Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Rudest Woman I Have Ever Met

Well, tonight's train journey (the First Capital Connect 19:45 from King's Cross to Cambridge) was eventful... some woman set her kids a fantastic example by throwing a tantrum when she couldn't get her way.

I'd got to the station too late to comfortably make the 19:15, so I ended up waiting. Naturally, this meant that I was able to get on the 19:45 as soon as boarding started. I found myself a nice seat, stowed my bags and got out a drink and a newspaper. Boring and predictable just like most evening journeys.

Just before the train was due to leave, a fat woman, two other mothers, and four kids got on and decided that, as part of their arrangements, I was going to have to move. I was... non-plussed. Now, if you ask nicely, or give me a few seconds to weigh up "being surrounded by annoying kids" against "the hassle of moving", I'm blatantly going to give up my seat and move somewhere quiet.

But, no, as I had the temerity to want to sit where I was sat, the fat woman immediately goes off on one. Shouting, swearing, trying to insist that I have no right to the seat I'm in, attempting to draw analogies with airlines, making whiny passive-aggressive comments to everyone in earshot. That technique has repeatedly been shown by studies to be the best way to get exactly what you want... if what you want is a punch in the face, anyway.

Obviously goodwill goes right out of the window at that point and you're getting the full-on feature-length Stubbornness Experience (with a cartoon before and ice-cream during the intermission). Needless to say I sat there, quietly reading the Standard, with the fat woman complaining about how unreasonable I was on one side, and one of the kids kicking me in the knee on the other (clearly she sets a good example to them), thinking "wouldn't it be nice if we could all just... get along?" and "if they were doing this to a train company employee, it'd be called 'assault', according to the station posters".

I'm at a loss to understand what distorted sense of entitlement makes someone expect to be able reconfigure the seating arrangements of complete strangers in a public train, and to throw a fit if people don't immediately bend over backwards to accomodate you. It's ridiculous and, frankly, embarassing. One of the kids even suggested calling the police - presumably to tell them that "the bad man won't give up his seat for us", which I suspect is a misdemeanour at best.

As I got up to leave the train, the fat woman gave me a round of applause, which was nice. She probably meant it sarcastically, but who gives a damn? I certainly don't need anyone's approval to occupy a seat on a train, and nor will I apologise for it.

- KoW

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Big Society vs. Big Government

Yesterday morning, in what must have been a slow news day, the BBC rehashed the response to this month-old story - 'charities' are worried that government cuts will mean they lack the "resources" (money) to continue.

There's one very simple rule to bear in mind here:
If your 'charity' relies on government 'donations' then you are, by definition, a government agency.
You know, that whole "being given money to do something" Agent-Principal relationship? Fine, you help people and do good things - unlike other parts of government which exist to hurt people and do bad things, naturally. And you don't turn a profit - just like the MoD and the Foreign Office. Just because you can't see the PM on your org chart doesn't mean you're independent, and having to go cap-in-hand to the state means you're certainly not.

The site (which seems to be down at the moment) has a listing of many organisations which - while putatively charitable - derive >90% of their income from the government. It's amazing how often they appear on the news, lobbying us with our own money, in order to get more of our money.

I'm somewhat concerned about Cameron's "Big Society", though. It's clearly right in some respects - the state has no business inefficiently providing many things that people want. On the other paw, it strikes me as being a progressive, collectivist, left-wing, even fascistic policy - there seems to be no intention to cut back on services provided, only to expect people to do them for free in statolatric devotion.

I do not expect help from others, which apparently makes me some kind of mug, because others expect (nay demand) help from me. The demand is now made with a smile, rather than taken (via tax) under menaces, but it's the same demand.

- KoW

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