I’ve been thinking about the pace of life recently – morbid old sod that I am, and, as the world races past me, how little value there seems to be in occupying the middle of the road.
When I was much younger, when the world was a green and pleasant land, there were things we called Arterial Roads. This was presumably some bright spark’s idea to do with keeping the life blood of the country running smoothly. But, as we always seem to do in our cheapskate British way, we made huge stretches of these roads three lanes wide. Not three lanes in each direction, but three lanes in total. One lane going north, one going south, and the middle lane for those intent on going west, as they used to say about pilots crashing over Germany in old WW2 films! Bright idea eh? Can’t see any problems with that concept.
The idea of blood spilt in high-speed crashes on these three lane monstrosities provided a contrasting interpretation of the Arterial road label. Some of these roads still exist but are now heavily guarded by double white lines, so that’s OK then, no-one ever crosses these when they shouldn’t, do they?
Even on many of today’s UK motorways, where we have three lanes in each direction, the middle lane seems to be a magnet for the uncertain or the incompetent. Those who lack overtaking skills set themselves in it and stay there come hell or highway conditions. They don’t want to travel behind dirty lorries, swallowing up the detritus of commerce, and they don’t want to risk going too fast and having to make decisions, so it’s the middle for diddle for them!
They mimic the behaviour that my father used to complain about from “weekend drivers”. These folk brought their lovingly polished cars out once a week for a trip down to the coast and proceeded at a sedate 25mph along narrow country roads. Looking steadfastly ahead they marvelled at how empty the roads were. Had they ever looked in their rear-view mirror they could have seen the pent-up rage of fifty or sixty obstructed cars behind them, all edging towards some dance of death, should half a chance of passing occur – maybe on a three lane stretch of arterial road?
But to return to the motorway, as I suppose we must, the car pootling along in the middle provokes quite unreasonable behaviour in other drivers. We get aggression, tension, downright stupidity, horrific risk taking, all around the dumb bastard who saunters onwards in serene ignorance – in the middle lane.
I think it is just a metaphor for the wrong way to live life. It is trying to take the low risk option, and there are two things wrong with that idea. Firstly, it isn’t really low risk and secondly it isn’t really an option, it’s a cop out!
Travelling in the slow lane can provide the time to look and listen, to consider and contemplate, to take the heat out and let the light in. It could conceivably provide the chance for considered conclusions; the opportunity to apply past experience to present circumstances, to avoid doing the same things in the same way; the way that didn’t work the last two hundred times you tried them.
When I’m out for a walk, I often take my time: I take in my surroundings, using all of my senses, and my limited mental capabilities, to maximise the experience, and that is the key word I guess, the experience. In fact, just about the only time I change up a gear is when I have to do so to avoid a bunch of aimless, middle of the road, chatterboxes who seem intent on flooding my experience with their own. I have the time to keep a weather eye out for those in a hurry and can make plenty of room for them without causing any stress to anyone.
I can just about understand the point of putting on headphones, hi-tech armbands, strap-on water feeds, etc and thrashing along, solely concentrating on reaching the end of the experience as quickly as possible and to hell with the consequences. I say ‘just about understand’, but I don’t really. It strikes me as a complete misuse of time, and effort, but there you go. As long as I don’t have to do it, and as long as it is done with a degree of sensitivity towards those who want to take a more considered view, where’s the problem?
Taking my tone from the Pathé news of the late 50s…
So, widening the argument about road-middling, we leave the relative safety of the roadside and head into the much choppier clichés of political thinking…….
Here, rather than faster and slower lanes; we look towards left and right; towards the radical and the conservative.
“What about compromise? What about The Third Way?” I hear you say.
“What about fudge?” I reply.
At this stage I should add that I don’t like fudge much. It is inordinately sweet and cloying, and it sticks to my teeth. This is about the best I can say about Centre politics. It seems to me that being middle-of-the-road is rather like being completely under the control of a Satnav without even knowing if its maps are up to date. You have no idea where you are, but you hope that it does, and it will get you home. If it says “Turn right then take the second left”, who are you to argue?
No, I’m afraid that pragmatism is nothing but a service station on the road to perdition.
Some things are appropriate subjects for compromise, like how hot you want your shared curry, or what time to go to bed, what to watch on TV, and so on. They are a matter of taste and accommodation rather than a matter for humanity and morality. Clearly other things are not.
There are howls of anguish about how polarised our society has become but this is not new. Our society has always been polarised, it’s just that we have been so wrapped-up in our own individual interests that we haven’t noticed. Coming up with some namby-pamby, syrupy, fudge to paste over the cracks isn’t going to fix it. It is just going to help to hide it. Middle of the road politics just seems to take the worst of all worlds and meld them together into an unholy mess. Look at what Blair’s Labour Party did to the ideas of socialism. Look at the fate of “One Nation” Tories and wonder which nation they have had to migrate to these days. They are like stateless persons, asylum seekers, and I must admit that there is a strange irony in this outcome. I wonder how they like it.
No, the middle lane provides too much cover for charlatans.
If you disagree with what you are hearing or seeing, say so!
As long as there are extremes around, there will be a need for groups to oppose them. It doesn’t matter if you support the Right or the Left, don’t be seduced by the middle way.
As attendees at the séance suicide centre know, sometimes there is no happy medium.
We didn’t get to where we are today by speaking out! We ended up here by biting our tongues, by shutting up when we should have been calling out. If you don’t like the way you are being treated, say so, and the louder the better. Don’t mumble and mutter and seek some kind of mucky compromise with those who know exactly what they want and how to get it. They will use your indecisiveness, your reticence, your good manners, to move ever closer towards their goal.
Do not be treated like sheep that have wandered onto the highway. The people you are likely to be dealing with are accustomed to herding sheep. They use devices like the Overton Window.
Not heard of it? Well, maybe I’m not that surprised. We don’t get much of this on the crown of the road. It’s a device. Supposedly, a device for describing acceptable political ideas, but I suspect that its power lies in its corruption. It can be used as part of a toolkit for moving the bounds of public acceptability. A device for moving sheep. If mainstream thinking is this, then propose something more extreme and keep on proposing it. Not just off the middle of the road, but off the carriageway altogether. Something that prompts your Satnav to cry ‘turn around when possible’. This could be on the right or the left-hand side, but in our country, it is normally on the right. Over time, this has the effect of making another, fairly outrageous proposal, seem far more acceptable.
A very British Coup – Right wing of course
Today, we are faced with the appalling spectacle of Johnson’s new ultra-right government, elected by no-one. It has stolen power and is planning to consolidate it to deliver something that almost no-one has ever voted for. He has moved in all of his ERG bully boys to the key positions of power and they are marching onwards towards one over-riding goal, at any cost. Now, I don’t want to sound too hysterical, but does this remind you of anything else in Europe’s recent history?
At the time of Cameron’s great “democratic” experiment the Tory party decried all that UKIP stood for, it denounced their ridiculous ideas of leaving the EU with no deal, their attitudes to immigrants, their concepts of leaving the single market, of a hard Brexit. Now, following a series of hard-line shouts from absolute nutcases steeped in privilege and vested interest, the mainstream Tory view has become indistinguishable from those of the BREXIT party. They are even talking about some kind of “accommodation”! UKIP may be dead, but the Tory party have adopted their policies, lock, stock, and Boris. Anyone now espousing the original Tory view has been thrown out of the bloody Overton Window and is some kind of anti-democratic traitor.
These people still hold the same views, but the window has shifted radically towards the Right. By persistently banging on about a No Deal Exit the frame has moved – it would now seem like a huge relief, and a reasonable result to many, to exit on any old terms, when what they really wanted was to remain!
The lunatics are now firmly in control of the asylum and neither talking therapies nor tranquilisers will sort this mess out!
Do not despair, remember that people who lie down in the middle of a runway risk getting run over!
I guess we shouldn’t lose heart: Jackass Johnson has previously promised to lie down in front of bulldozers, and has recently promised that we will leave the EU on 31st October “Do or Die”. Maybe we can use the first promise to deliver the second?
Me, I’m off to take a JCB course. Care to join me?