Saturday, 16 July 2011

Stop the Bagging

After yesterday's post, showing old promotional material for Canberra, I've had a few hurt conversations with fellow members of the ACT gulag. 'Why are you such a knocker, Z', they say, 'why can't you just stop bagging Canberra? It's a lovely place to live, so easy and beautiful, why would you want to complain?'

Well, it isn't the setting, which is undeniably beautiful, (and, yes, it is great to be able to walk into the bush within 10 minutes and, while I couldn't quite call it great, given that, when you reach it, there is not much there, it is convenient to be able to walk 15 minutes in the other direction and be in the centre of town).

However, a glance at the notices, each and every one of them published by the ridiculous local government (which, even though it presides over a population of only 360,000 people, is, I gather, proposing to spend $490 million to construct an extra building to house all the teeming hordes of people it needs to work in its tin-pot parliament, which has the grand title of ACT Legislative Assembly, complete with Hansard et cetera), at my local library, gives a pretty good indication of 'what's not to like':

 1) Do they imagine I'm going to save them all up for Christmas and press them, 'gift-wrapped',  into a close relative's hand?

2) 'Open them during the day and close them at night'? Thanks for that, I might have got it the wrong way round. I mean really - those of us who can afford curtains don't need this advice; those who are still struggling with too large a mortgage will have to continue with the current tacked up blanket arrangement - only now they'll probably feel guilty about it as well.

3) Thanks, mum, for reminding me, because I'm just an infantile moron:

4) I think the sign reading 40 should be an adequate lesson, plus all the other signs all around schools, plus the fact you are taught about this when you learn to drive, but probably the ACT Government, if only it had a bit more of our money, would like to force us all onto a one-day training programme on this as well (interesting that the poster, which reads, 'School's back', is on display, even though it is in fact the school holidays here right now).

5) Since when did women become some kind of semi-disabled minority who need special grants before they can manage fronting up to the local supermarket and saying, 'I've been at home for a while with the kids, but is there any possibility of a job?'

6) So you are already late for a meeting, you rush into a cafe to buy a cup of coffee quickly and you're supposed to be like some boy scout, with mug in hand, or alternatively an eco-warrior, stopping in the middle of your already frenzied life to argue the merits of polystyrene over paper. Do these people have any idea what it is like trying to work, look after children et cetera et cetera?

7) Are you telling me that you've made it more complicated, that there are odd new little rules you've brought in to add to my anxiety? Are you implying I'd hurl all my children into the boot, if you didn't remind me about the booster seat? I'm insulted now (actually I was already)

(and when you say, 'children must stay in a restraint until the age of 7 years', have you ever tried getting them into bed still strapped into their booster seat? It's not as easy as it sounds.)

8) What, there's nowhere in my life that you won't intrude? I don't want a home water audit, free or not - and what am I supposed to do when I've got it anyway? Worry about the fact that I can't actually afford to instal the correct equipment - or that my landlord's not interested. Look, please, just go away.

9) Oh, and the best for last - this to me is clearly well-meant, but has anyone really thought it through? I mean, as a result of this decision, instead of reusing each plastic bag, (most of which are very flimsy these days and claim to be made from recycled bags themselves and also to be biodegradable, although I have no idea how true this is), first to cover left overs in the fridge and then to line the rubbish bin, I will for the first time in my life be buying clingfilm and rubbish bags; in other words I will be paying to buy plastic products that I will only use once, whereas before I was reusing the bags I got at the shop several times.
To add to the madness, plastic bags will still be available at the supermarket, if you want to pay for them; however, they will be much more durable, long-lasting - and therefore less degradable - ones:
I know that I am scatter brained enough to continue to forget to bring my own bags to the shop and so I will end up buying these ones, thus generating the production dozens of bags of a  far more environmentally damaging variety than the old ones, all in the name of what?

And one last whinge - what does it cost to produce all these absurd directives? People write them, they have meetings about them, designers do mock-ups, more meetings, recommendations, approvals, quotes from printers, large quantities of paper, on and on it goes.


  1. Commandeer them. Gather a stash, and someday your offspring will be able to sell them for a decent price. The posters made in WW II, printed by the thousands, and really as silly as the Canberra posters, sell for high prices today.

  2. My favorite is #6, because they couldn't even bother to try to reduce a wordy directive to a snappy little slogan!

  3. George - To become valuable, they would first have to become rare, which, sadly, I don't think will happen any time soon.
    Jeff - I hate them all. I am writing this between bouts of citizen's action, involving throwing all the neighbourhood children into the back of my car, without any restraints, and driving erratically round the streets of Canberra (particularly speedily in school zones) hurling plastic lunch boxes, foam coffee cups, lined curtains and the occasional dual flush lavatory out the window.

  4. This may be a bit off the mark, here, but it got me thinking about the overall tone in which governments communicate to citizens. In these, the government condescends to the public as if the were rather "slow" children. In America, we are simply told, threateningly, what to do: "It is required by law that these seats [on a train] be given to citizens with disabilities." On the tube in London, there was a similar sign that amounted more to: please be nice and give this seat to the elderly and ill. It makes me wonder if there are signs on trains in Canerra that explain, with pseaudo-patience *why* one should give up those seats. Often, one sees signs across America, in dangerous areas, insisting that one "KEEP OFF" certain dangerous things or be arrested or fined. In contrast, my favorite, in Dover England, was a sign that simply showed a person falling. That seems to me to be the perfect governmental tone: "We're just showing you what could happen. The rest is up to you." It seemed respecful and truly to have come from a concerned impulse.

  5. Z: I applaud your ne'er-do-well day! The city of Washington recently passed a five-cent tax on plastic bags, and the piety with which people stroll around with their "green" (made in China from iffy materials, loaded with grocery-store bacteria) shopping bags is rather tedious.

  6. Chris, a French friend pointed out that on the French metro the list of people one should give up one's seat to includes pregnant women, followed immediately by 'mutilés de guerre'.
    Jeff, hurray, my sentiments exactly re those horrible indestructible so-called 'green' bags. There's such a lot of sanctimonious twaddle about these days.