Ties that bind

Few items of men’s clothing are as silly as ties. They don’t keep your neck warm or work as an effective bib. They would hardly be anyone’s first choice for a weapon, unless they were reinforced with metal wire to fashion a more effective garrote. Although conveniently sited for would-be suicides, they probably wouldn’t even let the wearer achieve effective self-strangulation. Any man in his right mind would choose to go tie-less whenever he can get away with it.

Their only purpose is to signify meaning: masculinity, formality, group membership, conformity to dress codes, higher status.

But, clip-on ties are even worse than real ties. They are neck ornaments that express the concept of humiliation in a polyester format.

They make the wearer look a bit simple-minded: too clumsy to wrap a bit of cloth round itself and thread one end through the loop; too aesthetically challenged to notice what they are wearing exudes ugliness; and too stupid to realise that nobody thinks you are wearing
a real tie just because there’s an ersatz tie front clipped under your adam’s apple.

So, as insignificant as this was as a BBC news item (only “news” because of the media’s strange belief that mention of Facebook or texting will make any story seem totally up-to-date), I can actually understand why school students would campaign against the replacement of real ties by clip-on travesties.

Two odd explanations are put forward: safety issues and preventing self-expression through the medium of the tie knot.

Schools across the UK are said to be switching ties over safety fears……
In May the Schoolwear Association, the trade body for the school uniform industry, said 10 schools a week in the UK were switching, because of fears of ties getting caught in equipment or strangling pupils.
The association also said that clip-on ties can stop pupils from customising the size of the knots in their ties.

Both these arguments are ridiculous.

This bizarre idea that modding your school uniform is anti-education was also held at my school – usually by the teachers with the lowest capacity to engage the students in learning. If there really were any connection between students’ conformity to a randomly-assigned dress code and their capacity to develop their minds, postgraduates students would be wearing uniforms. Surely it would be more important for PhD students to get the brain-boosting power of the dress code?

The health and safety argument is also bizarre. A tie caught in a bunsen burner or lathe would be dangerous. Doesn’t that suggest that boys should take off their ties in the lab or machine shop? If they are still in danger of accidental or deliberate strangulation in the playground, shouldn’t schools just dispense with the stupid garments altogether? Rather than replace them with even more ludicrous alternatives?

These arguments have been trotted out a few times this year, for instance by the Schoolwear Association who did a “survey” that found that 10 schools a week were switching to clip-on ties on the grounds of safety. And also because of the worry that some pupils might be knotting their ties in dangerously non-standard ways – obviously imperceptible to the likes of me, who assumed that all tie-knots were pretty much of a muchness.

Here’s a BBC story about one such school

School bans ‘unsafe’ knotted ties
Children not wearing clip-on ties will be sent home
A school in Greater Manchester has banned its pupils from wearing knotted ties because it says they could pose a safety risk.

That school head claimed that:

“Obviously there is a health and safety element.
“Pupils can take precautions during technical lessons where there is machinery, but it is the unexpected factors such as running and having their ties pulled that could be a problem.
“We also feel it is smarter because older children will not wear the ties in a casual way. This is in line with places like Marks and Spencer, the police and the armed forces.”

**Pause to chortle at the idea of the army and police issuing regulation clip-on ties. Although it might certainly add a welcome tension-diffusing dimension to arrests, if the arrestees suddenly spotted that he or she was being detained by someone wearing a comedy tie.**

Not to mention, these silly arguments just give aid and comfort to the “political correctness gone mad” buffoons who never miss a platform to mouth off in the media. As in this classic quote that would score two out of two in a miniature game of bigot bingo.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said the decision was inexplicable.
“It seems like another instance of political correctness and health and safety gone mad. (from the BBC report in May)

Tory Leader spins tabloid appeal

Well, time for a departure from American politics and a look closer to home.

At the moment the Conservative party are spewing out vast tracts of nonsense, under the guise of a party conference. It does, however, give an insight into how willing to manipulate the voters they are, and how easily manipulated we actually are.

This is a headline news item which has been in papers and on radio bulletins quite a bit under the headline “Tories ‘to help have-a-go heroes’“:

Measures to help the public and police tackle criminals and end the “walk on by society” have been outlined by shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve.
He told the Conservative Party conference that too many people making “genuine attempts to prevent crime” had been arrested or prosecuted.

Erm, no. Not really true. It is, however, the poster child of the tabloid news papers. For decades we have been hearing urban myths about how a “have a go hero” stepped in to save someone and then got prosecuted. Most of the time, these are just that – urban myths. If you investigate the cited examples, the truth is often very different.

The law of the land is not biased against “have a go heroes” but, quite rightly, punishes vigilante gangs and disproportionate use of force.

Sadly, British journalists are shamefully bad at investigating. The BBC even have an example in their article:

Mr Grieve’s comments came after banker Frank McGarahan died following an attack in Norwich. The 45-year-old intervened when he saw two other people being assaulted in the early hours of Sunday morning, but was himself set upon, suffering fatal head injuries. Police have launched a murder inquiry.

Now, is that relevant? No. Mr McGarahan was not prosecuted by the police. The government did not kill him. Unless this is an example of the BBC showing why it is a bad idea to encourage untrained, unskilled people to pile in, there was no reason to bring it up.

If, however, the BBC are similar to the tabloids, the conflation of statements like this is often done to generate misdirection – the public hear the two, and decide that the government shouldn’t have prosecuted people like Mr McGarahan….

Madness. I am saying this a lot lately. We are a society of lunatics. Worryingly, when you think everyone else in the world is insane it normally means……..

Anyway, pushing that to one side. We get more ludicrous waffle from the tories:

Mr Grieve pledged to “take on the health and safety culture” and the legislation which “is holding officers back and making them more risk averse”.

This defies belief.

Health and safety measures are there to protect people. They are there to stop your employer forcing you to risk your life and limb for your job. They are there to make sure that you can function as a working member of society for as long as possible. It has nothing to do with stopping people from being “risk averse” (and here I suspect the Tories demonstrate a lack of understanding as to what “risk” means).

The Conservatives point to examples like the case of 10-year-old Jordan Lyon, who drowned in May 2007 saving his younger sister.
Two community support officers were at the scene but did not get into the water because they had not received the appropriate training.

What should they have done? Should they have died trying to save the 10-year old? (In which case the 10-year old would have died anyway). Do the tories plan to force everyone to risk their lives on a daily basis?

Note, the 10 year old was not risk averse. He took a risk and died. Should two other lives have been added to the tally? If you are family of Jordan Lyon, the likely answer is yes, but if you were a loved one of the community support officer would you have wanted them dead? Whose life is more important?

It gets funnier though:

The Conservatives want to amend Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure that protecting the public from risk is given priority over the risk to officers.

Interesting. Police officers will no longer be able to risk the life of the public to protect themselves… There go the tasers, armed police, batons, riot shields etc. When someone tries to jump off a balcony, will police have to throw themselves underneath to break the fall?

Still it is a sad day that the lives of our Police officers is now deemed to be less important the lives of our public. This is doubly sad in the case of the Police Community Support Officers(*) who have no powers, are paid appallingly bad wages but still have to sacrifice their lives.

Going back to the tragic Jordan Lyon case, the officers were untrained in how to save someone. If they had been compelled to dive in without knowing what to do, what are the chances they would have saved him? Why is lifesaving a taught skill that comes with a qualification if everyone can do it automatically?

The sad fact is, the manipulative tories have jumped on this bandwagon to stir up an apathetic public. They have made meaningless gestures but grabbed headlines. The tabloids love them and to uncritical thought it sounds great.

Dont you just hate politicians?

It isnt just the tories who are prone to such underhand statements:

But the government said its was already working on the issues the Conservatives had raised, including changes to the law, so people using “reasonable force” to protect themselves could have “greater confidence” they would not be prosecuted.

Political vapourware at its best. This basically says: they are not currently going to be prosecuted but the tabloids and tories make them think they are so we will change a meaningless part of the law so everyone feels better. Argh.

Given the lies of the tories, the emptiness of the Labour party and the pointlessness of the Liberal Democrats is it any wonder voters are apathetic?

(*) I detest the very concept of PCSOs. It strikes me as a nasty way of getting policing on the cheap, while allowing under-trained, under-educated thugs out on to the street with a false idea of their own authority. Spend more money on getting real police out. That would save 99% of the problems with PCSOs. IMHO of course…. 😀

If in doubt, appeal to ridicule

Reading through the comment is free part of the Guardian is enlightening, entertaining and a bit saddening. It is enlightening because it shows how confused people become when they want to find a target to attack, it is entertaining because the commenters are, basically, crazy and saddening because once upon a time you would have thought people who read the Guardian were reasonably educated. Obviously in the internet age, this is no longer the case…

Anyway, a rant against the HSE by Simon Jenkins, titled “The zombie health inspectors should be replaced with a risk commission” drew my attention today. As I have mentioned in the past, I am often drawn into the murky world of health and safety much more than I would normally like, so this intrigued me.

The title of the article seems to draw on this part of Mr Jenkins long, repetitive, rant:
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PC is not an insult

It seems that every day now there is an item in the more popular media (take that however you want) which brings the spectre of “Political Correctness” into view. In around 99.99999% of the times the phrase “PC” is used, for something other than a Police Constable 😀 , it is the start of a combination of appeal to ridicule and false dichotomies. The tabloid press are the worst for it, but this attitude is reflected in all walks of life.

One strange, yet recent, example is found amongst the comments on Bernard Manning following his recent real life death (I am sure he died on stage many a time). Now, if you have never heard of him you are truly lucky. Bernard Manning was an overweight comedian (in the loosest sense of the word) who had a small repertoire of jokes that revolved around the mother-in-law, women and ethnic minorities. Famously, when performing at a police convention he made a remark to a black policeman to the effect of asking if he (the policeman) enjoyed walking the beat more than swinging in the trees. Yeah, Bernard manning was that funny. I am not convinced there was ever a time people found sheer offensiveness as “funny” but it seems I may be wrong. People are actually leaving messages about the hateful creature saying he was a comic genius. On the radio (Jermey Vine, again) there were people saying how great he was and that ridiculing politicians and the powerful (rarely targets of Good Ole’ Bernard) was too easy, and that Bernard took the difficult path to attack vulnerable minorities who couldn’t respond.

I never said his supporters were sane did I?

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