A few days ago I was returning to London from Swanage by train, and whilst waiting on the platform for my escape back to civilisation, suffered the kind of aural assault that has become both normalised and emblematic of modern Britain.
Superficially, it was an announcement alerting passengers that there were rail strikes planned for tomorrow and that disruption to the service offered would ensue. Because of this, it continued, it recommended that only if it was essential should people travel and only then after first checking if it were even possible so to do.
Was it helpful and informative, or was it the kind of deductive reasoning that any sentient adult could work out for themselves upon learning of proposed rail strikes? ‘What, you mean that a rail strike will cause disruption? There was me thinking things would be just the same. And you say that I should check first before travel? Whatever for?’. If people were so utterly devoid of basic common sense that they needed to be told what do do, then they deserved whatever fate awaited them. Preferably a long and miserable one, if I had my way, because no announcement would have been made and therefore anyone who turned up expecting the 13. 47 to Southhampton would be revealed to be the inspiration for some of the more controversial ideas of Sir Francis Galton.
We now live in an age where the notion of anyone possessing the basic capability to engage in a critical analysis of any given situation, to weigh up and evaluate competing solutions and on the basis of these considerations, act appropriate to their own best interests, has seemingly been lost. Replaced, it appears, if the platform announcement is any indication, by an outsourcing of responsibility, in this instance a train operating company, but in others a faceless bureaucratic quango. Last summers hot spell was a case in point.
One could be forgiven for thinking the advice given was for how best to care for for some pot plants rather than for how best to cope with warmer weather. Stay in the shade and keep hydrated was basic gist as far as I could make out. It was as if the people giving out the advice assumed that no-one in the UK had ever holidayed in a hot climate and were the kind of simpletons who would turn up expecting a normal train service during a train strike.
I foresee more of this outsourcing in the coming months, what with ways to combat the energy crisis – wear more clothes to keep warm, turn off radiators in unused rooms, use candles and torches for light – and strikes by nursing staff plunging the NHS into greater crisis – only go to hospital if you really need to. That sort of thing, the bloody obvious seeming to be not that bloody obvious until it is approved and sanctioned by somebody official.
I think of the old saying ‘the problem with common sense is that it isn’t all that common.’ and it is becoming even less so with every passing day.