27 Oct 1997.
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A bit short this week, but having lost some contracts there is now some time to devote to The Other News. You can expect it to be even more obnoxious than it has already been.
BRIXTON LETS (LOCAL EXCHANGE AND TRADING SYSTEM) HELD their Hallowe`en party on Saturday night at the Old White Horse in Brixton Road.
It was a thrilling occasion for me because the band LETSSwing (a band formed entirely of LETS members including myself) played a collection of my compositions mixed in with old standards.
This suddenly made it feel worth while to write music. The people in the band understood from the first what the music was meant to do, and by the time it came to the gig, despite not being the most experienced musicians, were playing it like they`d known it all their life (to some extent this may be due to the fact that I rarely write anything that you could call original and therefore in a sense they know it already).
However, it isn`t just that. The way we play things is important too. Although there was a brief spell when we were ridiculously loud, the majority of the time we were playing between ppp and p (instead of between ff and ffffffff as most bands do when they get hold of a PA), and this resulted in (a) a listening audience and (well Blimey!) a listening band. The audience danced in silence and when they had to communicate verbally (which didn`t seem to be very often) whispered to each other. I`ve only ever experienced that once before, and that was (strangely) in a rock and roll band playing in a hotel.
It was also a thrilling occasion for me because here was a (not-very-well-attended) function where all the participants had a common ground - the LETS - and this created a sense of community not easily found in an inner-city area. I felt like I actually belonged to something, and Matt the bass player said he was deteremined to renew his subscriptions to various local LETS schemes - not for the economic activities but for the social activities.
I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.
FOR REASONS OF SURVIVAL every skill I have is for sale, and for this reason I have devceloped a wide range of skills. This is probably ecologically a good thing, but it is not why I have told you.
The reason I have told you is that I have thinking about my car and what it does for me and the community.
It is quite true that it takes me to the shops, but it is also true that it carries the tools of my various trades and the products of my various trades as well (yes, I still use local small shops - on account of liking individuality) and so it is probably less wasteful than your car, which, if you are like the vast majority of car users, is something is not allowed to carry goods.
So far so good, and the next stage would be to make sure that the neighbours, instead of having a car each as they do, should share my car. This, for me, would be where the trouble began, because being an engineering freak I can`t bear it the way people ill-treat machines (hiding behind the guise of being an intellectual usually), and like it even less if I am the owner of the machine concerned.
So my way of justifying a car is to say that it is mainly a work tool (true) and I couldn`t get the job done without it (true).
But it doesn`t solve the problem of cars at all. It only points vaguely in a direction in which we might look for some solutions.
The perfect solution would be for us all to stop having cars of course, but we know that is not going to happen because - apart from anything else - we live in a motor economy. The only thing we can do is to play for time by reducing the amount we use cars - and for that matter other vehicles of every sort.
I have in the past suggested many things we might try, and not least amongst them is the heretical notion of per capita motor fuel rationing.
The first time I tried this idea out with someone who I thought was likely to have some intellect, I was met with a barrage of unconsidered objections along the lines of `freedom of the individual` and other stuff about enterprise and initiative - it was in the early days of the last conservative government, when people had forgotten about the real outcome of grab-it-and-run economics, had not yet seen any clues of things to come, and at least those with very little imagination imagined that everything was about to come out perfect - as it did for half a dozen or so graspers.
So what now? Would the public forget the trauma of rationing and accept that something had to be done?
Perhaps I should explain (or those who don`t understand) what I have in mind.
Per capita motor fuel rationing is a system by which a government could have some control over the total amount of motor fuel consumed in a year, and therefore the total number of vehicle miles, the total amount of motor emissions, and so on.
But it doesn`t end there. If you restrict the amount of fuel available for cars then designers will get stuck in to working out ways of making them more economical, will look for other ways of powering them, and will look for other ways of transporting people and goods. This would probably actually cause a temporary or even long-term shot in the arm for the motor manufacturers because of being able to market ever more economical models and possibly models powered by alternative fuels. As far as I can see it would do absolutely nothing for the fuel industry except put them in a position where they would have to put up their prices.
Now the next objection comes from those who think with blinkers on. Black market they say. Quite true, there would be a black market if it were illegal to sell your ration. But my idea was that on becoming eighteen each citizen would be awarded whatever amount of entitlement whether they use it or not. They can sell it, bury it in the garden, or anything else, but in the main I think it would either be used or sold and then used, which would in it`s turn give a financial reward to the non-user, and possibly a bit of extra pension for a few oldies.
That really leaves forgery - just like you get with paper money. Well?
There is another thing available if we will allow road vehicles to be electronically tagged. If each borough had it`s own road tax (in addition to a very modest national road tax) that was recorded per day as you passed the borough boundary (scientists and technicians will assure you of the ease of this, even if it would at first be expensive) and sent you automatically a quarterly bill, then people would try to keep their car activities within their own borough - surely the ideal situation when we have trains available for long journeys?
And finally, (through lack of time to develop the details this issue) I would like to look at the self-me-me-me-me part of it. What about me? someone said - I am old and can`t get about.......etc. Need the provision for such a person change? First of all, they would have their allowance like everyone else, and secondly if they sold it one imagines they could afford taxis.
It` s worth a thought, and I might have another go at this subject when I get a bit more time.
Before I drop this subject - wouldn`t it be far better to find the time to have a nice relaxing sea journey instead of a ridiculously uncomfortable but short journey in a flying sardine can followed by jet-lag? Is there not some way we could change our attitudes enough to accomodate that idea?
COURSE PLANS HAVE BEEN ALL THE FASHION FOR SOME years now. College administrators (those who tell us all what and how to teach because they can`t do it themselves) insist that lecturers submit a course plan so that they can be proven to have one.
The difficulty with this idea is that often those who are very good at something are not the least bit interested in writing course plans, whilst those who aren`t may well be very good at writing course plans. In fact, I imagine it often occurs that a course doesn`t run because the lecturer, despite having obvious skill in the field and an obvious talent for teaching it, is either unable or unwilling to write a plan.
Such would clearly be the case with my own classes in some fields of endeavour because I don`t actually know what I am going to teach until the students tell me what they want to learn. Often this means that I don`t teach any of the stuff I imagined I was going to teach, and equally often I have to use every possible device to find out that which I don`t know before the student concerned (for as far as possible all my teaching goes on at multi-levels to suit the needs of the individuals) is able to progress to the next stage. This last problem has got less in magnitude as the years have gone by because I have learned both the questions and the answers.
But what is interesting is that the students don`t mind when I tell them I don`t know the answer to their question.
Perhaps I should say most don`t mind, the few who do being the sort of people who don`t like the notion of something growing before their very eyes unless they already know what will grow. They are the ones for whom course plans would be copnsidered to be a good thing - perhaps people like college administrators (control freaks by nature?) having a recreational activity for their spare time.
I`ve almost lost the thread, but not quite. My thoughts go thus: The college administrators (control freaks) think course plans are an essential, and even if they didn`t the control freaks at the Department For Education and Science have insisted that course plans will be used, but in fact it is probably a pretty poor idea to have any course plans. According to my ideas, instead we should have what we once did have - a collection of experts (some not so expert) teaching their own subjects their own way, and relying on their reputation and experience to get them work.
This last approach can lead to some pretty poor teaching and some pretty spectacular teaching, and relies on that ill-named principle `natural market forces`. That is, if the classes are no good nobody will enrol next year, and some will ask for their money back this year, whilst if they are good the class will be oversubscribed next year and more classes will be offered - but too late!
Now I really have lost the thread, because what I was really interested in was the apparent fact that those who allow their minds to roam freely develop more and greater skills and have less qualifications than those who follow the course plan route.
Is a course plan such a good idea?
AND DID THESE FEET in ancient times......? I`m not sure, but it`s a good question.
Not so very long ago I heard a politician boasting about how his party had managed to install some persons whom he described as high flyers in Lambeth Town Hall - `all the right qualifications, and worth the (very large sum) we are paying for them. They will soon sort this mess out.
More recently, we have been hearing all about the cockups, theft and corruption going on in Lambeth Town Hall.
Not flying quite high enough, I presume.
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