Gatsos and other stuff!! Submitted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous for various reasons!
Browsing through the Collins dictionary the other day I came across the following definition and it got me a-thinking.

Freedom n. exemption from the control of some arbitrary power, independence, being able to act, move without hindrance, being free from rules.

Is this freedom something that we still enjoy in this country? Are we treated as big boys and girls, grown up enough to make our own decisions and shoulder the consequences of our mistakes? Or are we increasingly controlled by the powers that be who are convinced that the colour of the socks we put on in the morning should be put forward to a quango or focus group lest we make an embarrassing fashion faux pas, or, God forbid, offend someone.

Now I am not by nature a subscriber to conspiracy theories. And I could be accused, through my work, of being a servant to the tyranny. Nor am I in any way an anarchist and I believe that if, through the choices that we make, third parties are disadvantaged or worse, harmed, then we must face the consequences of our actions.

We live (apparently) in a democracy in which our (the general population's) collective wishes are fulfilled by our servants: the government. But could we, like a frog in a pan of cold water gently brought to the simmer, not notice the calamity that is slowly but surely being brought upon us? Are these new restrictions being implemented for our own good, to protect us from ourselves? Or are they a part of a big brother strategy to create subsequent generations each one a little more scared to cast themselves off from the apron string of the all knowing state?

It has become increasingly obvious to me whilst using the public highway, which through various outrageous taxes I have every right to use! I have found my freedom to make progress and get to my destination baulked by a host of obstacles put there to apparently prevent me from hurting myself or other road users. Traffic calming measures, traffic lights and the almighty GATSO. It seems that we cannot be trusted to operate our machines in what we consider to be a responsible manner, and we are unable to decide for ourselves what is safe and what is likely to kill us. Could these restrictions be seen as a metaphor representing the increasing restriction of civil liberties that face Joe Public in every facet of modern life? These restrictions that are being imposed on us cannot be construed as being anti bike per se as motorcycles on the whole have an easier time of it than Mr and Mrs Average in their lovely people carrier, being as we can give the finger to forward facing cameras, can filter to the front of traffic lights and, because of our lack of width, bypass most speed ramps. This kind of discrimination we as a minority are extremely used to. Oh no, this dictatorship is aimed squarely at the population as a whole, and that my friends is what worries me.

Have you ever been stationary at a red light at a set of traffic lights on a quiet road or roundabout, probably in the early morning or late at night, and watched no one go anywhere? I sure as hell do every time I go to work at 5.30 in the morning. Do you not feel controlled, your empowerment to perform a simple action stripped from you because some faceless authority has decided that you are not capable of safely navigating that hazard yourself without their guiding hand. During peak times I’m sure that there is the need for such measures to ensure an even flow of traffic in all directions, and that is a necessary evil. There was a time where very few roundabouts or junctions had lights on them and then when they did appear they were only on at peak times to aid traffic flow (which is a joke in itself as the nature of traffic lights means that for around 20% of the time both directions are stopped during the overlap phase). These same traffic lights are now on 24 hours a day colourfully lighting up many a junction all night, holding up nearly every hapless motorist passing through. In 20 years time there will be few drivers left that have experienced junctions or roundabouts without lights and will not be able to comprehend making that kind of major decision for themselves. Do we really need this level of control, or is it getting us accustomed to being herded like sheep through our lives?

I believe that people in general have a deep down desire to do what they believe is right and these values need to be instilled using effective training. Very few people want to hurt themselves or others, they are merely oblivious to the dangers of inappropriate use of speed due to the abysmal level of competence required to gain a full driving licence in this country. Instruct someone to the level of a learner, and then they’ll drive like learner forever, just a damn sight faster! Teach them to drive as a competent skilled driver able to make the correct decisions for the circumstances and they’ll drive like a competent …….you get the idea. This gives us the freedom to choose what speed is appropriate using a high level training for all road users and lifetime bans for those found flaunting this liberty. As one Jeremy Clarkson champions - “Driving should be seen as a privilege, not a right”.

The government is already foreseeing a problem to their precious economy with the amount of road users teetering on a ban due to our friend the speed camera, and what with the state of our privatised public transport system will see many unable to get to work. There is talk of making SP speeding offences a mere fine and not a licence losing offence. But if road safety is the goal of the government, surely the endorsement should stay and the fine should be removed? That way all dangerous drivers would be removed from the roads. If the endorsements are lifted and the fine increased, just like the congestion charge that Londoners are forced to endure, the rich will be able to drive where they like, as fast as they damn well like with total impunity, while the rest of the bourgeoisie will be relegated once again to be second class citizens, being financially forced to obey the rules that the rich can buy their way out of.

When I first saw the nanny state world portrayed in the film Demolition Man, with its fines for swearing etc, I thought our lives being ruled like that so ridiculous that it would never happen. But a mere 10 years later it doesn’t look so silly anymore. The sterile veneer of correctness implemented to help/please/protect us in that fictional world is nearly with us and I’m not a happy camper!

I don’t believe that this oppression is a conspiracy to stifle the rights of the population. But I do think that modern living is hampered by the over zealous efforts by the do-gooders in the community and government, who believing that they know what is good for us, are implementing ever tighter restrictions on us. That we, like the children I mentioned earlier, need this level of supervision so we don’t misbehave. By taking more and more responsibility from us, the general public becomes less and less able to be responsible for its own actions. And that is a slippery path to be on.


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