Initiative is the new fascism, apparently  

Friday, 25 January 2008

This week I had cause to visit The Event Show in London. This is a trade exhibition for companies involved in every aspect of the events business, from portable toilets to lighting systems. The events business is an exciting game in many ways. I myself have been involved with some pretty big events in my time - Glastonbury, Reading etc - so I can claim a modest amount of experience in the field (excuse the pun). Safety has always been the top concern for people involved in putting on events, and rightly so. However these days, it seems safety has become less of a concern and more of a pathalogical obsession. Not with the people who are actually designing and putting on events; people who, for the most part, are hugely responsible and capable experts in their respective disciplines. No. The obsession lies with the incompetant buffoons at the Town Hall, who spend their time thinking up ever-more ingenious methods of curtailing people's enjoyment. Not to mention their education.

On the tube heading back from the show, I ended up standing next to a couple of these individuals as they were discussing their latest battles with the forces of anarchy, attempting to overwhelm their administrative regions with fetes, bouncy castles and bring-and-buy sales. With predictable efficiency, the District line train broke down at Earls Court, however this did provide ample opportunity for some serious ear-wigging into the daily goings-on with the Risk Assessment brigade.

The main thrust of the conversation concerned the misguided attempts of an individual member of the public to run a community project with local children. The basic idea appeared straightforward enough: Get some wood and paint and let the children build things. Ah, but there was a problem. "He wasn't a qualified carpenter," shrilled the first official to her shocked colleague. This then necessatated this community project having to find a qualified carpenter, willing to donate their time for free. Which, apparently, they did. "Ah but we couldn't allow the children near tools, of course", continued the official, "Far too dangerous." So now the act of actually making things now had to take place in a workshop, presumably surrounded by 20 foot high fences with sirens and flashing lights warning everyone within an 8 mile radius that someone was about to pick up a screwdriver. The role of the children in all this was now subsumed to that of assembly worker - taking things that somebody else had made and sticking them together, thereby removing the entire point of the exercise, which was surely the act of creating something from nothing.

Nevertheless, with qualified carpenters beavering away in fortified workshops, creating risk-assessed, non-toxic components, from sustainable wood using low-carbon production techniques, and transported to the children's non-judgemental activity space by bio-fuelled, recycled, ethically-sourced bicycle-powered tuk-tuks, you'd think we'd be home and dry. But no. "So what was he planning to do with the things the children made?" asked the second official. With barely contained incredulity, the first answered "I think he intended the children to take them home!"

"Oh dear", smirked the second, tutting into her ethnically-woven, bio-degradable cardigan, "He just hasn't thought this through,has he?"

The net result was, of course, the community project was cancelled, thereby freeing the children to continue engaging their time in less edifying pursuits, such as mugging and graffiti. Thanks to the attentions of these patronising and arrogant individuals, the good-hearted efforts of people who just wanted to do something constructve for their communities were strangled at birth. In Town Halls up and down the land, arseholes such as these are stiffling innovation, suppressing initiative and attemting to turn the world into brainless regurgitators of doctine, just like themselves. Rather than accusing the well-meaning individuals trying to make a difference of "not having thought things through", I wonder if they themselves have ever taken the time to consider the consequences of a generation of children raised with every original thought regulated out of their heads. Or maybe that's the plan.

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