29 March 1999.
How about this one from the film-maker Mike Berry (it came in an email):-
I heard a single parent mother being intereviwed about the budget and she was saying that it wouldn't effect her as since last year she has taken on a part time job as a civil servant.
"And are you better off?"
"Well of course I am, otherwise I wouldn't be working"
"So financially things are better?"
"Well I would have more money if I were not working"
"So you're financially worse off?"
"Well not in reality because with a job I am credit worthy."!!
Just shows what a government can do if they really make an effort!
I WENT TO A QUAKER MEETING to discuss violence and oppression this week. We heard people describe how they finally got up enough agression to defend themselves, and accepting that it was natural we managed to accept it as a fact of our lives, despite most or all of us being people of a passive nature - passifists in principle. There were a couple of very good talkers there.
We had no trouble agreeing that it was fear that finally took us past the threshold. Enough fear and you end up with none, seemed to be the formula, with the addition of a lot of adrenalin and some anger to make you pulverise your opponent. This worried them slightly, but they were talking about Jugoslavia and Kosovo, the police, etc., and whilst most accepted (as I do) that it is better to have police being violent than criminals being violent, and only where necessary, they were still not happy with the fact that it occurs. Quakers have something they call 'The Peace Testimony', and they take it very seriously.
And then the much more knotty problem of Kosovo came up and by comparing it with the supposed need to have a branch of police armed to deal with armed gangs, it was almost but not quite accepted that NATO was being a policeman. The trouble is, as we all know, that most 'clean' wars escalate to become dirty ones, with every participant and participating nation eventually controlled almost entirely by their own fear.
So, by this process we passive people had got round to justifying our own aggression (should it occur?), and were moving on to discuss other aspects of the question. What, for instance, if someone is only being violent to get power?.............
Can anyone think of any reason to desire power other than fear?
I will try to enlarge on that. People wish to be in control of their own lives, and as long as they feel they have that control and nothing of their 'personal identity' (this, of course, includes their children, lovers, parents, dog, cat, etc., as well as their house, car, clothing, habits and all) is threatened, they will be quite happy to just go on with their lives. If however, someone threatens their habitual state of existence, or threatens their kin, then there is every possibility that their personal identity could be destroyed or altered. This creates fear, and the fear creates a desire to be in control of things once more (but it is quite possible that one cannot be in control once more without being violent to get into control). Being in control is to have power.
To press on. If a person once starts to allow their fear to put them into an aggressive state of behaviour they will frighten all those around them, who will feel fear and be tempted to become aggressive as a result, and thus in a very short time everybody will be responding to their fear instead of to their reason (reason may also be controlled by fear to some extent).
One of the things most people will not easily admit about their fear is that it exists. Seen from my male point of view, when I do this it is because I believe that if I show fear I will be inviting attack, because most people expressing aggression start to do so before they have quite enough fear to take them past the breaking point, and a perceived physical advantage might be enough to make them willing to 'have a go'.
Finally, having convinced myself that neither the desire for power nor violence can come from any other source than fear, amd having realised that greed is the same thing again, I would like to look at politicians and other power-seekers.
Politicians are no less likely to be overpowered by fear than the rest of us - in fact, given that the job is a power-seeker's job it is quite possible that they are more overpowered by fear than most of us. In the case of Kosovo, NATO have been working up to this moment for several years, threatening to interfere every time Milosevic's lot knock off a few more Kosovans, without actually carrying out the threats (they were motivated by fear coming from the idea that it could have been them being knocked off). The threats have not worked presumably because the Jugoslavians are more frightened of something else than they are of NATO. NATO members, fearing the disapproval of their electorate (they will have taken a poll) decided to respond in a way that they hope will be approved of, and gone on the offensive.
It is dangerous, because it will generate more fear than there already is, and those seeking power in various parts of the world will harness that fear (much in the way that Hitler harnessed the fear created by recession in the 30s and 40s), each in their own particular way to achieve their own particular bit of desired power, and in due course we just could be in World War Three.
Out of sheer fear.
I WAS QUITE BADLY SHOCKED to realise that Southwark creates it`s own poverty. To be more accurate, it would appear that Southwark Council create quite a lot of it - although it would be reasonable to say that they are not alone in this activity, and may well be unaware of what they are doing (no reason to suppose that they know anything much in my experience). I don`t know whether they are something like what my Russian friend describes Russian politicians as being - essentially a collection of peasants (great snobbery there) who don`t realise the implications of selling uranium on the black market - but they certainly behave with a level of incompetence unsurpassed in any organisation I have ever had anything to do with.
The area where I first noticed the problem was in the administration of the council tax department. Here, they have a system of billing that leaves the majority of council tax payers in confusion as to what they owe, and give the public no means of communication that works. This results in some people paying too much (not many people can afford that) or being in arrears, which in due course results in action for recovery, and no means of resolving the matter other than either paying up without knowing if there is anything owing or wasting a day going to the magistrates` court - which anyway will not resolve anything.
The magistrates` court is a funny business. When you arrive, there is no court, and no magistrates, even though they try to charge you for them. What you get is a collection of council clerks sitting round a table asking you to pay up, and no discussion is possible because they don`t know anything about your case, and anyway you are amongst a great crowd of people all trying to resolve their case (anyone read any Kafka?) and presumably listening in to your attempts to make some sense out of things. It is not a constructive situation.
Thus your credit rating is damaged and you can`t borrow money to finance that interesting project you were planning, or whatever else people borrow money for. Certainly there would be no chance of financing a new business in Southwark if you had fallen into this trap.
And, as I said when I moved my international transport business out of Lambeth, I would be very frightened indeed to try to run a business in a borough that behaves like this. I moved into the Borough of Bromley, whose behaviour is not so much incompetent as dishonest, and I don`t really know if things were any better. What I do know is that they didn`t try to interfere, and they didn`t think I was going to be an easy source of extra council taxes.
And I managed to remain creditworthy right up to the end!
Last week I was talking about there appearing to be two people in Southwark whose job it is to serve notices requiring repairs to buildings in disrepair.
A neighbour does surveys for people, and was telling me that recently he surveyed a flat in which there was much damp. The landlord had not done anything to rectify it (it was a basement anyway, so that would be difficult), and eventually a man from the council came round and served a repair notice. My neighbour was impressed. This man just said (roughly) "we don`t mess about here. I serve a notice and then either they do the work or we do it and charge them for it - and if they don`t pay up we just sell the flat to get the money".
I don`t know if you have ever looked at old films of Hitler addressing rallies in pre-war Germany, but if you have I daresay you will have noticed the expression he made at the end of a particularly stirring speech - self-righteous, smug and aggressive. Somehow my neighbour managed to conjure up the picture of this man making such an expression, and I added my own phantasy, which was that he then banged his fist on the table before standing up and walking smartly off-stage.
I asked my neighbour if the man`s name was by any chance Whittle, and he was not quite sure.
When this discussion was over my friend Daisy who lives in a Southwark Council flat in Rotherhithe came on the phone to ask me what to do about the pouring damp in her bedroom, which had ruined the mattress and soaked all the bedding and the wallpaper off the walls. She was also worried about the hole in the wall in the corner of the building which led to more damp in another room. Knowing Southwark I realised it was no good asking them to fix it, so I suggested she claim from their insurance - but, of course, there is no means by which anybody can communicate with Southwark for this kind of thing.
I wondered if the environmental health department would just do the work and charge them for it and then sell the building if they are unable to pay? Will the man who makes this decision look like Hitler at a rally when he makes this decision, and who would be fool enough to buy a property with tenants in an area patrolled by these people with their ludicrous and inappropriate repair notices and bombastic attitdes towards property ownership?
And who would buy a property (except very cheap) that has had council builders working on it? It`s all very mysterious.
Then I went out for a walk and was reminded as I passed of the water that for the past 15 years has been running down the outside of the huge high-quality properly built prewar LCC five-story blocks of flats that now belong to Southwark (and I think they`ve owned them for 18 years). They have stalactites in places! These are flats housing hundreds of families.
What do these guys intend to do about them? Will they get self-righteous one of these days? I know the tenants like the flats and want to stay, and interestingly the council are said to want to knock them down. Perhaps they`ve been thoroughly whittled and are now considered to be beyond economic repair?
Or is this a jobs for the boys situation? Or freemasons?
early Othernews - 1992, 93, 94.
There were a few essays that went out with the early Other News as a freestanding item. You can read these by clicking below.
The Soup Designer`s Handbook.
London Journey - a trip from Docklands through Beckenham and back to Docklands.
(Friday Woodworkers are suffering a temporary break due to some of the episodes not having been fully edited at the time of writing. It may take some timne to fix this problem.
(These articles were written in 1988, and were my first attempt at writing. Some people when shown these fell about laughing, some smiled faintly - and some yawned. I thought I was going to write a technical book, but it soon became apparent that I was much more interested in the people than the technology - and that is the main reason there are no drawings - although it might be rather good to do a couple of caricatures sometime.)
Index of Friday Woodorker articles (and a means of access).
We are still redesigning The Other News From England.
There is at least one new article this week, and articles on many subjects in earlier issues (which can be seen by clicking below).
Index of earlier issues.
A READER COMPLAINED that it was not possible to go back more than 6 articles in Gabriele`s area. Regrettably this is because there is no index, and I have not the time to organise one yet. However, for those determined enough to find the early ones, they should be accessible by going to an early Other News and clicking through from it. This will not be fast, but I think will do the job. They started about November 1997 I think.
(I wish someone would make a contribution before I am forced to put in some of my own stuff here).
So new, in fact, that there is nothing there. I want to open a section of this site to be used as a kind of green reference. Ordinary folks usually know what to do in order to be green, but there are times when (a) they don`t know the technology, or (b)they are short of ideas, or (c) they would like to see what some other people think.
So the purpose of this area will be for people to describe to others how they made their own electricity, or saved a great deal of domestic water being wasted, or captured the methane gas from their cesspit, designed their solar bicycle with regenerative braking and portable overnight windcharger, caused plants to grow in a desert, made a solar water pump, etc.
A site for forward-looking people, in fact.
It may be very difficult to edit, but I would like a few articles and tips that are concise, easily understood and ecologically useful. These will be left on the site, and gradually as the number of articles builds up hopefully somebody will construct an index. I won`t volunteer myself, as I have yet to make a subject index for the whole Other News site.
Last week but three carried an article that might be of interest to anybody thinking of taking out an Abbey National mortgage - or those who already have one.
Interestingly, one of the London papers described them as being "among the greediest".
There will soon be a new twist to this story, but I am not sure what it will be until it happens. They are trying to make it as difficult as possible instead of as easy as possible to resolve the present dispute.
(see last week but one).
This Lexmark business gets worse. I refilled the black cartridge with an ordinary cartridge refilling outfit and it won`t print despite telling me that the cartridge is full and that it is printing.
In an earlier issue I told you about my feelings regarding Tempo retailers and the Lexmark 3200 printer I bought from them. I have now found out another thing about it.
The Lexmark 3200 printer I got from Tempo must surely be the most uneconomical printer I could possibly have bought. The black cartridge only does about 250 pages of ordinary type - for £28! That makes each sheet cost 11.2 pence plus the cost of the paper and probably another 11.2 pence more if any colour is used! - ABOUT 22.4 PENCE A SHEET! Nearly a pound for every four sheets!
I wouldn`t recommend you to buy it - but also look at my earlier article for an idea of Tempo`s service.
These people keep springing up and then disappearing again. They have used a selection of names, but the people always seem to be the same. They are a disco without smoke, alcohol or drugs, and serve refreshments (probably very healthy, macrobiotic, veggy, etc) and dance to a wide range of types of music - including "classical", I am told. Sometimes they go to the Bonnington Cafe afterwards. Also, they occasionally turn up at a LETSSwing gig as a dancing group, and make the dancing a great deal more fun.
Saturdays 7-10pm , 6 March, 3 April, 8th May, at The Contact Centre, 60 Hambolt Rd., London SW4. (10 mins from Clapham Common tube stn. or buses 137, 35, 37. For info ring Kathy Hughes 0181 671 7300. They would like more participants.
A person to help make up a subject index for the growing numbers of articles on The Other News From England. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
8- or more-track tape recorder. email email@example.com
Also want good working VW or Volvo 7 series 2.4litre turbodiesel engine. This is the type that goes in an LT van or a Volvo 740TD. email firstname.lastname@example.org
£2,000,000 at 0% interest would quite good too, although I would probably waste quite a lot of it employing musicians to do the great work.
All material on this site is copyright. Contact me if you want to use it. I am quite flexible. email@example.com
Educational non-profit use is free - but ask for permission and print an acknowledgement. If you can`t think what to print, put:
From The Other News From England. http://www.othernews.co.uk