Thursday, January 19, 2006

Chapter Three - Planning for a new Britain

The group got to together the following week and their subsequent meetings became more and more frequent.

Each member became a regular attendee at the discussions, in fact the four of them became close friends and started meeting at each others’ houses instead of the London pub. Nick started to grow very fond of Rachel, who he had managed to discover, was married to a husband with such a good job that he never had any time for her and had failed to notice that she had fallen totally and utterly out of love with him. This, thought Nick, could explain the sadness in her eyes, but he was convinced that something else was going on.

Rachel, also began to take an interest in Nick, but they both cared deeply about their cause and were aware that their little alliance would probably not survive the trials and tribulations of a relationship at this juncture. They kept things businesslike and friendly, but Steve and Jonathan noticed the rapport which the two generated whenever the meetings took place. They never commented, but mentally noted that one day something would develop.

The discussions which took place between the four friends encompassed all of society's problems, including welfare, education, the environment, defence, the political system and the politicians.
They made several general observations. Rachel pointed out how all the care seemed to have gone from society, how everything had come, instead, to be valued in terms of cold hard cash. There were no exceptions to this monetarist rule. The group regarded this as fundamentally wrong and deeply unethical. All agreed that this aspect of society was in need of total reform and the attitude of those acting as our so-called leaders had to be changed. The problem, they all agreed, was how to bring about such changes.

Having identified some of the more fundamental faults within contemporary British society, the group moved on to systematically analyse the structure of the country in socio-political terms. Well, it was as close to a socio-political examination of the subject as they could come, bearing in mind that this was a comparatively new subject for each of them.

Their analysis commenced with a look at what they considered to be the basic structure of a country. This structure, they decided, could be divided into various distinct elements. These were:

Social policy: Education, health, crime and punishment.

Economic policy: the financial systems necessary for a country to function, at both national and international levels.

Defence: the means by which a country may protect itself from others wishing to affect a country by means of violence.

And finally, last and by no means least, there was Government, the means by which the other elements were co-ordinated and managed.

Taking social policy first, the group identified the various areas in which the country was mis-functioning. They started by examining the country's health system.

"We all know that the health service is being eroded away to nothing.", started Nick, one evening. "It's failing to look after the really sick and more and more decisions are being taken on financial grounds by administrators, not doctors. Do you remember that case in the papers last year in which a doctor was accused of negligently causing the death of a patient with a 50:50 chance of survival?"
"Yes, I saw it", answered Rachel. "I read the case report as well. It transpired that the doctor in question was under enormous pressure to cut costs. In fact, he had been threatened with the sack by some idiot manager, if he didn't make huge savings by the end of the financial year. The poor guy had a wife and three children to consider, so one night when a car crash victim came in, the doctor realised that the patient would need long term care to recover. He was bound to inform the hospital administration of the situation, and they had as good as told him to get rid of the patient to another hospital or say goodbye to his job. The doctor rang some 20 other hospitals in an effort to find a place for the patient, who alas did not have private health insurance. He failed to find a place as nowhere was prepared to take on a patient who might have taken a year to recover, due to the expense involved. Thus the doctor, realising that the person would never receive treatment, decided to give the patient rather more tranquilliser than was strictly necessary. His intention was to put the person out of their misery, for the good doctor knew that without the right care the person would die, and seeing as no one was prepared to treat the poor beggar, death did indeed seem pretty imminent. The patient died as a result of the ‘overdose’ and the parents of the deceased demanded an inquiry into, what was to them, and their GP an unusual death. The doctor involved broke down in front of a medical hearing and confessed all. He was struck off. I was told by an acquaintance that a case for the prosecution of the hospital's senior administration was presented to the crown prosecution service, but was not proceeded with on the grounds that to have done so, would not have been in the country’s best interests. The press kicked up a mock fuss, sold a few more copies, increased their shareholders’ dividends and suddenly went quiet about the subject."

"Let me guess.", Nick interrupted. "The stories were getting a little too close to our political masters, so they stamped on it. Most of them have papers in their back pockets. The papers don't object because the MP's leak stories, boost sales and shareholders profits. And I'd put money on the fact that many 'honourable' members are shareholders in these papers."
"Yeah, I bet you’re right. Everything seems a bit too convenient, doesn't it" ,commented Jon.
"I'll go one better than that, Nick.", added Rachel.
She continued. "Because,", she said. "I know I'd lose. Suffice it to say that I've seen documentary evidence of what you have surmised, Nick. You all might be a little surprised to learn that certain names, from both sides of the House crop up in the lists of shareholders for several of the most profitable papers. What may raise your eyebrows further is to know that Tory and labour members often both have shares in the same papers."

"I knew it!", exclaimed Jon, jumping up and at the same time sending a small coffee table on an impromptu trip around Nick's living room. "Those conniving bastards don't give a flying fuck about the country. They’re bloody well in this just to make themselves as much fucking cash as possible." He was obviously seething at Rachel’s confirmation of their suspicions.
“If only I could get my hands on those avaricious gits. I’d, I’d, I don’t know what I’d do.”
"Calm down, Jon", said Steve. "It's no more than we have expected all along." Jon, realising that Steve was speaking the truth, sat down.
"It's true.", sighed Nick, returning the table to its rightful place. "We all know it's true, even the coffee table knows it's true, poor thing, and it hasn’t even got shares in one single newspaper."
Nick's comment produced just enough amusement to bring Jon back down to earth. Jon, Nick considered, was of a quiet but faintly nervous disposition, not a person given to outbursts, so he thought his brief display and torrent of strong language were probably out of character. Still, Nick could understand why he had got angry, and he wished more people had reacted in the same way years ago. Then maybe, he mused, the country would not be in such a disastrous mess.

“However,” began Steve, “I’ve got another little example to share with you.”

“Hell, everybody’s got a little story or two, haven’t they?”, commented Jon, still looking unhappy.

“Well, as I was saying, I have a friend whose father has had to go into a home. Poor guy’s got senile dementia or something of the sort. Anyway, he was sent to a home and my friend was shocked to find her father locked up in a small windowless room. So, naturally enough, she wanted to get him transferred to another place. Not satisfied with the local health authorities performance so far, she did a little tour of the homes in the area. She discovered that there were about 150 of them, some the same, some worse and a few better. She also finds that the Doctor in charge of allocating places always seemed to put people in the home they had sent her father to. So, she goes along to this guy to tell him that she is not happy about the condition in which she has found her father. At first this doctor was all holier than thou and seemed appalled that she could be suggesting that a) the home was a disgrace and b) that he should consider a transfer. My friend mentions, in all innocence that her request is fair enough, considering that she and her family were funding their father’s treatment. She also mentions innocently, that she has noted that he always sends his patients to this particular home, which seemed odd to her when there were some 150 places in the locality. Our good doctor went a rather dark shade of red at this comment, his tone changed completely and he suddenly became co-operative. My friend found his reaction to be a little strange. Anyway, she waits until her father has been put in another more acceptable place. The transfer was expedited with undue haste she noted. Then, she wrote a little letter to the press and copied it to her MP. A month or two later and she opened her local rag to find that a certain doctor had been struck off. He had it transpired, as she had suspected, been taking backhanders from the home. The home, meanwhile had been subjected to a spot check by the Social Services. Suffice it to say that a few people suddenly resigned and standards went up. Interesting, eh?”

“I’ll say”, said Rachel, “We do live in an honest society, don’t we?. See what happens when you let accountant’s run the shop. I’ll add yet another horror story to these tales of woe, if you want.”

The group had not yet tired of hearing these stories, so they encouraged her to continue, only Jon remained quiet.

“How about starting a national competition? “, said Nick.

“Good idea”, agreed Steve, ”Go on Rachel”.

“Right. This concerns a friend of mind who had had a breast cancer scan. She was OK, but after telling her mother about the thing she discovered that her mum had a rather large lump on one of her breasts. The local GP refers them to a specialist, Sir something or other, very impressive. Now, as it turns out she has some knowledge of cancers and she knew that the operation that our doctor was suggesting had been out moded by some other less radical treatment. So, she mentions this to Sir whatsit, who reacts by looking down his long nose, as if so say ‘What do you know about such things, woman ?’. This specialist takes one look at her mother and says that she should have her whole breast off, “Anyway, at you age, you won’t mind will you”, comments the quack. My friend let’s this little gem slip, but her respect for the man hits rock bottom. The man then goes on to suggest that the treatment can be carried out at his clinic and that surprise, surprise, he can arrange an appointment that week. My friend then enquires about the costs and is then passed to a nurse. At this point she is not at all happy and explains this to the nurse who, without a moments hesitation, advises her to get a second opinion. The costs, as you might imagine were prohibitive. At this, she decides to stall, makes her excuses and leaves. Bad enough you might think. But, she manages to get her mother an appointment with a cancer specialist in the hospital in London. Here, she is faced with another Doctor. He carries out an examination and states that the problem can be dealt with in a far less traumatic way. After hearing of her past experience, the Doctor is shocked, he also points out that the operation can be carried out on the National Health at no cost. A few months later, she reads in a National daily, to her delight, that Sir so and so had been struck off for malpractice. So, you can see that he whole system is riddled with money grabbing bastards, who think ‘honesty’ is a four letter word.”

After this plethora of stories, health policy, they concluded, had definitely become too heavily influenced by the money men. Humanitarian motives seemed to have been all but abandoned. The health system in Britain had degenerated almost as much as the political system.

That it had long been suffering from political interference, was clear. The latest manifestation of this had resulted in a system, so full of managers that the effects were the same as when the system was composed of too many operatives. Fundamentally inefficient.

Political meddling destroyed the whole purpose of the system, which was to provide care to the needy. The politicians fell back on the old excuse of lack of money, to try to cover the real reason for the system’s poor state, which the group ascertained was probably incompetent management, both internally and politically.

The group decided that the whole system needed to be examined, taken apart and rebuilt upon more robust lines. They also realised that this was a task of incredible magnitude, since the faults were deeply ingrained and many of the personnel involved would be reluctant to introduce changes which may result in the loss of their own jobs. To overcome this situation, and after considerable discussion, the group devised the following solution, accepting the fact that it would be nigh on impossible to start with a clean slate.

The solution proposed, was to set up special new model treatment-care units. These would be operated by specially selected medical and administrative personnel. The units operation would be monitored by a government task force, whose job would be to identify those systems which worked well, and those which did not. Detailed performance criteria would be set, to match exactly the needs of the areas covered by these units. These performance criteria would be defined by surveying the health needs of a community over a period of time and adjusting the structure and function of the health units to reflect these needs.

Another objective the group decided, was to introduce preventative, as well as reactive care. The group reasoned that the units should start small and over a period of time be allowed to develop in size. Thus development could be closely controlled to ensure that the expanding units were still capable of meeting the same performance standards as the original development units.

Ultimately, the intention would be to develop a series of systems which could be introduced in care units throughout the country. The model units would remain however, and continue to be used as test beds. The process of updating and adjusting would be as regular as practicalities would allow. Administrative staff were to be kept to reasonable levels and a constant check would be maintained to ensure that bureaucracy was at minimum levels.

The financing of these units would be carefully controlled, however the priority would always remain. This priority would be the health of those people under their jurisdiction.

A new humanitarian code would be introduced to ensure that financial and humanitarian control could operate in parallel.

Health education would be introduced to guide people towards a healthy lifestyle. The aim would be to keep the populace in as good a condition as possible. In the long term, health care needs could be reduced, thereby reducing demands on the health system. The media was regarded as being an essential tool in the promotion of health. However, the tone of the education would be low key, in order to avoid the feeling that big brother was watching and controlling. Advice would be framed along the lines that, if you follow it you will be doing yourself a favour and in doing so helping others around you.

A new facility would be set up to link health care with research and development into the production of new drugs and treatments. Drug companies would be encouraged to form closer links with the health system.

Another aspect of the new system which required further detailed analysis was that of finance. The foursome resolved to consider this aspect at the same time as they examined economic policy.

The group then considered the social care system, which they decided was too far removed from the health system in its present form. Social and health policy needed to be closely linked. Current social policy was far too reactive in the current system, in that all social policy seemed to be generated by a pre-existing need, no-one, it seemed, attempted to plan for future needs and develop a system around this. The intention would be for the Social Authorities to constantly monitor society and adapt itself to whatever changes would take place. What was required was a progressive forward thinking organisation. A link between the social system and educational and law and order systems needed to be made, so that each could feed from the other and thus leave its citizens more aware of the problems in the world around them.

As a logical result of their social system planning, the group decided that society needed an education system which educated both intellectually and socially.

The group took a close look at the education system, which appeared to be lacking in purpose and objectives.

It was decided that the system was too intellectually biased. It required a stronger social bias. The new principle which needed to be established was that of Education for life. This not only included intellectual development, but also social development. The system should prepare the nations children for the adult world and thus needed a far greater practical element.

The present system they realised, left the youth of the country incredibly poorly prepared for life after education. It was all very well filling children’s heads full of interesting but, for the most part, useless facts, whilst ignoring life’s more general aspects, such as selecting the correct career, finding accommodation or even starting a family. Education should prepare those engaged within its processes for life in the world, with all its problems and pleasures, they concluded.

The group observed that life in the big wide world was something of a lottery after the relative ease of family life. Each of them had made various mistakes, both socially and career wise. And they felt that their schooling could have left them better prepared for life in general. Besides, if the education system functioned with a stronger practical bias further generations would be much better prepared for the future. This would lead to both social and economic benefits for the country in the long term. The country would thus function better as a socio-economic unit. The group decided to abolish examinations in socially useless, but culturally useful, subjects such as religion, history, the arts and geography and concentrate more on functional subjects such as languages and sciences, plus a range of practical subjects intended to develop life skills. They also considered it essential that young people should be encouraged to discover more about themselves, their abilities and weaknesses.

A fundamental aim of the education system, they observed should be to ensure that each recipient finds their own place in society. This should include identifying the best career for an individual and as much assistance as possible to ensure that the individual ended up doing a job which was both satisfying and appropriate for them.

Again, the group selected the method of introducing model units. A socio-intellectual education system was the way forward the group decided. At this point Rachel raised an interesting point. She commented that any model system would require many guinea-pigs, and stated that she personally would not be happy to have her children's education damaged as a result of being the participant in a model project which was then not adopted as part of the mainstream educational system. The group acknowledged that she had made a very good point and came up with the following solution.

They decided that the period of Education for each person should be lengthened to accommodate the testing of model theory. However, Jon countered this suggestion by pointing out that in the current system Examinations revolved around a two and three year cycle, thus any pupil involved in the model programme could have their education delayed by up to three years. Nick acknowledged his point, but pointed out that modular education systems were being successfully introduced and that each pupils qualifications were decided by annual instead of tri or bi-annual examination performance. Therefore, although the education process, may be slowed slightly, in the long term no-one would be unduly affected. Jon was satisfied by this proposal and the fact that each of them acknowledged the fact none of them were educationalists and that, as with all their hypothesising, professional advice needed to be sought.

The group hoped that through the implementation of a properly thought out system, society problems, such as crime and drug abuse could be reduced, or possibly, and they realised this was a great expectation, eliminated.

The next subject to come under the groups' magnifying glass was, logically enough, crime. In this session the foursome reflected on and discussed how they as individuals had been affected by the many problems which faced contemporary British society.

Nick cited a number of instances in which he had been the victim of minor crimes. His stereo had been removed from his car on two occasions, he had been beaten up and his mountain bike had been stolen. These were admittedly small problems and cannot not be viewed as some of societies greater problems. However, each event, in its turn, had opened Nick's eyes a little more, as he discovered to his surprise that many of his friends and acquaintances had also been victims of similar crimes, some petty and some more serious. This lead Nick to the conclusion that law and order was starting to break down in society. He noticed that many people were getting more and more worried about their personal safety, and the safety of their children and family.

Rachel mentioned that women were under increasing threat from many different directions, nowhere seemed to be safe. She gave an example of the plight of women.

"The other day I was sitting waiting for a tube, when a tall attractive girl appeared. Half the male population gawped, as men do. No offence guys, but it's true. Anyway, suddenly she broke into a run, after looking over her shoulder. I followed her gaze and noticed two rather unpleasant characters also break into a run. They were after her, I supposed. I didn't see what happened next, but what I did notice was that no-one even tried to intervene or help the girl. It's the 'I don't want to be involved' syndrome. That poor girl could have been raped for all I know, but even though she was surrounded by plenty of potential help, she was totally alone. I knew it and I suspect that she did as well. No-one seems to give a damn any more. You know, you guys just don't appreciate what it's like to be a woman today. The streets are dangerous. As usual nobody is doing a thing to prevent yet another bad situation from getting worse."
"I can sympathise with you.", started Nick. "But it's difficult for me to know how women feel, because, well, because I'm a man. I'm ashamed to say that I doubt that I would have tried to help that woman. The risks today are just too great. You all remember that case where a man tried to deal with the youth that was vandalising his car, he got stabbed and killed for his pains. The bright young gentleman who committed the murder got off Scott free on a plea of self-defence. The poor bastard who tried to stop him from committing a crime was almost regarded by the court as being a criminal himself. Law and order seems to have gone mad."

"It's an insane situation." said Jon. He continued, "No-one is allowed to protect themselves, nor can they use the power of the law to seek compensation or at the very least obtain some support from somebody who cares. The law is being geared towards the lawbreaker in a strange and almost consistent fashion. It was as if someone wanted society to crumble."

The group cynically came to the conclusion that either society was being manipulated or the powers who could do something were unaware that any real problem existed. Since, the manipulation theory seemed wholly implausible, the second theory was the more likely state of affairs. Indeed, there was substantial circumstantial evidence to support this opinion.

They all considered that the majority of crime was related directly to social problems, and that social problems were related to the education of both the children and their parents. Thus by developing the education system and using it to 'point the young in the right direction', as Nick put it, crime could be, he hoped, substantially reduced.

However, the group resolved that the crime problem needed attention, and that the criminal punishment system was long overdue for complete reform. Punishment, they considered should be a deterrent and not, as Steve commented, the present case: a chance to spend a few years with some of your old mates.

They agreed that criminals should be made to complete the most onerous and arduous public works, including hard physical work. This work should include community related schemes, such as building roads, manning reclamation plants and any job where mistakes or obstinacy would only prolong the job at hand and not do any damage. The aim should be to make criminals pay back the society they have wronged. However, all the people taking part in these public work schemes would be paid, including the criminals, who would work for a prison term which included both paid and unpaid work. All prison privileges would have to be earned, through good behaviour and work performance. Re-offenders would be given increasingly hard tasks and would receive little or no more than the basic constituents required for a humane life.

"Another problem, as I see it.", began Rachel, who was best qualified to make comments on this subject, being a lawyer.
"Is the legal system which operates in this country. As you all probably know it's a precedent system. In other words all decisions in court are based on previous court cases. Now this system, on the face of it, is all well and good, and it does have various advantages over the codified systems which exist abroad. The problem is the judges who are supposed to be doing the job of interpreting the laws. For the most part these gentlemen are incredibly out of touch with modern society and they seem to walk this world in a set of large politically crafted blinkers. Thus their decisions have increasingly been regarded as insensitive, to say the least. One thing that I will say in their defence is the dreadful quality of the drafting of the new legislation emanating from those who consider themselves worthy of being in charge of this country. The legal system is suffering horribly from badly composed laws, and worse still, legislation of such lunacy that it almost discredits it.

A wonderful example of this idiocy is a clever piece of legislation which required the police to name informers. This had to have been one of the best ways of encouraging organised crime. Indeed, rumour has it, in legal circles, that big business pushed for this law, in order to use it to expose any employee who informed the police of their quasi-legal activities. The directors, stroke, chairmen of some of these concerns, of course, occupy seats in our very own house of commons. So as you can see the political element has even managed to successfully interfere with the system of justice which exists in the country. And we thought old soviet Russia was a tyrannical society! Mother Russia has got nothing on old fickle Britannia and her bullshitting multitudes.

To try to bring this little sob story to a conclusion, I would say that if the legal system could be separated from the political system to an extent, it would improve enormously. Of course, the legal system itself needs reforming, our quaint, solicitor, barrister system and its not so quaint cost, scares away many from pursuing cases which, in the interest of the country should be pursued. And more often than not, the common man, who of course the legal system is in place for, supposedly, is unable to benefit from its services, because he hasn't got a bank balance the size of the Queen. The cost of the system itself is an injustice to all those who live in this country. An new system needs to be developed and introduced, if anyone is to retain any faith in the law in this country. "

"Another one of us makes a searing assault on yet another of this country's faults. Will we ever find any aspect of the country which might generate a positive comment?", queried Steve, who looked convinced that there was absolutely nothing good about the country noteworthy of comment.

"Well, there is one thing.", piped up Jon. They turned and gazed at him, as if awaiting his next comment to be a revelation.
"There's nowhere near as much dog shit on the pavements in London as there is in Milan!", he continued.

The others looked at each other, and then looked back at Jon, who was trying to suppress a stupid grin. Then they all burst out laughing. It was such an insanely stupid comment that, although obviously a very weak joke, it managed to relieve the tension created by Rachel's long soliloquy on the in-justices of the justice system.
"Anymore daft comments like that, young man, and I'll have you up before Lord Justice Eton 'doesn't everyone shop at Fawtnams' Harrow, self styled guardian of the working man. He'll have you up on a charge of treason and sentence you to transportation to Australia for seven years hard labour," remarked Rachel, trying, and failing, to emulate some upright member of the legal system that she had obviously come into contact with.
TO HERE 4810 words
"Ok, we've obviously all had enough for now. Let's adjourn, if you'll pardon the expression, to the only British institution worthy of retention, ie the pub.", said Nick, who thought it was time to call the discussion a day.
"Even that institution needs to be changed.", cut in Steve. "We're the only country in Europe that doesn't let it's pubs stay open after 11. It amazes me really, because just think how much more tax would be raised if more drink were sold as a result of longer hours."
"Dream on", remarked Jon. "Continental hours will never happen in Britain, for the simple reason that the British drink more from 6 to 11 than any other people in Europe, with the possible exception of the Germans. Longer opening hours result in less income for breweries and government alike, and since the two are, like everything, intrinsically linked, no one in the current system will agree to any change. Sorry to be a cynical bastard, but there you are. Big brother is even monitoring the beer you drink. Almost puts you off going down the pub, doesn't it?".
"Almost, but not quite!", said Nick picking up his jacket and heading for the door.

They followed him and finished the evening off with a session in the local pub, at which relationships and mutual respect blossomed.

They left the pub at the standard eleven 'o' clock, somewhat the worse for wear, and headed back to Nick's place for the night, for it had been his turn to host the meeting.

On the way back to the house, Nick began thinking. He was pleased with the way things were going and satisfied that the talks had managed to remain both realistic and innovative, without any one of them becoming overzealous. He could picture in his mind the machinations of a group of fanatics, concluding that they could only make a difference by resorting to the sort of terrorism which seemed to have dominated the major news stories throughout the nineteen seventies’. He remembered quite vividly the mindless bombings, high-jackings and sieges. In each case those responsible had failed to achieve any discernible goal, apart from that of alienating the very people that each of these events was aimed at influencing, the general public. He noted how the public in general was akin to a slow ponderous beast at the best of times, be he had observed in particular that the beast was never moved by acts of unnecessary violence, especially when those harmed were sections of the beast itself. He remembered when the IRA had tried to destroy the Conservative party at a hotel in Brighton. He also remembered how the party had come out of the whole situation in rather a good light, in that all and sundry condemned the act as one of mindless violence. The Conservatives came out of the event looking very much the wounded party. He mulled over this unintentional pun, for a moment. Very few people, he recalled, actually asked why someone should wish to commit such an atrocious act. Very few people, if any, had placed the blame for the bombing at the feet of those bombed. No-one had suggested that just possibly, if the Irish situation had been handled better, the whole event could never have happened. And further, nobody tried to find a reason for such a horrific act. The persons who committed it very obviously highly desperate. Or there was another reason, which the world had never been told about. The Irish situation, was he thought, a reflection of the incompetence which reigned within the country's seat of power. Yes, he concluded, we are doing the right thing, but equally, he determined, he did not want their group to turn into a group of murderous terrorists. He wondered what the others had been thinking. The taxi journey had been in almost total silence, even the taxi driver had started to shuffle uncomfortably in his seat, and had visibly sighed when asked to stop. There was a tension which had grown up within the group, it had not existed before and it worried Nick, because he was not sure whether it was the result of quiet anticipation, or possible recriminations about what the group had been doing.

The went inside, still in silence.

Steve broke the silence. 'You know, while I'm very pleased about what we're doing, I can't help worrying about how it could all end. I mean, we don't want to end up like some new version of the Bahder Meinhoff group, do we? I remember only too well how this group achieved little more than notoriety for its extreme and violent acts. I'm not sure about you lot, but I'm totally against mindless reckless violence. It wins few friends, you know.' He said.

'You know', started Rachel, 'Steve's reservations mirror my own. The question which I keep on asking myself is, where is all this leading?'
'Strange you should mention it', continued Jon, ' I was thinking the same thing, where are we all going to end up? In prison. Or worse, sporting five hundred bullets a piece, courtesy of the SAS. We've all proved that we are reasonable people, our common-sense ideas prove this clearly. But it make you wonder just how all those revolutionary terrorist groups actually start out, I mean the Meinhoff lot, the Red Brigades, etcetera.'
It was Nick’s turn to speak, although he was still reeling slightly from the discovery that they were all thinking, as usual along very similar lines to himself. 'You're all right, of course. We could end up as a guns and bombs terrorist group, nineties style. Except for on thing, we have all been round long enough to know that this approach does not work. For one thing, innocent people tend to get hurt. This is something I revile. Another thing is that these groups seem to get very little public support. And last but by no means least, the very people that these campaigns are aimed at, the politicians, always seem to come out of the whole thing best. They almost receive an unwritten mandate from the people to do what ever is necessary to eradicate such groups. They are happy to accept this, because it allows them to sweep the other issues, such as why people should want to take such extreme steps in a so called ‘civilised society’, neatly and permanently under the carpet.'

Rachel cut in, 'Yes and look what happened to the extreme groups of the seventies, they fell apart and were never heard of again. On the face of it, anyway. What I believe happened is that the supporters of these groups, woke up and realised the error of their ways. They decided to fight fire with fire and play the power mongers at their own game. What they did was form political parties which focused on specific issues, such as the environment and thus by politicising an issue and by attempting to take votes away from the real people in power they found a focus for their efforts. Just look at the Green party in Germany, they scared the German government so shitless, that it had to adopt 'green' policies to win back the legions of voters that it stood to lose by ignoring these issues. And surprise, surprise there is now a green agenda to be found in the manifestos' of virtually every political party in the world. When you start to deprive the politicians of power they soon forget their colours and jump on the necessary bandwagon as soon as possible, regardless of political leaning.'
It was Jon who continued with this line of thought. 'So what you're saying Rachel, is that if we come up with a series of vote winning ideas, we don't really need to get into power to see them fulfilled. The gullible idiots who run the country will find our ideals so tantalising that they will implement them themselves to keep from losing power. Very subtle.'
'Hang on a second, every one,' said Steve. 'We all know what will happen as soon as mister member of parliament gets hold of our ideas, they'll implement them all right, but only as superficially as they possibly can to persuade the voting public how sensible they all are and so Johnny public will blithely vote for them next time this becomes necessary.'
'You're right, of course,' continued Nick. 'But if someone could manipulate these people effectively enough, then they would be left with little option but to follow those policies which will keep them in power. Now all we need to do is to try to work out how this manipulation can be most effectively achieved. This is no small task in itself. However, if successful it could end up cajoling those who need to be cajoled into doing the right thing. I vote that we all go to bed and sleep on this. We won't discuss it immediately, first we should continue to work out what needs to be changed, much as we have been doing so far.'
'I second that, I'm nearly dead', said Rachel. And with that comment they all went to bed.

The next day after taking a leisurely breakfast they continued to discuss the faults with British society and what needed to be done to change everything for the better.

They began by discussing their previous nights subject, law and order. They ruminated over the fact that in today’s system the criminal seemed to receive rather less punishment that the poor victim. Victims seemed to get little from the system of justice apart from the irritation of attending court and seeing the individual concerned being sent to some cushy prison somewhere for a holiday like period. Compensation was something of a standing joke. All of them knew of somebody who had received compensation along the lines of a pound a week for the next ten years, not even enough to pay for the inevitable increase in insurance premiums after a burglary.

Thus they decided that a scheme of victim support would be introduced, from which all could benefit. The victim support would include compensation for the damage or injury which resulted from a crime. This compensation would be paid directly by the criminal involved, except that the sums involved would be realistic and would be paid from the fruits of the criminals labours in prison. In fact no prisoner would be released from prison until this debt had been paid, with interest. The group realised that monetary compensation would not be applicable to all crimes, but all prosecutions for theft and assault, and other similar offences.

Rachel brought up the threat of rape, which she said was a real fear for women in today’s society. With regard to this, the foursome were aware that rapists were usually kept separately from other prisoners for fear of harm coming to the rapists. Rachel suggested that a useful reform would be to repeal this rule and allow the individuals concerned to fend for themselves, regardless of the consequences, in much the same way as they had attacked women, with little regard for the psychological results of their crime. Jon commented that this was rather inhumane, and his argument was rejected by the others who agreed that rape was in itself inhumane. It was also suggested that should a rapist be killed while serving his sentence, the perpetrators of the action should not be searched for too hard nor punished too harshly. While violence against rapists was not condoned, it seemed to be an appropriate form of justice and would either deter future rapists or prevent existing rapists from committing the crime again. The only exception to this rule would be in cases involving the mentally unbalanced, an even here very strong evidence of such would be necessary to prevent the individual being labelled a normal rapist. Steve raised the issue of 'date-rape', and said that this was a difficult situation because the perpetrators of such crimes did not usually set out with the intention of forcing someone into doing a sexual act. Rachel agreed with Steve, but wished to mention that from a woman’s point of view rape is rape and the intentions of the rapist do not mean much. Nick clarified the situation by stating that the type of rape which should receive the strongest punishment was the type of case involving an individual who attacks a women as a result of forced entry into the woman’s property or while the woman is not in the company of the rapist. In this way rape could still be appropriately punished, but the more serious cases would receive more effective punishment, with no segregation rights. Rachel was satisfied with this approach and happy that a group of men had come up with a reasonable approach to the problem.

At this point Rachel made the point that the group was becoming somewhat bogged down in the finer details and was losing track of the point of the discussion which was to agree upon broad principles and not to actually write the letter of the law, as none of them, including herself, were expert enough to complete such an immense task.

All criminals would receive 'effects of your crime' education, to try to dissuade them from re-offending. Prisons would be segregated into first time and many time offenders, age would also be considered.

Actual prison terms would be reserved for those considered to be dangerous to society. Petty criminals would be housed in hostels, the idea being to retain them as part of their own community and to encourage them to function as part of that community. Married prisoners were to be allowed to live together and raise their children. Prisoners movements would be monitored through the use of high technology such as hand print and voice identification systems. Thus the authorities would always know where a prisoner was at any particular time, thus making it impossible for a criminal to commit crimes while serving a penal term.
The ideology behind the groups approach to this subject was that, in so far as was possible, the individuals involved should not be excluded from society, but should be forced to take a more responsible role.
Having considered the main constituent elements of society the group moved on to talk about how all these changes could be introduced.
There were a number of options. The outwardly most simple option was to form a new political party and try to change things from within. This option was discounted on several bases. Primarily, because, they realised it would take a long time to set up a new party and even if this could be done, it would probably attract the attentions of the professional politicians, who would take it over and reduce it to sewer-like level of the current organisations. Just supposing this influence was avoidable and the new party attained power, the opposition it would face would be immense and the group realised impossible to overcome in the short period in which a party was given to govern, especially as this party would be introducing such radical changes. Time was going to be their greatest enemy as a party in power, as was the apathy and arrogance of the real leaders of the country, the civil service.
The group concluded that a different approach was required. They just needed to decide what this approach was and whether it would stand any chance of success. Jon provided a number of observations on other attempts to re-organise political systems, commenting that generally violence resulted, people died and instability ensued. He pointed out the wars in Bosnia and the problems in Albania. His message was relatively simple. Total overwhelming power needed to be achieved before major changes could be introduced.
He mentioned the success of the communists in Russia. They had he explained, taken total control of every aspect of the country, but had had, at least initially, the support of the majority of the population, and he continued, had employed a great deal of violence to achieve their ends. The communists, he added, replaced one form of class system with another, equally discriminatory system. Which was why the whole thing was to fail, that, appallingly bad management and a police state which covered things up as much as was possible. Jon suspected that a similar condition existed in present day Britain and that any great change would reveal a great many instances of 'cover-up' exercises. The new order needed total control, he reiterated, but what it then needed to do was to relinquish this control slowly and steadily until all the new systems were in place and functioning effectively. Deciding when to let go of the reins, would be one of any new ruling body's greatest challenges, they all concluded.
The question was: how could they possibly achieve a position of total control?
The possibility of carrying out a military coup in the style of a South American state was discussed with a degree of amusement. The thought of Britain becoming a banana republic was laughed off, at this stage.
Each of the groups members, whilst not being anti-violence, was aware of the futility and stupidity of any kind of conflict. Nobody gained from this state of affairs, apart from the arms companies. But each of the group had noted the cold and clean, almost surgical efficiency, of the Gulf war and the way in which modern technology could be employed to cause the maximum damage with the minimum loss of life.
As their discussions progressed the group identified that a certain degree of violence may be required. As Rachel illustrated, you can't cure cancer without destroying the bad growth it produces. In Britain, they determined, the bad growth consisted of nearly all the members of the main political parties. Not to mention a substantial percentage of the civil service and its equivalents at local government level.
We have to remember that once we have cured this cancer, we still have to maintain the body surrounding it. If the cure is worse than the illness, it is no cure. We need people to take the places of those which we will depose. Another problem which was identified was that of who could be trusted to run the newly liberated country. Thus was raised the question of democracy. Steve suggested that the country be very much put back into the hands of the people and that they should be allowed to decide for themselves, exactly who could run their country. However, the selection of the new candidates would be a far more rigorous process than it was at present. And the group decided there would be no parties as such each candidate would have to declare why they were eligible to hold office. Rachel suggested that the new parties be seventy five percent professional and thirty percent non-specifically qualified representatives of the people, to be drawn from each part of society.
More radically still, the group wanted a new category to be introduced onto all vote slips. The 'no' vote.
This would be used as a symbol of popular opinion. It is was to be a future election rule that the winning individuals' total votes must exceed those of the people who voted 'no'. Jon mentioned that such a system could result in circumstances in which for a number of elections no person gained power.
Nick surprised the group at this point by stating that in his opinion the new politicians should have very little actual political power and all their proposals should be considered by an upper independent body, also to be voted in, who could pick and choose the best policies of any of the parties with members in the new parliament. In this way, Nick explained, the ridiculous system which existed under the present form of government could not exist in the future.
Nick went on to describe the almost farcical way in which political parties now only proposed policies which were considered to be vote getters. The others agreed with this observation and the fact that any form of benevolence had disappeared from the political scene many moons ago and the roost was now being ruled by men who merely wanted power, money and knew that the democratic political system was the almost perfect way of milking society for as much as possible, totally legally. Rachel mentioned that one party consisted of almost seventy five percent millionaires. It was no wonder, Jon commented, that they had little interest in the rank and file of the country.
He further clarified what he meant by mentioning his irritation when, under the present system, if the party not in power came up with a good proposal to improve an aspect of government, this was ignored by those in power. In which case the country inevitably suffered. With the new system he was proposing, this situation could not arise. Therefore, the new parliament would become a think-tank for the development of new ideas and the political competition would be directed towards impressing the senior body, and not just the people. This system would encourage skilful reasoned debates, in which each member of the lower body could vote as he or she pleased. Thus the individuals involved would enamour themselves to the people through their reasonableness and skill not just their oratory skills. Another advantage to thus was that, as Steve observed, should no-one gain power for a period, this would have little or no affect on the running of the country. All it would mean would be a delay in the introduction of changes to the system.
The other members congratulated Nick on his innovative approach to solving the problem of politics in government. The group knew that simple human nature rendered it impossible to kill politics as a concept, they just wanted to remove its more adverse and unreasonable affects.
Government no longer heeded the needs of the people but purely secured power on the grounds of the lies fed to the populace at the time of elections. The game now was to predict the lies which were most likely to produce the greatest share of the votes.
Elections were now reduced to the status of huge grotesque circuses. Television being the stage and the performers being the politicians. Their antics sometimes more closely resembled those of a troop of clowns than a group of persons seriously intent on running a country. Worse still, the politicians were well aware of their position and many played the game merely to satisfy their own egos and to line their pockets. Capitalism had run rife and was starting to drag society into a deeper and deeper abyss. Life was merely decided by monetary worth and level of influence. The humanity was slowly disappearing from humankind. Something had to be changed before the damage became irreparable.
Steve mentioned the subject of 'sleaze' , a term which seemed to dominate the press and the examples further confirmed the groups opinion that the political system was running out of control, partly because those supposedly holding power, were spending more time contriving lies to explain their ways out of trouble than actually running the country.
The question returned again to what exactly could be done? Exposure of the idiocy of the country's leaders had been tried by numerous journalists. However, most of these attempts were half hearted, as they were undertaken by those who worked for the owners of the papers. These owners were either industrialists with a politician in their pockets, or the politicians themselves. The long and the short of it was that this path was a dead end. There had to be another way, and there was, but it was so radical that none of the group had quite hit upon it.
The groups' meetings continued, with all the theorising being consolidated and recorded by Jon who took copious notes and circulated these to each member of the group, along with comments on the logical progression of the discussions. The one point which remained was how all their plans could be implemented.
One night in Nick's house, coincidentally on the run up to November the fifth. Nick made a whimsical suggestion. "Why the hell don't we try to do what old Guy Fawlkes tried to do? Blow the whole fucking lot of them sky high and start all over again."
They all laughed uproariously at this crazy suggestion. Then a strange calm descended on the room, they looked at one another uneasily. Rachel nodded.
"You know, that's not as stupid as we all might think." She added.
"Don't be so bloody stupid." Remarked Steve.
He continued, "How the hell could we organise something like that, without, at the very least, big brother finding out? Not to mention the fact that even with the most careful planning many innocent people could be killed in the process."
"Yes you have a point, there. Nevertheless, I've a further suggestion. Just for the fun of it, let's place ourselves in the shoes of a contemporary Guy Fawkes and think about how it could be done. We're all rational people. You never know, we may come up with a plausible way of doing this." Jon rejoindered.
"Anyway, we're supposed to be considering all the options, and let's face it, we haven't got anywhere with any of the other options." said Rachel in support.
"Yeah, come to think of it, this really could be a way of wiping the slate clean and starting again.", commented Steve, warming to the idea..
They began to mull over their most radical solution to Britain's problems. The subsequent discussion was surprisingly coherent and little by little a plan started to emerge. The basic premise was that they had to find a way of completely and utterly destroying the political system in Britain and all its various levels. It wasn't going to be a simple task and the system was rather more complicated than it had been in Fawkes’ day. Someone mentioned Ireland and the IRA's unsuccessful attempts at destabilising the British government. However, the more they considered it, the more they considered the idea to be viable. The evil corrupt world they lived in provided the methods and the means by which to achieve their ends.
They decided that initially they needed two things, finance and more members. Both items created their own distinct problems. The main difficulty was to avoid the attentions of the authorities at all costs.
How could they do this they pondered. "Hang on a second, let's think logically," Nick said, focusing attention to this side issue, the discussion of which was fast going nowhere.
"Let's analyse what could happen. First, we would attract the attentions of the security services if we did something criminal, however, at least initially, none of our actions will be criminal. Secondly, if we expand our group and give the impression that we have serious professional motives, this could generate enough interest to have the authorities looking into our backgrounds. Presuming that none of us are ex-terrorists or criminals, this should not be a problem. None of us are criminals, I hope?"
They all chorused a no and Nick laughed. He suspected that all of them had pretty innocuous pasts, like himself, but it was still necessary to check. He continued and asked each member to think about any aspect of their past lives which could possibly attract the eyes of the authorities.
"I have a small skeleton in my closet, if you can call it that.", Steve announced and told them that he had once been a member of the communist party at university.
"What did that involve", queried Nick.
"Oh, not a lot", said Steve. "I just went on a few marches, anti-bomb stuff mainly. I only joined the party because it was a fashion at my Uni., but I discovered that the more serious members were a bunch of near crackpots. Full of worthy ideals, but not a single grain of practicality between them. They seemed to forget that human nature is fundamentally opposed to the whole communist ideal. I discovered this soon after joining and ended my membership pretty quickly after I brought this point up at a meeting. They branded me a capitalist heretic and all but kicked me out, actually. I was a bit pissed off at the time but looking back, the whole thing was quite amusing."
"The last part bodes well, as soon as Big B comes across the fact that you were virtually kicked out he will lose interest.", said Nick easing himself into his chair. He continued, "I don't know about all of you, but I'm of the opinion that we live in a virtual police state at the moment. Too many vested interests. All this means that we have to keep everything as low profile as possible. I have an idea as to how we may achieve this. A cover. I think we should adopt a cover up strategy, after all this technique works pretty well for those idiots which currently hold power. So why shouldn't it work for us? At one level, we are a new political party, proposing an alternative to the current system but behind the scenes we can develop our 'hidden agenda', always wanted to use that phrase." They all laughed. Nick continued, "But seriously, we could also use our public face to recruit people to our secondary cause. How does that sound to you guys?"
"Great on paper", said Rachael, "But, we need to be bloody careful about who we let in on our actual intentions. All we need is to suss someone out, they get cold feet and blab the whole lot to the people we'd rather not attract the attention of."
"So what we need to do, is do as Big Bro does," chipped in Steve. "We need to vet people, before we tell them what we're all about."
"But how the hell do we do that? Vetting is the business of the men with access to computers and all sorts of information." added Jon.
"True." said Nick. "but, you've just hit the nail on the head.
Computers. Everything these days is kept on computer. Get access to these systems and you can see anything you like. From the sexual preferences of the cabinet under secretary to the breakfast Yeltzin has every morning in the Kremlin. It's an information goldmine. All you need to do is get in."
"Yeah, piece of piss, just tap a few keys and the screen flashes a big welcome to one and all", commented Steve, cynically.
"Strangely enough, its not that difficult, if you have the right equipment and the right person. And not only could we vet people, but we could keep one step ahead of the authorities, should they get wind of us, in fact we should get wind of them getting wind of us, if you know what I mean."
"Nick, we all know you're in computers, but even I know that these systems are as secure as hell these days." added Jon.
"Again, very true, but nothing is one hundred percent secure, never will be. What we need is a specialist", concluded Nick.
"Guys", said Rachel suddenly, "You know I'm a lawyer, right, well from a legal point of view what we are all proposing amounts to that old fashioned crime of treason. If any of us gets caught, we could all be in for a long stretch at her Majesty's pleasure, you know, throw away the key job."
They all looked at her.
"You realise she's right." Said Steve. "We are potentially getting ourselves deeply involved in a game which none of us has any real experience in."
"Right." Cut in Jon, "This has all been a lot of fun up to now, but there is going to come a point when we just can't turn back, and by that time we may have already done enough to get ourselves put behind bars. Maybe we should stop and consider for a moment just what we are getting ourselves involved in."
"I know that your all right about the potential consequences of all this, but I for one am prepared to take a chance. But we must all realise that this thing is going to get stickier and stickier. Eventually, we won't be able to wash ourselves clean.", he continued. "People could well be hurt as a result of our activities, it is quite possible that people may die as a result. All our plans are just talk at the moment, but to really achieve something, we need to take action, and that action potentially includes violence. We must all be aware of this, eventually all our little decisions could have effects on real peoples' lives. Personally, I've little or no objection to eliminating a few politicians, but the other people are the same as ourselves. They're trying to keep their lives together." 2/3/97
"Yes." Agreed Steve. "The further we take this thing, the more difficult it will be to shake it off. I agree that we should all go away and, but I think we need to think carefully about what we are doing and consider the risks and consequences for, not just our own, but everyone’s lives.”
They nodded in agreement, but before anyone could comment, Jon continued.
“Lets call it a day for now and come back in a weeks time. This is not an issue we can resolve through talk alone, we all need to do some good old fashioned thinking."
With that thought, they decided to bring their discussions to a conclusion and reconvene in a week’s time to discuss their personal conclusions. The atmosphere of the evening had changed, the usual hearty goodbyes were forgone and the rest of the members of the group left Nick's home in a thoughtful silence.
Nick lay in bed that night, thinking about the meeting. Jon was right, they could be getting themselves into something a little too deep. Were they the right people for the job, he asked himself. Was the country in such as mess that violence was the only way to start them on the road to positive change? He had seen the results of terrorism and he was not impressed. Additionally, all these barbaric acts had changed little. If fact they had probably made situations worse as political powers became more and more paranoid about new threats. These and a thousand other thoughts whirled around Nick’s brain. His mind was so occupied that he found it difficult to sleep.


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8:25 PM  
Anonymous J said...

I've to run back down to the tv now

Hehe. I promise to read this in the weekend!!!!

~ Jan

10:24 PM  
Anonymous J said...

I can't help but think that perhaps ... you are like Nick ?

I know it is often wrong to analyze a piece of writing by thinking of the author's biography, but it's hard not to, when the issues being written seem so close to your heart.

i.e.: mentions of london and milan

.. I'm wondering, how would you describe this story if someone asked you? Would you say it is a fictional political commentary as a veiled means of social critique? Because that is how I see it, and I like it this way.

Anyway, I hope you do not regret asking for readers, since I seem to have provided a lot of cruel comments, when in fact, I really enjoyed the chapters. I laughed a bit too.

Thanks :) and Keep posting !

3:11 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

First, very very big thanks for having taken the time to read RB and for having commented so honestly. As for your (not 'you're'!)'cruel' comments - don't worry about it - that's what I need. I'd much prefer having someone saying that the whole thing stinks than for them to either not say a thing or try to be kind.

'I shall attend to the errors',says he rather formally. Someone once observed, an Italian, that I do not use much idiomatic language when I speak and this may be why I tend to use language which is too formal when I write.

Finally, yes, you are right - in part the main character in the novel is similar to me, or rather how I'd like to be; in some ways. Nick is rather stronger than myself and at least he has the guts to act on his thoughts.

Glad you liked it though.

Thanks once more,

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