Tag Archives: Bertolt Brecht

Beware of the little people

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It’s obvious that the great and the good are sadly disappointed in us. In spite of the bounty they pour upon us, the wise guidance they offer and the tender way they gently lead us into the golden future they have mapped out, we’re not to be trusted.

 

I noticed in the paper today that “Ofsted fears schools will squander extra cash.”

Apparently Ananda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, said that “There was clearly room for improvement when it came to school budgeting and that bad financial decisions would be harmful to children’s education.”

Apparently she also hinted that there could be an expanded role for the inspectorate in analysing schools’ financial records to ensure budgets were properly spent. Given that nobody has seen any evidence that Ofsted actually has any competence in the financial field, one assumes that this expansion of their duties will, inevitably, lead to a considerable increase in their staff numbers. Equally inevitably this will lead to senior people being raised to higher grades, in recognition of their ‘greater responsibility’ with, of course, a corresponding increase in the level of their remuneration.

Strangely enough, the comments, “Were put online yesterday by accident before being quickly removed.”

 

At the same time, on a webpage from the Government Digital Service, small boat fishermen were described as ‘poor, less intelligent and depressed,’ categorising some of them as ‘rule beaters consistently seek to evade regulation’ who ‘are often unpopular with the rest of the fishing community.’

“The regulator said that the phrasing came from external research when developing the Catch Recording App, a new tool that small-scale English fishermen are being forced to use to record catches. To justify the need for submissions in the app before fish are landed, the paper claimed fishermen in the under-10 metre fleet (which makes up 80% of the catching industry) could not be trusted to unload their haul without ‘colluding’ with black-market sellers.”

Strangely enough, the fishing regulator has apologised for being ‘massively disrespectful’ about trawler-men, and the comments have been quickly removed from the website.

 

In agriculture we’ve had it for a while. One Defra run database told staff some years ago (in the last millennium, so the attitude is not new) that they were to assume that farmers were lying unless it was proven otherwise. This was a verbal briefing to staff (back then managers were either too wise, or not tech-savvy enough to inadvertently put stuff on the website by accident) but unfortunately due to the nature of the staff, it leaked out.
What senior people in Defra hadn’t realised is that a proportion of the staff recruited to work on the database were the wives or daughters of farmers. They were ideal employees because they actually understood what the data was supposed to show. Unfortunately, when they got home after work, they were also the ones who would gather up and submit the data that their farming family had to put on the database. As you can imagine, the warning they were given didn’t go down well.

 

I confess to being reminded of the words of Bertolt Brecht

 

After the uprising of the 17th of June

The Secretary of the Writers’ Union

Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

Stating that the people

Had forfeited the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?

Sadly, we the little people, have forfeited the confidence of our masters in the bureaucracy. Perhaps they should show their displeasure by abandoning us and going off to administer somebody else? I’m sure that would teach us a strong lesson.

♥♥♥♥

There again, what do I know? I recommend you discuss the matter with somebody who knows.

Available as paperback or ebook

As a reviewer commented, “If I were younger, I would love to spend a year following Jim and Sal around and listening to the stories and adding the special effects, but I sure get a lot of the picture from his well-chosen words.

Can’t wait for the next book! Beautifully done.”

Electoral snobbery and the dog poo fairy

After the uprising of the 17th of June

The Secretary of the Writers’ Union

Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee

Stating that the people

Had forfeited the confidence of the government

And could win it back only

By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier

In that case for the government

To dissolve the people

And elect another?

Bertolt Brecht

I don’t think anybody has written better about anthropomorphic personification than Terry Pratchett. In his Discworld books, they occur when people believe that a phenomena or a concept has a personality, and thus the personalities become real. One of Pratchett’s best characters is DEATH, but there are others.

Within his books it seems that the more belief there is, the more likely the personification is to exist. So Jack Frost really does paint windows and the Sandman creeps round with his bag of sand sending children to sleep. Belief is what matters.

So I was a little perturbed when a couple of days ago, I saw pasted to a litter bin, a sticker bearing the immortal words, “There’s no such thing as the dog poo fairy.”

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This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but given the lack of trust in authority in this country at the moment it might become one. After all, if ‘they’ say that something doesn’t exist, and ‘they’ normally lie, then obviously the dog poo does exist. We’re more likely to believe in something if ‘they’ tell us not to. Hence I’m expecting to see the dog poo fairy with her red hair and white dress giving TV interviews in the not too distant future.

This lack of trust tends to manifest as contempt.

Q   “How do you know when a politician is lying?”

A    “Their lips move.”

The problem is that contempt seems to leak into other aspects of life and I don’t know about anybody else but I’m getting worried by the amount of contempt there is in politics at the moment. You see one extreme in Thailand where the country’s urban elite refuses to be governed by a party elected by the peasant majority, accusing them of taking power by bribing the peasantry (whereas previous governments took power by bribing the urban elite?)

It looks pretty bad in the US. A friend of mine described his country as “The place where the ‘liberals’ aren’t liberal and the ‘Christian right’ isn’t Christian.”

But what is it like here in the UK? When you look at stuff people post to their Facebook walls, what strikes me is the visceral contempt they, (or the people who create the ‘witty’ memes they post) appear to have for those who don’t share their political viewpoint.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with regard to the UK Independence Party. It’s notable that at a high level both the Conservative and Labour parties have been backing away from the extreme rhetoric. Indeed they’ve stressed that they don’t regard UKIP as racist.

At the moment the local election results are coming out, and already people are trying to make sense of them. One quote I thought was interesting,

“Some academics say Ukip’s base these days are those “left behind” by New Labour: generally older, generally male, generally less likely to have degrees or other academic qualifications, generally more rural, generally home-owning. (Note, yes, generally.) They feel, the theory goes, like they no longer recognise or like modern, post-immigration Britain and cannot trust the political elite.”

The big difference between London and the rest of England is also interesting but then a lot of people outside London don’t regard it as part of England anyway.

I confess that I’m waiting with some interest to see the results of this Euro-election, or at least the UK results. I’m not so much bothered by the actual result as what sort of comments we start seeing on Facebook about them.

Will people be willing to accept the choices of their fellow citizens or are we going to see the sort of vitriol people have poured over political parties poured over those who voted for them?

One thing that worries me about the US is that they seem to have taken this level of contempt for fellow members of the electorate even further than we have. Certainly I’ve seen comments, from this country and from the US along the lines of “Anyone who votes for party X is too stupid to deserve a vote.”

It’s amazing how rapidly people forget that we’re supposed to be equal. My vote, your vote, and the vote of the person who just voted for the party you loathe are equal, just as we are all equal.

If we’re to remain a democracy, it’s something we just have to learn to live with.

♥♥♥♥♥

What do I know, if in doubt ask the dog

As a reviewer commented, “Another excellent compendium of observations from the back of Mr. Webster’s quad bike in which we learn a lot more about sheep, border collies and people. On the whole, I think the collies come out of it best. If you fancy being educated on the ways of the world, with a gentle humour and a nice line in well observed philosophy, you could do a lot worse than this.”