Traffic of effluence
Please note: the next issue of this journal (re-named) is scheduled for mid-month, 16-11-2017.
More news from the redoubtable Monty Skew (one of the best-informed men in London) though he explains that with things increasingly fraught over there it is not the right time to offer this journal another of his scintillating appraisals. However with his permission I quote the following. from his message.
Some of the proposals in the now infamous little black books circulating in the corridors of powerlessness, inciting suggestions to be posted anonymously on what to do as national bankruptcy bears down, border on the imaginative even if many are physiologically impossible . You will understand I cannot go into e-mailed details at present, though as the government’s ‘authority’ slides ever further past the S-bend I may take the chance in a month or so, or after a prime ministerial resignation, whichever is the sooner. But I happened to see Hunt (a.k.a ‘the man with the predictable nickname’) striding along Whitehall a couple of days ago bouncing as usual over impediments whether they were there or not. I put his jaunty air down to his innate ebullience which as you know has often had major obstacles cowering behind their stethoscopes, but it is rumoured that he has a plan. He is going to solve the NHS crises at a stroke, in effect by abolishing patients, or at least eliminating the surplus of patients over and above the quantity which the NHS can handle while remaining true to its admirable principles of free treatment of those in need (provided of course that they provide satisfactory evidence of holding British nationality.) His plan has the simplicity of genius, and can be summed up as ‘one-out, one-in’. It will hold good both for GP surgeries and NHS hospitals. For instance if a would-be patient arrives at an A&E entry point when that ‘facility’ has already reached its manageable quota of patients he or she must wait their turn until another patient emerges, discharged (or possibly thrown out in the case of troublesome characters), thus keeping pressure on the dedicated staff inside to the level deemed acceptable by the authorities. Among the scheme’s other advantages it is anticipated that local businesses could establish ‘extramural’ amenities, manned by volunteers, providing refreshments and other services for those waiting outside, thus developing an additional revenue stream for hospitals…
Commentary. Kevin De Wong (Thessaloniki): In grandfather’s time the reasons for wanting to buy a car if you could were obvious. Today, the fact that most city inhabitants still want one more car than their household already owns is striking evidence that societies change collective ideas (such as hereditary enmity for at least one other nation) infinitely more slowly than the well-known supertanker can change direction.fn It is obvious by now to all except most of the world’s urban population that the urge to buy a motor vehicle is not merely a major factor boosting GDP (as desired by governments) and personal debt (as ignored by citizens), but also good evidence of mental disorder (partly induced by raised levels of toxins in the bloodstream through living in a fog of air pollution). Victims cannot form realistic estimates of (1) total cost of acquisition, including ‘optional extras’ e.g. spare tyre, licence fees, insurance costs, ‘special low-cost’ introductory membership of ‘prestigious’ car owners’ club, costs of celebratory night out ‘to give our new car a run’; (2) maintenance costs (continuing licence fees, continuing insurance, replacement tyres, visits to Auntie Maud ‘now we’ve got the car’, servicing, repairs, congestion charges, rapidly rising fees for membership of prestigious car owners’ club, penalties for traffic offences, cost of release from clamped vehicle pounds, medical expenses (after road rage incidents), costs of visits to distant prisons (in case of serious traffic offences); and (3) damage to mental health and family stability from everything covered by the above eighteen headings, plus worry about theft of vehicle or contents or parts, plus associated paperwork, demanded by ‘authorities’, all multiplied by incorrectly prepared paperwork to or from aforesaid ‘authorities’. This leads to the dawning realisation, while stuck in the daily traffic jam, that changes in travel time were substantial, as anticipated, but negative. You have here more than one ordinary problem with less than one realistic solution (short of extinction of the human race). All this could be a serious drag on motor car sales. But once it’s decided that the big problem with cars is the pollution then the obvious answer is to junk the polluting cars, speed to the showrooms, and shell out for an electric vehicle. The manufacturers regretfully point out these will inevitably cost considerably more than corresponding vehicles currently marketed – but, you see, the big advantage is they are green (like many drivers) and emit zero pollution (unlike the power stations which produce the electricity.) Somehow, though, I still have questions, such as who is going to generate the electricity, and how, and how much are they going to charge whom for it? (Outsourcing production to, let’s say, Kalgovia where they have excellent coal-fired power stations does not necessarily lead to cheaper power in the UK.) Moreover, at present the millions of transactions that keep society going depend on tens of thousands of people making individual journeys as required, not on a giant network vulnerable to lightning strikes at crucial points, or sabotage, or a solar flare, or machinations of some enemy state doing things on the internet that decent honest nations like our own never dream of doing (Ed: Why not? Surely it’s their duty to get in first?). If you want an example of how things are when a nationwide network fails, just look at Porto Rico many weeks now after the hurricane. But let’s be fair. (Editor’s note: Why?) Let’s have that campaign to reduce air pollution, ban all petrol and diesel vehicles. Everything will now be hunky-dory, right? Well, my careful observations over the years reveal that when official action to deal with a problem finally rises from its comfortable armchair and sets to work there are just three possible outcomes: (1) progress, but not enough (though the consultants do pretty well); (2) the problem gets worse; (3) the problem is solved, but another one rises up in its place. (Think ‘cane toad’.) Meanwhile look carefully and you’ll see that we have failed to deal with any of the twenty-one car ownership headaches listed above. (And I’d be prepared to bet air pollution is far from beaten.) But now it becomes clear that what you really need to get to grips with is traffic congestion, too many people in cars in too little space. Certainly, human beings tend to congregate in large groups, but it’s bizarre to assume that a city centre crowd exists because those in it set off that morning to be part of a crowd. Some may have similar purposes, but that’s utterly different from having crowd membership as your goal. Writers have long declared the human to be a social animal. They should get out of the study and down to the beach. Even on a busy day, the humans almost never aggregate into large groups. They form parties of between two and about fifteen, normally well separated. (Compare the chimp; contrast the sea lion.) In large herds humans have always been dangerous for other beasts (think ‘megafauna extinctions’, not to mention the dodo, et al, et al) and indeed for other humans. (Cue photographs ad lib of close-combat warfare intercut with gigantic military parades.) Even if large numbers do gather for a common purpose – a football match, perhaps – before long they find something to disagree about (the fundamental flaw of the much vaunted parliamentary system). Disagreement leads to quarrels, which given enough time and numbers end in war. This age-old hostility to groups of ‘others’ is galvanised when thousands of motorists drive to the city for their separate purposes in cars sold to them as offering bird-like freedom, and find themselves blocked by the sheer numbers of other motor vehicles. They slowly inch along past the overpriced idiocies of the consumerist state, not even allowed to simply leave their car and proceed on foot. When at last they reach their destination, if they ever do, friends to be met have given up and left, all tickets to be bought have been sold, all restaurant tables are fully booked. And as it gets dark muggers re-appear in the side alleys.
fn In the equally well-known and equally fatuous analogy the supertanker displaces a volume of seawater equivalent to ‘about 42,638,016½ Olympic swimming pools’.
We were onto this years ago. From this outlet in an earlier format (‘Esmond Maguire’, isbn 978-616-90476-1-2 publ.2010 :
Wouldn’t it be splendid if we could replace all the traffic in our cities by human beings moving about under their own steam? ‘Aha,’ you cry ‘there is no obstacle of principle as things are now; look at the cyclists. The reason it doesn’t happen’ you continue, ‘is because most people aren’t idiots enough to do it.’ But the reason they don’t want to do it is that all the other traffic is still there. What if everybody was moving about completely unmotorised? To which you are no doubt already objecting that this is ridiculous since journey times would be preposterously slow. Ah, but would they?
I have been reading ‘A complete history of the stilt’ put out by some professor working in his candle-lit cell, and it seems that while we think of stilts nowadays as just a turn in the circus, in the past they have been worn in all seriousness for practical use in many countries. For instance, in the cold winters in the 1700s the Swedes used them with snowshoe attachments to cross country covered with lots of snowdrifts. And in the Landes region of France right up to the 1950s the peasants used to travel about on stilts a yard and more high (the book has photographs to prove it), and the really good part is they were able to move as fast as a cantering horse (and without the associated smell) – a damn sight faster than you can get round the centre of most cities these days. Don’t forget, with all the motorised traffic out of the way you have the whole width of the road to play with. Picture to yourself Oxford Street packed wall to wall with nine-foot high pedestrians whizzing up one side and down the other! No disgusting air pollution and a wonderful attraction for tourists.
I grant you would need somebody keeping things in order. Stilted police! Trained within an inch of their lives till they can do the tango on stilts, and there’s no reason why the unit should only consist of men. Think of it – ‘The police specialist stilt-mounted company presents an evening of tango at Covent Garden’ and what that would do for relations between the public and the police! And during duty hours they’ll be mounted on stilts a foot longer than anyone else, to give them a view over the crowds and an extra burst of speed. I’m going to send you the designs.
Tech note: At present lie detection by machines using electronic sensors is not as reliable as facial and kinesthetic diagnosis by experienced humans, which averages about 75%. But reports suggest the latter may soon be combined with fresh advances in the first method. Interesting questions may then arise when it is applied to people featured in historical newsreels, or – why not? – up-to-date newsreels from the USA.
This journal has a fine record with predictions. You may soon have a chance to see its current form, starting from this pair, published 14-12-2015:
Prediction of the week: When the Fed puts up interest rates, banks and bankers will become much richer; with rare exceptions, everyone else will become poorer
Guess of the week: When that happens, economic commentators will describe it as ‘baffling’ and ‘unexpected’.