ Defence Fund.) And as an individual, looking at reports about road traffic accidents involving cyclists, it’s often seemed to me that the police don’t take the plight of cyclists seriously. I’ve seen the same when it comes to cycle theft too – corroborated anecdotally by my local bike shop and a neighbour who’s been victim of professional bike thieves. But those have just been general impressions and I’ve been willing to believe that I might be wrong, that I don’t have all the evidence.

Having this general, vague awareness of the justice system’s bias against cyclists made concrete by a body such as the CTC, backed up by evidence, takes it to another level. The question becomes, as Lenin said, ‘What is to be done?

Middle aged, middle class and middle brow (I know my limits), my natural, ingrained belief was that the police and the components of the justice system generally are all broadly on the side of what’s right, what’s good. I don’t know where it leaves me to find that when it comes to me as a cyclist, they’re not. Although not the same thing qualitatively, perhaps it leaves me broadly in the same boat as the Hillsborough victims’ families, or the Birmingham Six, or the Lawrence family … etc.

A society where more and more people are being given just cause to doubt the rule of law is a society in danger. We can only function as a society if there’s a broad consensus about right and wrong. Lose the consensus and we all stand to lose everything.

Given that, on the whole, this society is one I’m more-or-less happy to be living in, I think the only logical answer to the legal system’s failings is that I should be trying to fix what is wrong, in the belief that although there are problems far greater than ‘a few rotten apples’ (as the police in particular would like to have us believe), it is still fixable.

And, given that the vast majority of people in this country – as witnessed by their general passivity – are similarly more-or-less happy with their lot, I suspect the same is true for most other people too; i.e. we should all be trying to fix what’s wrong, rather than merely being bystanders or victims.

As an easily achievable small step in the right direction, for cyclists, simply supporting the CTC’s campaigns is doing something to fix things.

The Road Justice Campaign

There is any number of other causes worth fighting for, with associated organizations taking up the fight, that we can all support too.

A Nasty Thought For Nasty People

An off-road ride, in part to try out some new tyres. They were noticeably squirmy on road but that’s fair enough – they’re designed for mud. Unfortunately, the dirt off road was surprisingly hard and dry so it was no real test.

Yes, dry dirt in October. Climate change is all too real. I read in the news that some high profile American, previously a ‘climate change sceptic’ has apparently changed his mind in the light of recent data and research. I don’t care. I don’t even care enough to look up his name.

The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence says climate change is real. The media give an ludicrous amount of coverage to the tiny minority of voices who want to deny that. There is an awful lot of active disinformation and misinformation about what’s happening to the planet, aimed at sowing doubt. It’s identical in approach to the tobacco companies’ propaganda tactics once the link to lung cancer was proven. Such is extent of the greed some people are capable of. We should not be surprised at human nature.

No, that some American has changed his tune about climate change matters not one jot. All I hope, for the sake of justice, is that those orchestrating the dis- and mis-information, and those who repeat it, live long enough to see their grand children struggle with the consequences of an over-heating planet. A nasty thought, for nasty people.

You Couldn’t Make It Up

Blair is a god-father to a Murdoch sprog
MI6 and Libyan torture connections
CEO remuneration and all the venal grotesques infesting board rooms
As for remuneration lawyers and all the other sycophant s…

Riding around rich areas – in the area you’d get if you drew the boundary to connect Henley, Maidenhead, Windsor and Reading – there are plenty of what I imagine are ‘CEO standard’ houses.

Obviously their pay sucks. It’s totally wrong on every level – even their own. These people boost profits by short-termism – cuts to the workforce, no job security, no benefits, minimum wage – and not ‘performance’ in any meaningful sense of the word. These people create a ‘no-future’ culture, the sort some people are citing as a root cause of the recent riots.

Naturally, you wish the riots would hit these people’s houses, directly, not shops and innocent people, but, ultimately, appropriate as it might be to see these venal idiots with their heads on spikes, what would that actually achieve? I suspect the answer is ‘not a lot’. Violence is always the temptation of the desperate, the frustrated, but it never solves anything. Resolution always has to come by some other means.

We can have a ripple of media concern as we did today, but that was it – just a ripple. No outcry. We can have a shareholders getting upset but they’re the arseholes who are funding these people, only crying now it’s too late.

What is needed is society as a whole to be disgusted with these people … and all the other things that are crawling out of the woodwork of late.