THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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November 2013

The self-righteousness of cyclists knows no bounds


I have adequate self-esteem and a burning desire for justice but I just cannot compete in these respects with certain urban cyclists.

My brother-in-law got a £50 fine for parking outside a charity shop on Chiswick High Road for the few seconds it took him to run in a box of donated goods. Or as he might have put it (if he were a prig) "doing the world a favour." I read later the camera that snagged him is one of the highest-yielding bits of kit in the capital (congratulations, Hounslow Council). He paid up and moved on. I doubt he has thought about it since.

Casey Neistat likewise got a $50 fine for riding outside an available bike lane. But he didn't shrug his shoulders. Oh no! He got on his blazing white steed bike and rode into battle.

City bike lanes take up space that could otherwise be shared with other road users. This, in order to protect the smug, entitled "...I am doing the world a favor here..." asses of cyclists. Yet Niestat took offence on an epic scale. He is one of those people memorably dubbed by one of my favourite bloggers, Leg-iron, as "the Righteous".

The video is funny if you are not one of the people whose property he deliberately rides into to make his point. Mainly it's funny because of his incredible sense of grievance. Talk about #firstworldproblems. He's lucky he didn't hurt himself. He's even luckier he didn't get fined for some US equivalent of 'criminal damage.'

I don't always sympathise with policemen. Our own British "bobbies" have sold their souls to "the Righteous" and now seem engaged more in suppressing thought-crime than in anything actually useful. The officer at the beginning of the film however strikes me as a good guy doing his best. I certainly admire his restraint in the face of the whining of this major league prig.

4440588147_a4da68c573On my riverside walk last Sunday I discovered a sign almost as ignored as those that say "keep left" on the stairs in London's tube stations. It's also two words too long for London's literates, apparently. It reads "No cycling".

No laws kept those two-wheeled prigs out of the Thames that day. Only my sense of proportion. Mr Niestat could do with some of that. If you disagree with me, I shall cheerfully do that walk again with a video camera and an extra spoke for their wheels. It should make for every bit as amusing a film.

Bad customers and Politicians

Maybe you get bad customer service because you’re a bad customer | The Matt Walsh Blog.

I love Matt Walsh's elision of psycho customers with power-crazed politicians here. His post is addressed to a lady who barged into his fast-food queue to complain intemperately about a mistake in her order. People like her, he comments;
...think their hallowed “customer” status somehow gives them the right to treat everyone with a uniform and a name tag like garbage. They think their past encounters with subpar service make it acceptable for them to fly off the handle about ketchup every once in a while. They think the rules of basic decency and respect come second when they are The Customer. And they’re wrong.

Do you ever wonder why we have so many atrocious politicians...? Well, you shouldn’t wonder. Just look in the mirror. Bad politicians are generally bad because they can’t handle power. It goes right to their head. They become narcissistic, petty, controlling sociopaths. But at least it’s a lot of power, so the temptation to be corrupted by it is almost understandable. You, on the other hand, become a maniacal tyrant when society hands you temporary and meaningless power over 17 year old fast food cashiers. I shudder to think what you’d do if you had an army at your disposal.

Personally, I always try always to be polite to people in low paid jobs. I used to do them and might yet have to return to them if inflated into poverty by the said politicians. Personally I would prefer that sociopaths stayed out of politics and confined themselves to being rude to servers. I think, as the taxes fell on their wages so that they could begin to earn their way out of poverty, the servers might prefer it too.

Sadly sociopaths are as attracted to jobs in politics as paedophiles are to jobs in childcare.

Berlioz meets Tatchell

Barbican Classical Music 2013-2014 season.

Last night I took a break from worrying about the death of liberty in Britain. I was at the Barbican to listen to the London Symphony Orchestra play Berlioz. I came late to live classical music but it has become my favourite artistic experience. 'Music hath charms...' and all that.

The orchestra already in place, we were waiting for the conductor Mr Gergiev to arrive. I knew nothing (and cared less) about his political views. I was there only for the music. Apparently he's a pal of VVP (President Putin of Russia) and shares his views on homosexuality and Pussy Riot. Some readers may remember that in exchanges on another blog at the time I disapproved of VVP's severe response to Pussy Riot's protest. You will certainly know that I do not give a damn about the sexual activities of consenting adults.

An elegantly dressed, well-spoken chap walked up on stage. I thought it was an announcement about a change of soloist but he started to rant about Gergiev and to denounce VVP as a tyrant. He was duly removed from the stage. The security people handled it politely and efficiently but a member one of the LSO's string section principal trumpet players [corrected with apologies as per comments] almost gave him the publicity he evidently craved by pushing him. Lacking the skills of a Premier League striker in a penalty area, he failed to fall and the incident was over.

Some of the audience applauded. Some booed. Most of us sat quietly waiting for it to be over. I made a mental note to check in The Guardian tomorrow to find out who the posh dandy was. From my position in the Circle I did not recognise him, but it was Peter Tatchell

I lived in Russia for seven years and am no fan of VVP. He is no saint except by the atrocious standards of their political class. However he is the recognised Head of a sovereign State which is an imperfect and broadly friendly democracy. It is also without our massive debts, has a balanced budget and a much better economic outlook in the years to come than the whole EU combined. We need Russia more than she needs us.

Even a busybody nation unwilling to let go of its long-lost imperial status as a global policeman must surely let such a country be? For myself, based on my own experiences there, I am confident Russians will sort out their own issues in their own way - perhaps rather better then we will. They are on a wobbly trajectory from Marxist authoritarianism to a free-ish market democracy. We sometimes seem to be heading the other way.

Based on an admittedly limited sample of those I befriended, I consider Russians to be amongst the most open-minded and well-educated people in the world. They are groping their way towards a better society in the face of such problems as endemic political corruption. It says a lot that some of my Russian friends liked VVP - to the extent they liked any politician - because they thought he stole less than previous leaders. Whatever the truth about him, the Russians are a proud and sensitive people resistant to outside interference. Usually it will be counter-productive. Nothing will unite them faster around Putin than foreigners telling them how to live.

Campaigners from outside would therefore do better to advise their Russian counterparts on tactics than to engage in grandstanding themselves. They should also refrain from financial or other material support as that will simply discredit their friends in the eyes of their countrymen.

During the interval, I wondered aloud on Twitter whether anything like this had happened to Russian musicians in London during the Stalin era. The Tatchells of those days were craven suck-ups to Uncle Joe. This, though he made VVP look thoroughly modern on most issues as, in fairness, did the British Left at the time. Tatchell, who famously has no life outside politics, has been tweeting at me since and trying to entrap me into saying something against one of the Left's protected species so that he can tweet "Aha! You're a ****ist". Just what you would expect from him really. Why reason when you can stereotype and dismiss en masse?

I would have been happy to see him with a banner in public space outside the Barbican. I defend to the death his right to say what he said. I simply think it was discourteous to the orchestra to usurp their stage. We were there, in a private space with paid admission, to see them play music, not him play politics.