The Greater Good

The weather is so variable at the moment it’s a case of making the most of any day that’s half decent. Today was one of those days, and I know I’m fortunate to be able to take advantage of it.

That said, I’m able to work into the small hours without too much trouble, to make up for the daylight hours I’ve spent out and about. It’s one of those things; speaking in very broad terms I suppose working late does require discipline but I can do it and it’s not hard for me. So, what kind of discipline is that really? It can’t be considered an absolute. It would only be ‘an act of great self-discipline’ to work long hours into the night if it was hard for me to do so. It’s like bravery – you can only be considered brave if your act of bravery was preceded by fear.

It’s Reading Festival this coming weekend and that has big knock-ons for traffic, and thus for the routes it’s going to be sensible to ride for the next few days. In turn, that influenced the route I picked for today. I can’t say that’s a big deal, I don’t resent that. What I do find irritating, or maybe depressing, is that so many people are willing to get annoyed about it. It’s not hard to go online and find people moaning about the festival. Every now and then a few local residents will get organised and have a pop at it with some inane petition or a group protest letter, that of course the local press will pick up on simply because they rarely have enough to fill up their pages.

The festival happens every year. The dates are predictable. It’s not a surprise to anyone. It is perfectly feasible to plan to work around it. Yes, the noise can be annoying if your aim was a quiet bank holiday evening or something and the wind’s bringing the sound your way but for goodness’ sake, there are tens of thousands of people there having a really good time and the amount of inconvenience it’s causing the locals need be no great shakes.

And I genuinely think that about it, which is in sharp contrast to how I react when, say, a neighbour is being noisy. When that sort of thing happens I am totally and utterly intolerant; it both annoys and angers me.

So, that’s what I was thinking about riding today – what those two reactions mean, or rather what they say about me. The obvious thing is to conclude I’m happy with the ‘greater good’ argument. That it’s a large crowd having a good time outweighs any inconvenience the festival causes, whereas when it’s a neighbour making a racket, that’s one or two people inconveniencing far more – me and all the other neighbours around.

The trouble is, mob rule isn’t the way forward either. The majority isn’t always right. It’s too easy to descend to the lowest common denominator if you go down that path.

That then leads you towards the uncomfortable, awkward acceptance of elites – there’s no other word for it. Society needs leading, leaders, leadership, to decide what to tolerate and what not to. I suspect a healthy society is where that leadership is taking the whole of society to a better place, as best it can, whether the whole of society knows it wants to get there or not.

That, surely, has to be better than the exploitation of masses by the elite, dressed up and justified in that foul, smug condescending way that’s too commonly heard these days: “We’re treating people like shit / feeding them shit / entertaining them with shit / telling them shit / letting them wallow in shit because that’s what they want. We know it’s shit but hey, what can you do if that’s what people want. It’s not for us to judge.”

Surely, as a basic tenet of civilization, if you know better than it’s your job to spread that knowledge, not exploit the ignorance of those who don’t know.