Sunday, 30 January 2011

Eric Pickles, monstrous epitome of the disposable generation I remember my mother expressing disgust at the amount of unnecessary packaging that came with the shopping she brought home to feed the family. This would have been in the late sixties or early 1970s (I know, not much has improved). And I recall my dad explaining the concept of built-in obsolescence in manufacture; that would have been some years before. I grew up in a comparatively affluent social system in which people were expected to just throw things away if they were surplus or didn’t work properly. The consequences of disposing of stuff were not something anyone needed to concern themselves with. The principles here are, first, that the tax-paying citizen has the right to consume whatever they want to if they have legally acquired it, and dispose of it whenever they want (this principle is sometimes called 'america'); and secondly, they have the right to fiercely condemn their council for not going along with this culture in every respect, and cleaning up after them (this principle is sometimes called 'the daily mail'). Now this monstrous culture has grown large, bloated and out of control. How ironic that, as Janet Street-Porter points out, we have a Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who seems to be obsessed with wheelie bins, at a time when some of us would like him to be pre-occupied with helping to maintain services like elder care, youth work, child care, bus services and libraries: 'Pickles has ordered councils to make huge cuts to balance their budgets. You would hope services that are of particular benefit to the elderly and vulnerable such as mobile libraries, meals on wheels, and home help for the infirm and disabled might be protected. You'd hope that Sure Start nursery centres for the young, which enable lower-income mothers to go out to work, might be ring-fenced. But you'd be wrong – charities say 250 are set to close. In the mad world of Eric Pickles, the wheelie bin is king, more important than library books, local transport and childcare.' Mr Pickles epitomises a culture which believes that because some parts of the public sector are malfunctioning, they should be thrown away. Apparently the consequences of that wanton and irresponsible disposal are not something he need concern himself with. It’s deeply unfortunate that such a person has any power at all, considering the social damage already being caused. The question is, how soon will the built-in obsolescence in this political approach begin to take effect?

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