Sunday, 26 November 2006

HALF-WAY HONEST NATION?

I am the grateful possessor of a Parking Card for people with disabilities. Nowadays I don’t go much further afield than short local shopping trips, and even these would be impossible without this card. It is a badly designed affair, with a serial number and date of expiry on one side, and my name, photograph and signature on the other. The card has to be displayed with the expiry date visible.

Recently I parked in the disabled bay directly outside my dentist’s surgery, displaying the card [I thought] as usual. The next morning I was astonished to find a penalty notice had been fixed to the window of my car standing outside my house, demanding a £50 penalty for improper display and £100 if I delayed payment beyond 14 days. I immediately telephoned the borough in question, and was told that my card had been displayed on the wrong side, so that the expiry date was not visible. The lady I spoke to was very courteous, and suggested that if I sent them a photocopy of the correct side of the card they might waive the penalty, which they eventually did. The whole thing seemed to me rather stupid and a waste of everyone’s time, because if they were able to trace my address from my name on the back of the card they could have accessed proof that the card was valid. It is silly that these cards are not designed with all the necessary information displayed on each side.

Imagine my surprise – and indeed disgust – when I saw last week a BBC news item to the effect that according to the Local Government Association up to half of disabled parking badges in London are being used illegally, and that these badges are now changing hands in the black market for up to £500. A recent crackdown by the Audit Commission led to nearly 5,500 badges being cancelled in Manchester, Merseyside and London because they were being used after the registered holder had died. One such badge had been used 347 times to avoid paying the London congestion charge.

This really makes me wonder – not for the first time – what sort of a nation have we become? Misuse of disabled persons’ badges is not merely a petty criminal offence – it is an action of the meanest sort, amounting to theft from ill and handicapped people. When I was younger, most people would have been ashamed to behave in this sordid way.

But not now, apparently. Swathes of people don’t think it matters to be honest or law-abiding [not always the same thing, I grant] any more. They evidently feel that they are under no obligation to treat their fellow-citizens justly, even when they themselves are often whining about how ill-treated and over-taxed they are.

This is where we have come to with the Nanny State. The Left has always been under the delusion that the way to improve society is to pile on more and more laws, rules and restrictions until people are surfeited with them and take as little notice as possible even of the ones that really do matter. “NuLabour” has taken this fallacy to previously unheard of lengths. I have said for many years that if I became prime minister [too late now, alas] I would immediately scrap half the laws on the statute book and nobody would be any worse off – quite the contrary. The more you sap the individual’s personal responsibility for their own behaviour, the more feckless and uncaring they will become.

There are only two things which it is absolutely essential for every child to be taught in a decent society. The first is that other people are as real as you are [“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”]. The second is not to do to anyone else what you would not want done to yourself. [This is the negative version of the Golden Rule, commended by Bernard Shaw who said “DON’T do to others what you want done to you – they may not like it!]

I used to assume that most people I dealt with were reasonably honest and trustworthy. I no longer do so. I ask myself “are we a half-way honest nation any more? Are we even quarter honest?”

4 comments:

Szwagier said...

The Left has always been under the delusion that the way to improve society is to pile on more and more laws, rules and restrictions until people are surfeited with them and take as little notice as possible even of the ones that really do matter.

Hello Anticant, I don't believe we've met officially.

As a gentle start, I'd like to take delicate issue with the sentence above. You suggest here that the Right hasn't done the same thing. I very strongly disagree. The right just gives the rule-making power to faceless executives and board members.

Just because the government isn't making the rules doesn't mean the rules aren't there. 'Dog eat dog' is not a very nice, responsible rule.

anticant said...

Hello szwagier, welcome aboard [wrong metaphor!]. I don't think I was inferring what you say I was, and in any case your comment doesn't diminish the validity of my criticism of the Left. I could say plenty of nasty things about the Right and doubtless will in due course.

szwagier said...

Oh. OK. It seemed that way to me because you gave (me) the impression that the Left had a monopoly on laws, rules and restrictions.

I'd maintain that all authorities do this, be they overtly political or not. No, it doesn't diminish your criticism, but it wasn't intended to (I'm not a lefty), I just meant to point out that the net can be cast somewhat wider.

anticant said...

I'm not a Lefty either. Or a Righty. I'm a ME - an "anarchist but" [there always has to be a "but"]. A wise friend of mine says the true meaning of anarchy is near-universal individual internal self-control making external social/governmental control unnecessary. Nice thought, but some hope!