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for your comfort... - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2007-11-22 23:31
Subject: for your comfort...
Security: Public
Location:the utility room in the sky
Mood:calmcalm
Music:led zeppelin
This refers back to the last post, although it's less a coda than a tangential thought. The morning after the journey I talked about a few days ago, I was travelling in to work - perfectly happily and with no great problems - when I noticed a sticker pasted to the door leading to the First Class compartment on my train.
I can't remember all of it verbatim, but it started off: `For the comfort of our first-class passengers ticket enforcement officers regularly patrol our trains.'
And I thought `comfort' was an odd word to use in this context. Do First Capital Connect (for 'tis they, the bane of my life) think that putting ticket inspectors on their trains makes the First Class passengers sit easier in their seats? Do the commuters going up to Hendon and St Albans really feel better knowing that there are phalanxes of inspectors heading down the train to arrest that one bloke who's decided to sit in First Class as far as West Hampstead?

I've been hearing `comfort' used more and more on the transport system. `For the comfort and safety of passengers, closed-circuit television is in use at this station.' `For the comfort and safety of passengers, smoking is illegal on all stations operated by First Capital Connect.'
The only thing that suggests itself is that it makes all passengers complicit in these actions. They're doing it to make us more comfortable, so it must be good. Bless them for making us more comfortable. It can only be a matter of time before they say, `for the comfort of all our passengers, we're putting transport fares up to a level where only the owners of Premier Division football clubs can afford to travel.'

To my mind it's a bizarre use of the word `comfort,' which I usually associate with a really good chair and a book I'm totally involved in. I have other definitions of `comfort,' but they're personal and none of your business. None of them involves commuting.
I do wonder whether it's because travel in the southeast has become so uncomfortable - and it's getting worse, it took me three hours to get home tonight - that they've started planting the word in our subconsciousnesses so we'll say, "Sure, it took me eight days to get home from work and I had to go via Ulan Bator, but those guys really care about my comfort."

Just a thought. 
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-22 23:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's kind of like when transport companies tell you the fares have been "revised", isn't it?

What these goons don't realize is that, if they simply said the fares had been increased, we'd just kind of glumly accept the fact, but when we're told of this "revision" we immediately start looking for someone to strangle.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-23 00:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The thing that annoys me about travel in the southeast is that the transport companies have a captive audience. They could demand that we all sing the Mickey Mouse Club Song as we get on the trains/buses/tubes, and we would have no choice if we wanted to get into work. They can say the fares have been revised, they can say that The Great Bunny Himself has told them to put the fares up, and if we want to get into work (and our employers don't care how we get to work so long as we get to work) we'd have to accept it.
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RealThog: morgan brighteyes
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-23 00:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:morgan brighteyes
"we would have no choice"

Ah, yes, and remember that it was The Mad Thatch herself who told us it was a good idea to privatize these transport companies because that'd increase consumer choice.

Yeah. Right. Even a Jap like Miyazaki got The Mad Thatch's number pretty damn' quick, but it was so f***ing long before the Brits did.
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rou_killingtime
User: rou_killingtime
Date: 2007-11-23 01:01 (UTC)
Subject: Milk Snatcher!
Speaking as someone who had his free school milk taken away by "Thatcher the Milk Snatcher" before she became PM, I've little good to say about her either.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-23 01:20 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Milk Snatcher!
"I've little good to say about her"

Little good? You can find anything?
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rou_killingtime
User: rou_killingtime
Date: 2007-11-23 01:34 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Milk Snatcher!
Ooh, ooh, a chance to play devil's advocate! :-)

Well, thinking back to the Callaghan government that preceded her:

Bin-men on strike, rubbish piling up in the streets, the vermin problem that naturally followed, not to mention the stench. Firemen on strike, ancient army Green Goddesses pressed into service. The country in such financial crisis that the I.M.F. had to be called in.

She seemed pretty good after Callaghan and Healy were done digging the country into a hole. Although, I suppose what with the miners being on strike there was nobody else to dig it ;-)

Hmmm, now my mind is playing the scene from The Life of Brian where they ask what the Romans ever did for them...
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-23 03:54 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Milk Snatcher!
"Although, I suppose what with the miners being on strike"

Um, that was the Mad Thatch's little problem, not Callaghan's.

Callaghan was a poor PM, no argument there. But the damage he did to the country was always going to be superficial and short-lived. The damage Thatcher did, by contrast, was systemic and permanent.
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rou_killingtime
User: rou_killingtime
Date: 2007-11-23 13:14 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Milk Snatcher!
I'll freely admit that my recollection might not be 100% for the events of thirty years ago - I just assumed that the miner's would have been 'out in sympathy' during the Winter of Discontent.

Can't argue that Thatcher ultimately did more lasting harm to the country than Callaghan. However, she did play a large part in reducing the power of the trade unions.

I suppose the only good thing I can say about her is that she wasn't afraid to grasp nettles.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-23 22:15 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Milk Snatcher!
I'll be honest with you both, I can't remember whether the miners were out during the Winter of Discontent, and I've got a good ten years on killingtime. I presume they were, but I'd have to look it up.

But Thog's right; the damage Callaghan did was pretty transient, in the great scheme of things. Thatcher caused deep and lasting change.

What killingtime said about Thatcher looking pretty good after Callaghan only goes to prove that we never learn from our mistakes. Blair looked pretty good after Major.
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RealThog: morgan brighteyes
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-23 22:41 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Milk Snatcher!
Keyword:morgan brighteyes
"However, she did play a large part in reducing the power of the trade unions."

Why is this always assumed to be a good thing?
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-23 22:50 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Milk Snatcher!
She was also complicit in destroying the two major industries in the area where I grew up, steel and coal. Although in the case of coal, Scargill doesn't get away blame-free.
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rou_killingtime
User: rou_killingtime
Date: 2007-11-23 22:51 (UTC)
Subject: Power corrupts
I'd say it's because when they had more power than they do now, they abused it. Hence reducing their power was a good thing. Just an observation.

Personally, I think major corporations are currently in the position of having too much power and abusing it; I'd be glad to see that change too but I'm not holding my breath waiting for it to happen.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-23 23:05 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Power corrupts
"I'd say it's because when they had more power than they do now, they abused it."

Actually, I think this is propaganda that you've swallowed. Some unions abused their power </i>sometimes</i>. Like politicians. Like cops. Like schoolteachers. The vast majority of unions just plodded along quietly doing the things that have made unions such extraordinarily invaluable contributors to the welfare of ordinary people in Western society. (Don't believe me? Start with health and safety standards ...)

The miners were widely described as the arch-abusers of union power because they struck on the laughable pretext that the changes Thatch wanted to make to the coal industry would destroy, and with it countless Welsh communities. Of course that was a mere fabrication on their part in a trial of strength that would determine for a thousand years the bulwarks of [insert here a few paragraphs of your own choosing from the Telegraph or Mail of the time]. They lost the strike and, guess what, the coal industry was destroyed, and with it countless Welsh communities.

"Personally, I think major corporations are currently in the position of having too much power and abusing it"

No argument there. It was a situation facilitated by crippling the power of the unions.
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rou_killingtime
User: rou_killingtime
Date: 2007-11-24 00:15 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Power corrupts
I still believe that they did need reining in, but what happened was far more than that. As you say, they were crippled, which led pretty much directly to the situation we have with corporations throwing their weight around today.

(Sigh) I suspect this is why I try to have as little to do with politics as possible these days. Repeatedly banging one's head against a wall is less painful and frustrating. A pox on all their houses!

I think I'll drop out of this particular discussion on that note, and my blood pressure will thank me for it :-)
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-23 23:20 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Power corrupts
I have to admit a certain sympathy for your view. Both Thog and I remember how surreal Fleet Street could be when the unions were in their pomp. But the problem with breaking the power of the unions is that it also removes a voice for the working people they represented. That voice is all but gone now.

Personally, I don't think Thatcher did break the power of the unions. She certainly weakened the larger unions, but New Labour could easily have rectified that when it came into power, and they didn't. It was Blair who finally broke the unions, not Thatcher.
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RealThog
User: realthog
Date: 2007-11-24 04:37 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Power corrupts
"It was Blair who finally broke the unions, not Thatcher."

An interesting thesis. It'd make him more of a wanker than I already thought he was, which is difficult . . . but possible nonetheless.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-24 20:23 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Power corrupts
Think about it. Blair could have reinstated the power of the unions. An old-style Labour government would have. But New Labour had cosied up to Murdoch and Big Business so much it could never have done that.

Of course, with union membership withering there were less union donations to the Party. Which led them to the *alleged* cash for honours business. So every cloud has a silver lining.
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pds_lit: quilt
User: pds_lit
Date: 2007-11-23 03:59 (UTC)
Subject: Whos Comfort?
Keyword:quilt
When I see "comfort" used in this way it translates from "for my comfort" to "for the comfort of the company".
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-23 22:32 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Whos Comfort?
Oh yes.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-23 20:17 (UTC)
Subject: a slightly different way of putting it
it is about control- in this area, they are in control, therefore you need to do nothing. You are a unit, to be conveyed in a particular manner, but with no say or volition in what goes on.

I'm not explaining this very well- it seems like several ideas and values collide here. At its simplest, the message is just like those from the Sirius cybernetics corporation. Yet the mindset behind it is quite alien to me, and also one I have no wish to see expand.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-23 22:30 (UTC)
Subject: Re: a slightly different way of putting it
No, you're right, there is a definite sense of just being a piece of freight, with no say how or when you get somewhere, or what condition you'll be in when you get there.
The comparison I always make is with a cinema. If you pay six quid or whatever a cinema ticket is these days, and the film starts late because of `adverse weather conditions' or is cancelled altogether because of `technical problems,' you'd be justified in asking for your money back. I'd presume that the cinema wouldn't even wait for you to ask - they'd refund your ticket.
That's because a cinema has to get bums on seats; if people don't like a particular cinema, they'll just go to another one that suits them better.
With transport in London, there isn't another cinema. I'm lucky, if you can call it that - we have plentiful transport links where I live, tube and bus and train, so if things go tits-up with one there's always an alternative. But there are parts of London, particularly in the South, where people have to rely on just one form of transport, and they're utterly at the mercy of that form of transport.

And you're right, it does seem to be a rather pernicious form of newspeak. I do wonder how we came to this.


A few years ago we stopped being `passengers' in the tannoy annoucements, and were instead described as `customers.'
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-23 23:35 (UTC)
Subject: Re: a slightly different way of putting it
"I do wonder how we came to this."

I recently got my own copy of "V for Vendetta" and read it for the 2nd time ever, last time I read it was maybe 5 years ago. (And it made so much more sense this time.) So, on the first page, an announcement by the gvt:
"The people of London are advised that the Brixton and Stretham areas are quantine zones as of today. It is suggested that these areas be avoided for health and safety reasons."

The disease has been around for a long time. In fact I recall reading Steinbecks "Travels with Charley", which was about travels in 1960. Steinbeck encountered similar wording even then, something along the lines of "This toilet seat has been sterilised for your peace of mind".

And of course Adams was writing in the late 70's.

In the UK, I think it is a hangover from the paternalistic past. (See related discourse on the topic of unions out of control) In the USA, it is part of putting a "human" face onto the faceless corporation. So in the above situation, we get a collision between the two cultures which ends in such violence being done to our brains.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-24 00:10 (UTC)
Subject: Re: a slightly different way of putting it
You see, I can swallow "health and safety reasons." That at least has some point. `Comfort' is just meaningless. They might as well say, "For the comfort of our passengers we recommend that they stay at home."

I remember visiting a lavatory in the MidWest in the early 1980s which had a sign with exactly the same wording. I recall feeling quite flattered. They care about my peace of mind, what a wonderful culture.

You may be right about the collision between a paternalistic past and a faceless corporation wanting to humanise itself. By that reading, this newspeak may not be deliberate. It may be a wholly accidental artefact. Which is actually a little alarming because it implies no one's in control of it, it just surfaces at random points in our culture for no good reason.

I sort of lost track of the increasingly-badly-titled Hitch-Hiker Trilogy after the third book and I never read the last one or two, but I do sometimes find myself wondering what Douglas Adams would have made of the culture we find ourselves in today.

I've seen V For Vendetta the film, and found myself becoming equally frustrated and captivated by it, but I've never read the graphic novel. However, I've been reading quite a lot of stuff about it elsewhere recently and I think I'm going to have to find a copy of my own. I like Moore's stuff; I thought Watchmen was one of the best pieces of fiction in any genre that I'd read in the year that I read it, whenever that was.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-24 10:56 (UTC)
Subject: Re: a slightly different way of putting it
You have to read the graphic novel. It is complex, and some of the pictures require attention to work out what the point of them is. I have not seen the film, but read mixed reviews of it, therefore the graphic novel is guaranteed to be better.

As for Newspeak, you notice the gvt uses it repeatedly. That particular usage is no accident. But for large organisations like the train companies, it probably is more accidental.

I don't believe in conspiracies, in the romantic/ idealistic fashion. All you need a lots of people working towards their own greed within a system, and you end up with what looks almost like a coordinated conspiracy. But it isn't, its just "the wawy the world works", so of coure if you object you are accused of being out of touch with reality.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-24 20:33 (UTC)
Subject: Re: a slightly different way of putting it
The film was okayish but very uneven. Very powerful in places, sort of so-so in others. The person who keeps recommending the graphic novel to me keeps saying it's miles better than the film.

I think we almost expect newspeak from governments these days; we're so used to having to decode subtext that if they started talking straight we probably wouldn't understand what they were saying.

You know, I hadn't thought about conspiracies quite like that, but you're right. Interesting.
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calcinations
User: calcinations
Date: 2007-11-24 21:09 (UTC)
Subject: Re: a slightly different way of putting it
Whereas the graphic novel is powerful in all the right places.

There is no illuminati, no black helicopters, no all powerful commitee deciding what happens. Just lots of fallible humans getting things wrong.

However there are some sorts of conspiracies, such as those that provided the "evidence" that got us into Iraq, and those in which companies use gvts as pawns, eg privatisation and PFI etc.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-24 21:33 (UTC)
Subject: Re: a slightly different way of putting it
Yep, you talked me into it. I'll see if I can score the graphic novel on Monday.

And I agree with you about conspiracies. It's a shame they're so much more interesting than mundane life.
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jmward14
User: jmward14
Date: 2007-11-24 06:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"...I do wonder whether it's because travel in the southeast has become so uncomfortable - and it's getting worse, it took me three hours to get home tonight - that they've started planting the word in our subconsciousnesses so we'll say, 'Sure, it took me eight days to get home from work and I had to go via Ulan Bator, but those guys really care about my comfort.'"

Personally, it would only inspire me to say, "They do an awful lot of things for their comfort, don't they?" Of course, I'm contrary by nature. :D
Hugs,
Jean Marie

Edited at 2007-11-24 06:33 am (UTC)
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2007-11-24 20:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
LOL. Yes, there is that way of looking at it.
Welcome back, by the way. How're things?

Big Hugs.
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