Claire Black: Encouraging have-a-go heroes isn’t going to do anything helpful
CITIZEN Power. That sounds like a good idea to me. In fact I was thinking about just that as I watched two teenage girls pick all of the lettuce off their wraps and drop it on the floor of the bus the other day.
And I was thinking it when someone tweeted the audio file she recorded of the set-to she had while telling a passenger on a train that to refuse an elderly woman a seat because her suitcases were on it was, to put it very, very politely, not on.
The praise that she got for her intervention was unanimous. Of course it was. We all know the pleasures of righting this kind of wrong, standing up against these petty affronts to the way that most of us want to live. The moment of picking up some inconspicuously dropped litter and returning it conspicuously to its owner. The opportunity to remind someone that spitting on the seats in a bus stop isn’t the best use of their time.
But there are limits to what most of us feel willing or able to take on. Sometimes personal safety comes first, and other times, we realise that one moment of disapproval isn’t going to be enough to help someone grasp that being considerate of others isn’t really optional (the lettuce girls) unless you live on a desert island.
So when I read The Royal Academy of Arts pamphlet (www.thersa.org/about-us/rsa-pamphlets/the-woolwich-model) that came out last week arguing that members of the public should be trained in how to combat anti-social behaviour, I felt a little uneasy. Maybe it was phrases such as: “The huge pressures on public spending… only makes the need to forge more productive relations between citizens and services all the more urgent.” Productive? Really?
The reason I like the thought of people feeling able to challenge situations or behaviour, isn’t to create a sticking plaster to cover up weaknesses in beleaguered public services. It’s because feeling disempowered and disengaged from our own communities tends to only lead to those communities becoming even harder places in which to live.
In a recent online survey of what people most wanted for a regenerated Leith Walk, “doing something about the drinkers and drug users in the Kirkgate” came one from the top, second only to improved cycling infrastructure. Encouraging “have-a-go” heroes isn’t going to do anything really helpful for that situation, but improved services might.
‘IT’S Scottish. From SCOTLAND.” Shouting at the person who is about to make you a coffee isn’t very smart. Re-used grounds anyone? But, I’ve never claimed to be at my calmest first thing in the morning and it is monumentally annoying when the gaudy purple note I am relying on to get me my caffeine fix is being stared at in askance. But who’d have thought that the blond-topped pinata also known as Boris Johnson would come to the rescue? He’s told bus drivers in London to accept Scottish notes. Now he just needs to tell everyone else.
I KNOW there are issues about Frankie Boyle. Sometimes what he says is offensive and sometimes indefensible. But when he tweeted last week that dressage was “dancing for gay horses”, I laughed. Really laughed. I don’t know what that says about Frankie Boyle, or me for that matter, but that’s a good gag. And for the record, I thought Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro were awesome. I just wish the horse would confirm, Mr Ed-style, that Boyle is right. «
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West