A Mind @ Play

random thoughts to oil the mind

Category: Rants Page 2 of 3

Finding Space for the Public in Transport

This is one of those posts which makes it to the draught stage and never any further, but as I was tidying up my WordPress install, I decided with a bit of reworking it’s something I still feel strongly about. The original title had referred to British public transport in particular, but in truth there is very little specific to the British experience.

Virgin Trains

Before I start my rant, let me plainly state that I am great supporter of the principles of public transport. That is not to say that I don’t see the use or take advantage of private transport, merely that I feel the balance in society is generally wrong, particularly in the first world, or whatever the preferred term is these days. These societies should be perfectly capable of providing for the vast majority of man’s annual miles, with our regular combinations of buses, trams, trains etc. and private transport being available to fill in the gaps where required. Being able to pack your bags, grab the kids and hit the road for a weekend away seems like a reasonable thing to do, but where is the logic of moving a ton of metal to work and back five days a week?

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Fishing the planet dry, by saving the dolphins

Feeding the dolphins

There are some pretty banal programmes on television at times, such is the role it plays, but Animal Park – Wild on the West Coast really caught my eye today. It served up the job of a nature programme from California, but it was a real eye opener to some of the ludicrous crap that gets spewed out, and of course funded, in the name of environmentalism. One segment showed how they looked after a sealion with some neurological disease, to the extent of giving the animal an MRI scan, ascertaining it wasn’t going to survive, and then putting it down. If anyone could explain the point of all that to me, I’d be impressed.

Yet the clip which really boiled my noodle was the one which showed how they were exercising bottlenosed dolphins in captivity, in order to measure their heart rates, and ultimately determine how many calories they needed whilst at rest and whilst active. They were then going to use this information to work out how many fish the animals required, and then pass this important information on to the fisheries in the region, essentially intimating that fisheries would be restricted or closed based on the feeding requirements of the dolphins. It really is amazing at times how random ‘research’ can become. It would seem that as long as those cute little dolphins get enough to eat, no one particularly gives a rat’s arse about whether the ecosystem at large is suffering as a result of fishing policies. Plus, you can bet a pretty penny that with all the statistical horse shit they would have to utilise to make any sense out of those pretty useless collections of figures, there will be little correlation between what they would have to tell the fisheries and reality!

Life as an Individual

Ever wondered what it’s like to see life through someone else’s eyes? We go through life as individuals, and whilst we might try to empathise with the people we meet in our lives, we can never truly see outside of the confines of our own identity. Of course, our identity changes as we develop, and that change gives us some ability to imagine how others are feeling. In particular, we believe it empowers us to imagine what those younger than us must feel. But just how true is that?

…to think
of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys…

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol told us that Christmas was a time for the more fortunate in society to empathise with those below them, not to recognise the financial distinction but see them as fellow human beings. But such recognition can only be superficial. When we look through the eyes of another, we put ourselves in their shoes, as the saying goes. But we cannot hope to look through their eyes. Indeed, can we even imagine looking through eyes that are not our own? Just try to imagine seeing the world with eyes that were not your own; seeing for the first time the different hues and tones, different depth perception, an entirely different focus. Then extrapolate. New experiences, new thought processes, new emotions, new social background, new language, new religion.

As someone bound within the confines of rationality, I find it especially hard to empathise with those more influenced by emotions. When my dog died, my mind offered me a period of grief as it went through its processes. <> Kinda brief, huh? That isn’t to say I’m emotionless, nor to claim that I am incapable of irrationality. I’m always irrational to a rational degree. As an individual I know how hard it is then to empathise with another human being. That one extreme difference only hides a raft of other minor changes which make viewing life through another’s eyes almost impossible. What hope, then, does society have?

Sarah’s Law is no Megan’s Law

As part of the British government’s scheme to tackle sex offenders, Home Secretary John Reid is introducing a raft of new measures for the further protection of children from known paedophiles. Dubbed “Sarah’s Law”, after Sarah Payne who was murdered in 2000 by a repeat offender. Fears that the law would provide powers akin to those in the United States guaranteed by “Megan’s Law”, which had the potential to drive sex offenders underground, have been assuaged by the limited scope of its provisions. The new measures include a voluntary drug treatment, often cited as ‘chemical sterilisation’ in the media, as well as allowing parents to register their concern with the police should anyone be in a position to have unsupervised access to their children.

Yet these measures principally concern the prospect of repeat offences. The cases which sparked such legislation being called for in the first place so incensed the public on account of their being committed by known paedophiles. These measures, however, do not offer much in the way of dealing with the prevention of first time sex offences relating to children. Indeed, as others have said, these measures would also have done nothing to prevent Sarah Payne’s murder by a stranger, the very case which provoked calls for a change in the law.

Any attempt to the tackle the issue of paedophilia must of course require some heavy and uncomfortable acknowledgements on society’s part. Paedophilia is contrary to the social and cultural mores of the country, yet in a population of millions it must be accepted that there is a statistical probability for some individuals to have tendencies deemed unacceptable in their community. If this fact is not accepted, the problem can never be dealt with. ‘Voluntary sterilisation’ goes some way to offering a solution for those affected, to get their own issues under control. It was not a million years ago that homosexuality was deemed anti-social and indeed illegal; its suppression did not lead to its eradication, however. Whilst there is no intention for ethical comparison here, the fact is that paedophilia must firstly be given due acknowledgement if it is to be properly understood and neutralised. That is not to suggest there can be a cureall solution. But the focus can be shifted, from preventing reoffenders striking again, to suppressing potential offenders in the first instance.

Airport Security

Airport Security

If there’s one thing that makes travelling by airplane an ordeal, it’s airport security. The fact that this is as oxymoronic as ‘British Intelligence’ is only half of the story, for that part of your journey which entails walking through the little arch that goes “bing” largely accounts for all the rest of the misery surrounding airports.

Now I can of course only pretend that this is a real ‘pet hate’—for starters, it is a pretty universal sentiment—since it serves its purpose pretty well. That of protecting innocent people? Oh no, there is no security at the airport per se! If you want to set off a bomb or open a phial of some contagious disease, in an area as crowded as the city centre, feel free. There are even bins provided for your convenience. But to make everyone feel safer about boarding the big bricks with wings, and of course for the protection of those big bricks with wings, passengers must arrive early, hand up their luggage for inspection, and file through security like cattle. Oh, and these days, of course you should throw away anything over 100ml!

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