Please forgive me, for I stumbled across something the other day that had disturbing relevance to the cataclysm currently engulfing our planet.
I beg forgiveness because there is a theme that I realise has been running through my columns the past few weeks, and that is a theme of misery. It is a theme of a society imploding; tearing itself apart at the seams; eating itself; destroying itself, whichever description you prefer. Madness, it seems, has taken root in all our senses. For you see, we are living in an age of destruction. Not through prophecy, nor some prescribed preaching. But we are actually witnessing the apocalypse of our dear planet.
Bad Planet, Bad, Bad
Daily newscasts reveal all that is wrong with the world. Death here, murder there; squalor and deprivation here, gluttonous over-indulgence there. In fact, such is the vehemence with which our planet is hurtling towards its inevitable final destination, tellingly, scientists are now formulating methods and implements by which we can track down earth-like planets outside our solar system. Not to find alternative life, but to haul our ignorant hordes over to survive and maintain the species. Yes, quite what the effect would be of carting millions of ill-informed and illiterate A.S.B.O's over to another planet is beyond reckoning, but one that is definitely crossing the mind of those better informed than us.
Peruse the past few weeks of stories from around the world and you will see what I mean. More dead in Iraq, as British troops pay the ultimate price for the fighting; civil unrest festering in the hearts of Iraqis who condemn the invasion; the National Front marching in Luton to campaign against "terror," yet choosing the most diversely ethnic populated area in the town by "coincidence"; drought affecting all countries as the planet slowly sucks itself dry; millions squandered on the NHS with the majority failing to pass basic competency tests; inflation crippling millions of home owners into poverty in supposedly one of the most developed nations in the world.
What's Right is Right?
So you see, again, I plead for your forgiveness. Journalism, for me, has always been a method by which we should seek to rectify the wrongs of society. The battles between tenacious and obstinate newspaper editors and leaders of nations have encapsulated memorable periods in the history of the twentieth, and now twenty-first, century. Yet at this precise moment, I find no heart to remedy society, nor to aid its recovery, for daily, I witness the depravity and iniquity wrenching away at everything we have achieved. Plato, in his masterpiece "Republic", posed a very relevant question: "How are we going to bring these people up? What education shall we give them? If we look into these issues, does it further the overall purpose of our enquiry, which is to see how morality and immorality arise in society?"
Those questions appear in the pertinently titled chapter called "Primary Education for the Guardians," and its relevance cannot be overlooked. Education is the backbone of a compliant, peaceful and flourishing society; a cornerstone of civility that cannot be sold-out for business or watered down to appease the voter's who so often rely on tables and percentages rather than morals and principles. We are consistently given authenticated reports and statistics about how great our education system is, and how phenomenal the pass rate has become.
Yet massive disparities threaten to unhinge the entire system, as chasms of ineptitude and misadministration block our thoughts of success. In this, we look to our government. So often the centre of scorn and ridicule though not for fashion nor ignorance. In some circles, it has indeed become fashionable to denounce government; fear of aligning with "the man" and of a corporate brainwashing. No, this condemnation arises through the lack of attention paid to the country's societal pioneers, education and health.
The National Health Service (NHS) has been the favoured stone to throw at government as a clear indication of failure, and this week we learn again of another catastrophic incompetence on the part of over 80% of hospitals and Primary Care Trusts, failing to comply with basic proficiency tests. And over the years, what has been the government response? Pour money down the throat, choke the senses and deaden the effect.
What of education? All the hallmarks are there for disaster. Failings in comprehensives; colleges under-performing; ministers popping out of every corner proclaiming ever-inventive ways of saving the much vaunted "engine" of our economy. And now we have calls for privatisation of the sector. To paraphrase legalese, again and again this government has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that its ability to correctly control and implement valuable methods to preserve and improve our core services has fallen below par. Their mantra when sweeping into office in those heady days of "97 focused on education being the key, and now we have the final throw of the dice.
Again, in "Republic" Plato surmises: "When thoughts of death start to impinge on a persons mind, he entertains fears and worries about things which never occurred to him before"¦he becomes filled with anxiety and fear and starts to make calculations"¦" A clear indication if ever, of Mr Blair's final days in office, desperately gambling his reputation on short-term policies. Once again, Plato accurately describes what position we would find ourselves in, should we give in to big business taking over the FE system: "Poets are attached to their own compositions, fathers to their sons; in the same way, businessmen are concerned about money not only because it's useful, but also because it is the product of their own labours. This makes them irritating to be with, since money is the only thing they"re prepared to think highly of."
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