Switzerland is a society which trusts its citizens not to dangerously spill fuel all over the filling station floor, and why wouldn’t it?
When filling up, we place the pump nozzle in the tank, click on the gun, let go of the trigger and wait for the meter to click off automatically when the tank is full. Sometimes, while waiting, I clean the windscreen, or maybe change the DVD on the player, for my two young passengers in the rear seats, but mainly I just gaze at the inevitable mountains around me and enjoy feeling grown-up.
Warning! Do not attempt this in the UK, it is forbidden. Just think what would happen if it were allowed. The whole country would be ashes in a week. Wouldn’t it?
07.45 the streets are busy with children as young as five walking or cycling unaccompanied to school. In winter it is dark at that time, and the school provides a light reflecting strap for the under sevens. Motorists drive at 30kph and stop at pedestrian crossings even if children look as though they might possibly be thinking about crossing the road at that point. Often drivers instinctively stop whenever a child is less than five or six meters from a crossing.
In the summer, families have barbeques in the forests. There are mounds of cut logs everywhere for this purpose – but no signs, or prohibitions, or warnings about the dangers of fire, or smoke inhalation, or that the authorities accept no responsibility for injuries etc. It is commonplace for children younger than seven to be seen holding sticks with dough curled around Schlangenbröt (“snake bread”) into the flames.
Welcome to the land of individual responsibility.
I am struck by similarities between the ways the financial crisis, swine flu and global warming scares, unfold in the media.
For the majority, daily real time actual experience of them is minimal or non-existent. For example a majority of people still, have not had swine flu, or suffered the adverse effects of climate change, or unemployment. If you hadn’t had access to the media, you could have been going about the ordinary business of living for the past year and these ‘crises’ would have all passed invisibly by.
Compare this to crises which were apparent and tangible. For example, the recent snow storms which brought large parts of Britain to a standstill or the economic crises of the mid 1970’s – the three day week, petrol shortages, 20% price inflation.
There is a serious financial crisis but it is not the one being reported by the media, instead it is a lost orphan amongst the fantasy, and fictions of mute and timorous journalists.
The Financial Times Lex column was once thought provoking, informative, and occasionally witty. Now it is lazy warmed-over, regurgitant, boring, with a narcissistic emphasis on style wrapped around flabby content – or am I just having a bad day?
The writers increasingly seem focused upon delivering punning displays of familiarity with popular culture, in vacuous and woolly pieces that even a teenage scribbler would be ashamed of.
Recently an anaemic story about Gazprom began with a sentence containing the phrase “playing chicken with Kiev” (geddit!), and another deeply un-insightful piece about WPP (the advertising company) was headlined “’Ad enough” (hysterical or what!)).
In the same WPP story, Lex includes a quote from a fictional character (Don Draper of the Mad Men TV series). “asked how he could sleep at night after spending his days on Madison Avenue dreaming up ways to sell housewives soap flakes and cigarettes, Don Draper replied “On a bed made of money” If only adand’s mattresses were as comfy today”, Lex goes on to conclude, though it escapes me as to why.
Where’s the meat? We should be told.
The Financial Times is a serious newspaper, wasn’t it?
“The pound slid to a 2½-month low against the euro and a six-week low against the dollar yesterday as dire business investment statistics raised fears that today’s gross domestic product figure would be worse than expected” Quote from The Times today.
In fact if you look at the chart, you will see that the pound had been ‘sliding’ for some days before this data was announced. The story is dated 28th August but the pound began its decline against the euro on the 5th of August, when it was 85c. It reached 86c on the 17th and continued this trend to reach 88c on the 28th.