Monday, April 30, 2007

Colonel Moseley on Modern Fallacies

What ho! I was just looking through my weblog. As well as reviews and horse-related items, a good proportion of my posts do seem to consist of sharing my grumbles. Despite this, I was proud that I criticised Mr Brown’s removal of reliefs for pension funds months before the story really took off.

Today, there’s quite an industry of grumpy senior citizens. Richard Wilson, Germaine Greer and a few others seem to have cornered the market in stating the irritably obvious. I suppose it pays for holidays in Tuscany or suppers at the Ivy or whatever it is media folk of a certain age spend their grey pounds on nowadays.

Despite appearances, I don’t get much satisfaction from mere cynicism. What’s needed is a willingness to test accepted misconceptions. Anyone can be curmudgeonly or sarcastic. It’s much more useful to challenge perceived truths, especially those promoted by spin by our government, public authorities, media and large companies. Each seems to want us to continue to accept a tawdry and deteriorating status quo.

So, in the spirit of the innocent child who pointed out that the emperor was somewhat unclothed, here is my take on ten widespread modern fallacies. In my opinion, all the following statements are simply untrue:

Unemployment levels are historically low. No, they’re not. How many people do you know who were made redundant or “retired early” and find tiny savings or small occupational pensions debar them from any benefit, so they just don’t register? How many disappear into the black economy? How many opt for the disability allowance route? None show-up in the employment statistics.

Global tourism is a pleasure: Not to me it isn’t. To move such numbers, air passengers are now treated like cattle. Airports are overcrowded and unpleasant and, in economy, airplanes uncomfortably cramped with poor food. The destination may be worthwhile, but the demoralising journey makes the whole exercise questionable.

Violent crime is reducing: Stop the spin. Many folk simply do not feel safe enough to go out at night, particularly into city centres for fear of drunks and muggings. Many incidents go un-reported. Any sane observer can see drug-related crime and use of guns have increased.

Customer care is important. Pull the other one. How easy is it to obtain help in some shops compared to a decade ago? How long do you wait and how much does it cost to use a help-line? How many consumers are overcharged by banks and utility-providers? Nowadays, the customer is always…bullied and it’s getting worse.

Female equality exists: Tosh. If there was no longer a glass ceiling, a greater proportion of CEO’s and main board directors would be women.

Standards of food have improved: Not so! Many more people are interested in what they eat and value fresh ingredients with fewer food miles. There is a huge demand for local produce and farmers’ markets, but not enough of them. The domination of major supermarkets is increasing together with the tasteless, mass-produced product often transported unnecessarily from the other side of the world. Frustratingly, the more we understand the problem, the worse it gets.

Being gay is no longer a disadvantage. Get real. How many openly gay men or women hold senior positions in mainstream industry or commerce? In reality, the majority of our companies are still bloke-ish. Go to any business dinner or golf day; conventional orientation is still presumed and required. At work normal stereotypes prevail: it’s competitive and a stable family man is still ruthlessly preferred. Even after the Civil Partnership Act, it’s not compulsory for surviving civil partners to be treated equally with spouses as regards occupational pension rights accrued before the Act.

Standards in the health service are improving: ‘Fraid not! The government may have thrown more money at the health service. It seems that doctors’ salaries have increased, but for patients and nurses morale has fallen whilst levels of infection have risen. Statistics on shorter waiting times for operations don’t correspond with the experience of anyone I know.

English regions are important: Says who? There’s no denying that Scotland and Wales are deemed significant. Each has devolution and its own legislature in which the English do not participate, whilst Scottish and Welsh MPs continue to play a leading role in Parliament. In politics and the media the English regions have no real voice. All that counts is London – oh yes, and Cardiff and Edinburgh

Birmingham is a global tourist destination: Que? I yield to no-one in my admiration of our second city. It is a great business and commercial centre with fine galleries, theatres and restaurants. It hosts exhibitions and conferences brilliantly and has some fascinating parts such as the Jewellery Quarter and Bourneville. It may have more canals than Venice but isn’t yet a must-see holiday destination like Barcelona or even Amsterdam.

There’s nothing like a little de-bunking for giving one an appetite: time for tea, a Country Slice and Countdown with the Mem. At least there are some things one can still rely on. In tribute to automatic promotion, Keep right on! Pip, pip!

*this article also appeared in Birmingham 13.

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