Monday, July 18, 2005

21st century butterball battles

You've got to hand it to the British, applying modern technologies and state collaboration to create an unnecessary solution to an individual problem. The British, of course, like to make the assumption that anyone's problem is everyone's problem — government granting agencies go in for that sort of thing — and proceed from that there to turn everyone's problem into a policing problem. From the Telegraph:

Parents will be able to monitor how often their children eat chips and turkey twizzlers in the school canteen with a smart card that records the details of every meal a pupil selects. Government-funded research into the use of smart cards to encourage healthy eating in schools was published last week.

[…] Nigel Lambert, the project leader, said that at a time when school dinners had become a highly political and emotive social issue, the cards allowed details of what children ate to be collected on an unprecedented scale.

"It is simple, efficient and cost-effective and the data can be used in many ways." he said. "It can be provided to the Government to underpin its public health nutrition policy, not just in schools but in prisons, hospitals and the Armed Forces."
Not that there really needs to be made a distinction, apparently. Don't bother with engaging your children in exercise, packing them healthy lunches or teaching about good eating — don't even think about giving them a good breakfast and dinner at home and not worrying if they eat crap at school when it's not even going to hurt them — there's an unthinking and unblinking piece of inanimate matter that'll assuage your troubled conscience for not strictly adhering to the capital city food mandarins.

On the other hand, a proper parent these days may as well get the tykes used to surveillance when they're young. With this well-planned kind of nurturing, the true class divide of twenty-first century Western civilization can be made manifest to the teeming masses yearning for a good old fashioned historical dialectic confrontation — between those who rebel against the visible and invisible constraints that a planned society places on individuals, some of whom thereby becoming genuine policing problems, and those who live in London, Ontario and willingly rat out their neighbours. Not an exactly inspiring class struggle for the distended souls of mankind, and maybe more filled with blood-draining than blood-letting, but there you go. From the London Free Press:
A trendy inflatable pool is causing ballooning work for London's bylaw enforcers. Complaints about the giant portable pools — some up to 5.5 metres wide and 1.2 metres deep […] — have doubled over the last two years.

"Quite often we'll get a call from someone, usually a neighbour, who says their neighbour has this pool, no fence and children can walk right into it," said Orest Katolyk, the city's bylaw enforcement manager.

Katolyk said the city's pool fence bylaw requires a two-metre fence be installed around a pool that is 75 centimetres (29.5 inches) or deeper. "Even if they purchase the pool that's over 29.5 inches deep but only plan to put a foot of water in it, you still have to put up a fence," Katolyk explained.

[…] "And if they go to court, what they find out is that installing a fence is less than the cost of going to court."
Same principle — no need to bother with engaging your neighbours in a dialogue about how to serve both your interests, and if you don't trust your child to stay away from neighbouring property or pools, a legitimate concern at a young age, no need to bother with putting up your own fence — there's an unthinking and unblinking piece of bylaw control matter that'll ease your inability to cope with the occasional inherent difficulties of human interaction. Myself, I'd put up the fence, especially if I was living next to knuckleheads.


basil said...

My neighbour has one set up. I hear kids playing in it having fun on hot summer days. I endlessly ponder the possibility that one day a reckless drunk could dazedly wonder into their backyard to vomit and stumble into this pool and end his life. Better he be impaled when he trips on a fence than drown in 3' of water in his misadventures.

I didn't know that with a phone call I could put an end to the neighbourhood children's innocent pleasure. Damn, those screaming kids.

Pietr said...

The 'Smart Card' was a technology put in front of civil servants.
The civil servants(not the elected government)wanted to appear proactive and clever.
So they pimped smartcards.
Back in 1996 they wanted to apply Smart Cards to the unemployed;to stop them spending 'their' dole on 'beer and crisps'.This would appeal to the 'conservative' government of their civil service imaginations.
The application of the technology to kiddy's meals is a resurrection by way of tuning into a rudderless policy-making machine that drifts at the supposed 'will' of the press,sorry people.
This is the weapon that will keep the 'problem' one step removed from the gumment, while satisfying both those who call for gumment action and those who call for parental responsibility.