Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Second Week of Wonders

This week the things I wondered about included:

1. Whether the slightly chubby T-shirted teenage boy walking down my local shopping street on Saturday afternoon was trying to impress his very pretty female companion when he leaned his head close to hers and burped very loudly in her ear. Or was it just nervous misplaced energy? My advice is that it is very unlikely to be a winning gambit, should any would-be swains happen to be reading this blog.

2. Whether I'm the only person in the world who much prefers this hawk wearer to this one:

who appeared in the hateful "How to Spend it" magazine, (objectionable on both moral grounds - don't spend it give it away; and financial ones - don't spend it, invest it, you loons).

3. Whether Maryon Stewart, who, as a result of her daughter dying after taking something called a 'legal high' , has campaigned for a blanket prohibition of all dangerous substances, understands that prohibition doesn't work.

'No-one should be allowed to sell substances that can harm mental wellbeing or rob people of their lives', she is quoted as saying, and she seems to have succeeded in persuading the British government she is right, (except when it comes to the substances that can have that effect that are already legal and creating employment and revenue for a number of people).

I think she is utterly misguided - and so is the prohibition of all substances, however harmful, (no, scratch that, I do draw the line at radioactive material, but I'm not sure that that is ever going to find a recreational use). The money and effort spent on trying to prevent people getting their hands on various substances should be spent instead on education - and more education and yet more education.

The aim - which is no-one abusing themselves with drugs or anything else - will never be reached. Humanity has a perverse desire - that is to say some members of humanity - to go to hell in a handcart, (in this context, I remember two little girls who visited my family in the country one afternoon; my stepfather looked on as they rushed to an electric fence time and again to touch it and get the horrid jolt it gave them; 'If they're like this now', he remarked, 'what sorts of thrills will they be needing by the time they're teenagers?') - and trying to prevent them will not work.

There are always going to be people who take pleasure in abusing themselves. There will also be some people who think it might be fun and harmless to experiment - and they are the ones who can be reached and prevented from endangering themselves with money redirected towards education. This has been demonstrated - at least in Australia - by the way in which smoking has been reduced so that now only a fraction of the population make the decision to keep puffing away.

Ultimately, mad though it seems to make the decision to keep smoking - or to do anything that endangers oneself - each of us has our own life and we must be allowed to take responsibility for making our own decisions. The one and only thing the government and the rest of us can and should do is ensure that our choices are made from a thoroughly informed position.

The alternative - prohibition and the criminalisation of people who make bad choices - damages society, creating opportunities for organised crime. Where there are crime syndicates, there is always corruption, and corruption is the root of all the world's problems. That is to say, if you look at any country that is not working well, that is in need of aid, that is provoking quantities of its citizens to seek refugee status elsewhere, I guarantee you will find that the country lacks good governance.

And, to go back to the frantic but misguided efforts of Maryon Stewart, a genuinely sad, grieving mother, for whom I have nothing but sympathy, her crusade shows no understanding of human behaviour and is therefore genuinely pointless. If I didn't believe that before, I became absolutely one hundred per cent convinced of it when I went to the Ikea in Bristol the other day.

This was not because a trip to Ikea is likely to make anyone end up thinking that almost any enterprise is hopeless - not at all; I'm rather fond of Ikea (mind you, I'm not the one in the family who does battle with the Allen keys and Delphic instructions). No, it was what I saw in the carpark as Iwewere leaving that made me realise that, no matter how much we try to take care of everyone, to save each individual from his or her self, there will always be ways that people will find to damage themselves and there will always be those who are hellbent on doing dangerous things.

It was while watching some young men on roller blades do the most terrifying stunts down the concrete stairs in the Bristol Ikea carpark, (stunts that made you wince and grimace with horror, so close did they come to breaking every bone in their bodies), that I came to this conclusion. They were having such fun and being so unbelievably reckless that it was actually unpleasant to watch. I was glad when we drove away, so that I didn't have to see the next crazy leap, the one that would probably end in a skull smashing, brain spilling disaster.

Unless we propose abolishing all concrete stairs, all rollerblades, anything on which anyone could possibly be reckless, the enterprise Mrs Stewart is advocating - the protection by government of all people from all forms of  devil -may-care, idiotic-behaviour-created harm - is doomed.


  1. The boy had obviously confused being out with mates and being out with a mating partner (potential). Common amongst teenagers.

    I am all for banning the cotton wool that increasingly swaddles our offspring...and indeed ourselves

  2. Of course, I should have guessed. I bet that that is exactly the mistake he was making, (thinks, so glad I'm not a boy).

  3. I completely agree about drugs - legalising them and treating drug taking as an illness will rob them of their glamour (and dealers of an income).

    I find myself becoming more libertarian with age - is that because so many politicians are younger than me and seem terrifyingly clueless?

    Re: burping in the ear - as a teenager, I used to be dismayed at how successful the burpers of this world were with the opposite sex. My gentlemanly behaviour got me nowhere.

    1. I think it's to do with becoming more and more annoyed that the government still doesn't think you are capable of taking any responsibility for yourself, even though you have reached whatever great age you have reached.
      I think, like the Peter York character in Cabaret - 'Perhaps they were just the wrong three girls' - you must have been hanging about with the wrong girls in your youth. If your sons want to know the secret of success with girls for future ref, by the way, all they need to do is make girls laugh. That's it, so far as I know. But burping isn't terrifically witty. Wit's the thing. That's why all the girls I knew were in love with Peter Cook, not Mick Jagger. But perhaps we were an odd lot