Saturday, 2 January 2010

The 4 Rs - Part 1

I thought there were just 3 Rs I hear you say. Nope. There’s now 4. Call them Melvin’s 4 Rs.

I have been doing a lot of driving in recent months, in my search for new clients for my illustrious employers. I love driving. I have a car that needs to be driven. No, demands to be driven. And driven hard into the bargain. So as I cruise across the country, fast shifting through my 6 gears, listening to the growl of my engine, a sound that never ceases to delight me, I have had time to ponder some of the deep questions that are facing me, you and society: like, when will our one year old stop screeching to attract attention, when will our two year old stop saying “No” to every question and what are the fundamental things that are wrong with the politics of our society.

The first two are just too difficult to answer and shall be consigned to the ‘too hard’ tray. But the third one I have an answer to. Melvin’s 4 Rs. Here goes:

My 4 Rs are: Risk, Respect, Reward and Regulation. Today, we shall deal with Risk.

We have managed to talk ourselves into an incredibly unreal situation. We want a society that has zero risk. Not just ‘want’, actually. Many really believe that a society without risk is realistically achievable. It’s total codswallop. Risk is everywhere. It lurks behind every car in front of us, around every corner in every street, under every loose paving stone, on every climbing frame in every playground. It leers at us with every use of any cutting implement, it glowers at us as we climb on any form of public transport. It surrounds us, it envelops us in fact. As soon as your first toe hits the bedroom carpet each morning, your daily gamble with risk has begun.

So the issue is not avoiding risk, but balancing risk. If I walk to work in the middle lane of the M25, the chance of me dying is considerably greater than if I use a car, for instance. If I run across the road now, when the lights are green, the chance of white van man mowing me down are higher than if I just wait for the light to turn red. Life is in fact a constant risk balancing process. The question is proportion. And that is where society is going wrong.

The other day I visited a client. Nice building, just outside Birmingham. As I pulled into the car park, through a speaker by the barrier I got a 1 minute briefing about safe use of the car park, before the barrier went up. When I had parked my car correctly, according to the rules, I ventured into the reception area (and before you ask, yes there was a fucking silent flat screen on the wall). I was then given a two page safety brief I had to sign in two places before I was issued a visitor pass. To finish it off, I was treated to a verbal brief from the receptionist on what to do and where to go in the event of an emergency.


A superb example of completely unbalanced anti-risk behaviour. Unless we can tackle this ludicrous risk aversion we now have, society will continue to implode. Teachers will be less inclined to take our children on trips out of the school. Lawyers will get richer by ambulance chasing minor injuries. Companies will design ridiculously ultra safe processes that are bureaucratic and expensive. Petty health and safety rules will abound. And this costs UK plc. But most of all, it is changing our culture dramatically. We are much the poorer for it.

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