Wednesday, 31 August 2011

At the Zoo

A Grumpy family reunion was arranged for Bank Holiday Saturday, venue London Zoo, and a good time had by all.

The last time I'd been there was on a school trip. How long ago that must have been you may judge from the fact that when I came across an information board commemorating Goldie the golden eagle I realised that I remembered following the saga of his escape on the wireless.

You would not expect this post to be moan-free. So here goes.

1. The twenty quid Frau G and I saved with our train tickets and a two-for-one voucher were recouped by the Zoo as soon as we paused for a cup of tea.

2. The presentation is remorselessly populist - "we're your friends and we just want you to have a good time, there's nothing difficult to understand here". Is this necessarily what kids want? Are they really so incapable of coping with the proposition that some things in the adult world are intellectually challenging?

3. In view of the supposed shortage of jobs in the riot-ravaged neighbourhoods just a bus ride or two down the road, it was remarkable how many openings the Zoo has created for young immigrants. From the Zoo's point of view they undoubtedly make better employees than third generation benefit claimants would. But what's best for the Zoo is not necessarily best for the rest of us.

4. I was much jostled by small persons with loud voices. I don't mind this too much in itself - it is a kids' place par excellence, and if you're six you're unlikely to feel that a stranger who could be your grandfather needs an uninterrupted view of the Galapagos tortoises or the poison dart frogs as badly as you do. What did bother me was that I didn't once hear a child being urged to show consideration for others by its parents. Aware as I am of the dangers of constructing a mythical Golden Age, I am pretty sure that things were different when Goldie was on the loose.

End of moans. Notwithstanding, it's a good day out.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Archbishop reflects

The other day I charged the Archbishop of Canterbury with having had nothing to say on the riots until he addressed the House of Lords. Not quite true, it appears. Shortly before setting out for the House he delivered himself of some reflections.

I'm afraid it's not looking any better for him. Reading what he has to say, I note the following:-

1. Says the Archbishop, "those who have been involved have achieved nothing except to intensify the cycle of deprivation and vulnerability".

As so often with the Archbishop, if one bothers to cut through the verbiage and render the thought in plain English, it turns out to be plain wrong. Any looters who avoid arrest (as doubtless a fair few will) have achieved the acquisition of some stuff they fancied without having to pay for it, thus, materially speaking, reducing their "deprivation".

Against this must be set the fact that they have broken God's commandments and thereby imperilled their immortal souls (I write as a fellow sinner, and, no, I don't need reminding that the greedy bankers and the expense-fiddling MPs and the phone-hacking Murdoch minions are in the same boat). At least that's what I reckon. Does Dr Williams agree?

2. If he does he's keeping that reflaction to himself. In the last sentence he gets round to using the word "Church". This is absolutely the only hint that he is any kind of religious believer, never mind an Archbishop. Try changing this to "Labour Party" and read the piece again. If I'd told you it was a statement from a member of the Shadow Cabinet, would you have rumbled me?

3. The reason why I suspect you wouldn't is not only the complete absence of God-talk but also the fact that the message boils down to "more public spending". It really is that simple: if people who owe everything they have to the taxpayer's bounty feel that they are entitled to some more and make the point by helping themselves to it, that is sufficient proof that the entitlement is a reality, placing an obligation on the taxpayer to unbelt further.

To quote the sublime Theodore Dalrymple:-

'"We're fed up with being broke," one rioter was reported as having said, as if having enough money to satisfy one's desires were a human right rather than something to be earned.

'"There are people here with nothing," this rioter continued: nothing, that is, except an education that has cost $80,000, a roof over their head, clothes on their back and shoes on their feet, food in their stomachs, a cellphone, a flat-screen TV, a refrigerator, an electric stove, heating and lighting, hot and cold running water, a guaranteed income, free medical care, and all of the same for any of the children that they might care to propagate.'

In the argument between the rioter and the good doctor, the Archbishop is squarely on the side of the former. You might hope for at least a token effort to transcend the agendas of Left and Right in the quest for something distinctively Christian, but no, the one-time Editor of the New Statesman is absolutely true to form.

In the young Rowan the traditions of the Valleys united with the spirit of '68 to engender core convictions which, beneath the subsequent accretions of eruditions, have not changed one jot. And I'm not talking about Christian convictions. When the Archbishop utters the mandatory pieties about "communities" he has in mind intermediaries for the munificence of the state. The notion that dependency might undermine community, and self-reliance strengthen it, is alien to him.

As I said last time, not fit for purpose.