Grand Designs

grand designs brexit

EXT, DAY. HELICOPTER SHOT OF GEORGIAN MANOR, SET IN GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND

KEVIN MCCLOUD[VO]: For most of us, inheriting a manor house would be a dream come true, but for professionally inept couple, Theresa and David, it simply isn’t enough.

EXT, DAY. THERESA, DAVID AND KEVIN TALK OUTSIDE THE HOUSE

DAVID: Obviously, it’s a beautiful house and we love it deeply and want the best for it, but we feel that we can make more of it.

KEVIN: What do you hope to achieve with your design?

DAVID: To make it better.

KEVIN: Yes, but what’s your vision for the finished house?

DAVID: We can make it much bigger, but also reduce the running costs, get rid of some of the staff and make it a nicer place to live.

KEVIN: And how does Theresa feel about this?

DAVID: Well, she was against it at first, but she’s come around to my way of thinking

THERESA: Building means building.

EXT, DAY, PAN OF THE BUILDING

KEVIN[VO]: The house was constructed in 1890, and while much of it has been modernised there are still some areas which need updating. David and Theresa have rather more ambitious goals than a modest refresh, though, and have engaged local builder, Boris, to carry out the work.

EXT, DAY, BORIS AND KEVIN OUTSIDE OF BUILDING

BORIS: Obviously, one’s never tried one’s hand at this before, but how difficult can it be if people who haven’t even been to Oxford can manage it?

KEVIN: You’re not concerned by the lack of any sort of firm plan from David and Theresa?

BORIS: Cripes, no. Make it bigger, better, cheaper and freer. This is going to be the easiest build in history. I’m going to make a tremendous success of it. “Look upon my works, ye mighty”, eh?

INT, DAY, BORIS, WEARING A SUIT AND A HARD-HAT, BRAYS A SEEMINGLY RANDOM WALL WITH A SLEDGE-HAMMER

KEVIN[VO]: Over-optimism, even on a tightly managed build, can be ill-founded, and with David and Theresa’s build having no plan, no firm budget projections and inexperienced builders it seems to me that they’re heading for a fall.

THE SLEDGEHAMMER GOES THROUGH THE WALL. THERE IS A SHOWER OF SPARKS AND A TOILET FALLS THROUGH A SECTION OF THE CEILING SOME DISTANCE AWAY.

BORIS: We expected that to happen.

KEVIN[VO]: There have also been significant problems with the project management.

THERESA [TO CAMERA]: We found someone called Nigel, who really sounded like he had a plan for all of this, but we haven’t seen him since we decided to go ahead.

RADIO [BACKGROUND]: Good morning, pop-pickers, this is funky Uncle Farage playing you down to the midday news, and here’s With or without you by the always wonderful U2.

INT, DAY, LIAM STANDS IN THE SHELL OF THE HOUSE, CARRYING AN UMBRELLA, BECAUSE MOST OF THE ROOF HAS BEEN REMOVED

KEVIN[VO]: Meanwhile, interior designer, Liam, has been engaged, at a cost of nearly £12,000 a month.

LIAM [TO CAMERA]: Obviously, there’s very little interior design work I can do until the new structure starts to emerge, but I’m being kept very busy imagining how wonderful it’s all going to look. For example, there’s going to be a feature staircase affixed to that wall there.

A BULLDOZER, DRIVEN BY BORIS, CRASHES THROUGH THE INDICATED WALL

LIAM: Or a door. We’ll certainly need doors.

A WHOLE SECTION OF THE BUILDING COLLAPSES, AND THE DUST FLIES EVERYWHERE

LIAM [OBSCURED BY DUST CLOUD]: The important thing is that we’re all now absolutely clear what “load-bearing” means, and that was a crucial lesson.

EXT, DAY, HELICOPTER APPROACH TO THE SITE

KEVIN[VO]: Eighteen months into the build, and I’ve returned to see how Theresa and David are getting along.

EXT, DAY, SHOT OF THE MANOR, WHICH IS NOW MAINLY RUBBLE. ONE WING REMAINS STANDING, BUT IS ROOFLESS AND SEEMS TO BE LISTING TO THE RIGHT

KEVIN[VO]: With much of the house now in ruins and what remains poorly bodged…

SHOT OF WALL THAT IS BEING HELD UP WITH PLANKS OF 4×2 LEANED AGAINST IT

SHOT OF COLUMN MOUNTED ON A PILE OF SPECTATOR MAGAZINES

KEVIN[VO]: …Theresa and David are now reduced to living in a caravan in what was, until quite recently, the modernised west-wing of the original house.

INT, DAY, SMALL CARAVAN. DAVID AND KEVIN SIT AT THE TABLE

DAVID: We’re still very positive about the build. We always expected that there’d be a lengthy period of uncertainty and rebuilding, and we’re still confident that the finished building will meet and exceed all of our previous dreams.

KEVIN: When we last spoke you said that you had 58 detailed plans of the new build. Could I possibly have a look at them?

DAVID: While I did say that there were a number of plans, they may have less physical existence than my previous comments may have led you to believe.

SHOT OF CARAVAN BATHROOM DOOR

THERESA [OS]: Strong and stable, the new house will be strong and stable!

EXT, DAY, KEVIN STANDS IN FRONT OF THE RUBBLE OF THE HOUSE

KEVIN [TO CAMERA]: With no end in sight…with no end even envisaged, it seems that Theresa and David’s build is doomed. They really have hit rock bottom.

THERE IS A LOUD BANG IN THE BACKGROUND, AND A LARGE FIRE STARTS AMONGST THE RUBBLE.

BORIS [OS]: OH TESTICULIS!

EXT, DAY, OUTSIDE THE CARAVAN. KEVIN IS STANDING, THERESA IS SITTING IN A MUDDY PUDDLE

KEVIN: Do you feel at all that you’ve wrecked the house you inherited?

THERESA: Inherited? Oh no, we’re just renting.

CREDITS

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Will no-one think of the adult babies?

Pornography elicited a decidedly unpleasant swelling in the trousers yesterday, when it became clear that the forthcoming enforcement of the Digital Economy (2017) Act will give a private company the keys to build a database of the porn watching habits of 25m UK adults.

group of bunnies
This photo is unrelated to the rest of the blog. I just thought it might calm us all down a bit

The act requires that sites offering pornography in the UK must verify that the user is over 18, and that requirement is creating a need for 3rd party service providers who can do exactly that. It probably wasn’t the government’s intention to create a hugely valuable database to serve as a primary target for every hacker who fancies a spot of blackmail, or who thinks they can sell extracted data to somebody who does…and with all the noise of Brexit it’s easy to forget just how incompetent the government is with day-to-day legislation as well.

In theory, this section of the bill is easy enough; a regulator views websites and decides if they are pornographic or not. If they are deemed to be so then they need to have age verification, if they don’t acquiesce to this request (and many of them will be based outside the UK, and outside of the reach of parliament’s legislative arm) then the regulator can order UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access to that site (and also to record who has tried to access the blocked site…sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that until yesterday’s trousers were back from the dry-cleaners). The bill tackles the tricky question of, “What is pornography?” by defining it as material “produced solely or principally for the purposes of sexual arousal” and which would be rated ’18’ or ‘R18’ if submitted to the BBFC for classification.

Probably because of this requirement to determine how the BBFC would classify a piece the BBFC themselves have been named as the regulator. As I’ve written previously this is a terrible decision, for both us and them. However, the Digital Economy bill gives the BBFC more to do than make a porn/not porn decision; it requires them to shut down “extreme” porn websites.

The bill helpfully defines “extreme pornography” in the following manner…

extreme porn definition

It then goes on to refer the reader to sections 63(7) and 63(7A) of the Criminal Justice and Immigration (2008) Act for the definition of “extreme”. This act itself isn’t particularly restrictive, to be extreme the material must depict one or more of the following:

  • An act which would threaten a person’s life
  • An act which is likely to result in “serious injury” to a person’s breasts, anus or genitals
  • Necrophilia
  • Bestiality
  • Non-consensual penetration of the mouth, anus or vagina by anything (the act literally says, “by another with a part of the other person’s body or anything else”)

In cases where the BBFC decides that porn is extreme the only option the Digital Economy act gives it is to issue a notice to ISPs, compelling them to block the content in the UK.

The BBFC’s preference has always leaned towards cutting, rather than outright banning, and they have always worked with the film industry to negotiate with them, in detail, what must be cut in order to make a film acceptable. The DE act gives them no leeway to negotiate in such a manner with porn sites. If a site hosts thousands of videos, and one of them is deemed to be extreme, then the chances are that the whole site will vanish to everyone in the UK (but, remember, ISPs will still be logging who tries to visit it).

When what’s in question is rape-porn and snuff movies I doubt there are many who would argue that this is a terrible affront civil liberties. However, a grey area is opened up by the gap between what the BBFC is willing to classify as R18 and the definition of extreme pornography, as given above.

And, boy, is there a lot of stuff in that grey area. If your tastes run to watersports, spanking, face-sitting, scat, bondage, verbal abuse or just plain old watching adults dress up in giant nappies and get bottle-fed then you’re into the area of material that the BBFC would not pass as R18, but which also does not constitute extreme pornography.

What happens to websites containing that material? Again, the act gives no middle ground and grants no consultation process or advisory role to the regulator. They make a decision on whether age verification is required and another on whether pornography is extreme, nothing else. There is a wealth of material that the regulator cannot say that they would award an R18 rating, but nor can they, in good conscience, classify the material as extreme, by the definition used by the act.

It seems likely that the BBFC will default towards blocking such sites within the UK. It’s the least risky option for them, especially as most of the sites are likely to be small, specialised (ahem) businesses, based outside of the UK, who will not want the expense of a legal battle, and the ISPs themselves are unlikely to kick up a fuss about simply adding another domain to their blocked list. The communities of users are also likely to be small, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll even get a petition going, for much the same reason they’d be worried about appearing on a big database of sexual preferences.

All of this means that if you’re currently lying gagged and shackled, while a man dressed as a baby urinates on you and calls you a cuck then, for you, the party is almost over. The future is your favourite web-sites vanishing, your ISP recording that you went looking for them and a sea of ‘acceptable’ vanilla porn taking their place (if you’re happy for your name and address to be recorded against your visits to those sites).

group of bunnies
Best have the rabbits again. If rabbits are your thing, you’re in luck

You might not share any of the kinks mentioned, and it’s certainly hard to believe that if Pastor Niemëller’s famous warning had started, “First they came for the scat fetishists”, that anybody would have cared who they came for next, but the case is that the bounty that the Internet brought to some weird-as-all-hell people is being taken away by, quite literally, the “will nobody think of the children” crowd. And that’s got to smart a bit.

From April the Internet, as seen from the UK, will start becoming more conformist, more ‘normal’, more approved and state-sanctioned. It’s hard to defend the view that doesn’t also make it a lot more boring.

As somebody once wrote, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine [Sorry, this content is not available in your country]

One drunken night

A recent tweet invited people to describe the most drunk they’d ever been in six words. This is sort of a response to that, except that I’m going to use many more words and this story didn’t happen to me. However, the subject cannot (and would not) tell this story themselves, for reasons that will become clear.

Some time late in ’95 or ’96, no idea which, I got an invitation from a friend, Sarah, to go and visit her for the weekend in Glasgow. She also invited a mutual friend, Clair, from Newcastle. Clair didn’t fancy driving from Newcastle to Glasgow by herself and was between boyfriends, so she in turn invited her new housemate, Phil.

I say Phil, but this was more than 20 years ago, I only met the guy this once and I’m terrible with names at the best of times, so quite possibly he wasn’t called Phil at all. Also, I should possibly change his name, but there’s a good chance I already have.

On their journey Northwards Phil and Claire got to find out things. She, for example, discovered that he was a staunch Catholic and he discovered that Sarah, and most of her circle of friends, were lesbians. This revelation came as they sailed over the Scottish border and he genuinely asked Clair to stop the car, so that he could get out and walk back to Newcastle, rather than having to spend a weekend with the sinful.

Clair refused and the pair of them turned up at the Glasgow flat, where Phil spent the afternoon avoiding talking to anyone or touching anything, in case lesbianism was contagious. Around 5 we piled into the kitchen for a communal effort at cooking dinner, and also started drinking.

Over the next 4 hours more people drifted in, and more beer was sunk down. A decision was made that we needed to hit the town. Between the start of cooking and the decision to go out Phil had been drinking with the determination of a papist who suspects that if sapphism is the disease then alcohol is the cure, and offered only token resistance to being bundled into a taxi (still armed with a tinnie tincture).

Thus myself, Phil, Clair and around half-a-dozen ladies-who-munch arrived in central Glasgow and democratically decided to hit the gay bars.

Where Phil had the time of his life. He danced, he chatted, he flirted, he loved it. He was the absolute life and soul of several other people’s parties.

Around midnight me and one of the girls decided that we needed pizza rather than more drink, so headed off. We agreed to take Phil with us, as he was by now very, very drunk and in serious danger of doing someone he was going to regret. A walk, a wait in the pizza shop and another taxi ride later we realised it would also have been a good idea to take a key to the flat.

As it was a ground floor flat we skirted around it to see if any windows had been left ajar, without any success. Phil, however, reckoned that he could make one ajar. He gripped the bottom of the portion of Sarah’s bedroom window, which opened outwards, and give it a sudden, full-strength, tug. CRACK! A hairline fracture split the pane from top to bottom, but the window remained shut. We resigned ourselves to having to wait outside for the main party to return. Fortunately, because of our time in the pizza shop and that spent being drunkenly inept cat-burglars, it was only about a half-hour wait. We got into the warmth of the flat, shared pizza, drank more and, at some point, passed out.

The next morning, during the inevitable hungover tidy-up, somebody mentioned the broken window.

“Did a window get broken last night?” asked Phil.

“Yes,” he was told, “you broke it.”

“Did I?”

“Yes, when we were trying to get back in.”

He looked genuinely puzzled. “Did we go out last night?”

We cross-examined him, but he honestly seemed to have no idea that we’d ever left the flat the previous night. He didn’t know that, for one night only, he’d been the most beautiful (and most drunken) butterfly on the Glasgow gay-scene. Perhaps he never knew, because we certainly weren’t going to tell him, but he was Queen for a night.

Postscript

I wasn’t going to write this story up, but the sudden and tragic death of Dolores O’Riordan brought it up again. I’m not a great listener to music, but I remember that it was Sarah who introduced me to The Cranberries. She was a very dear friend of mine, and thinking about this story and her made me realise that it’s been 20 years since I saw her.

It’s 2018. So many things are shite. But that moment remains frozen in time. Sarah is my best friend. The party never ends. Phil rocks the gay scene. Delores provides the soundtrack.

I can’t revisit that moment, except by sharing it with you.

Afterwards

You drunk the wine and now you must pay the price. There is a headache, there is a headache on top of the headache, and it’s got a headache of its own. All you want is to sit still and let the headaches fight it out, until there’s only the alpha-headache for you to deal with, but you can’t. You can’t because there is stuff to be done.

So much stuff.

Things were broken, damaged and disarranged. While you were enjoying the heady wine they seemed like trivial things. There would always be wine, there would never be morning, all problems would be resolved.

Now there is no more wine, only morning. The problems have not been resolved. Everywhere you look there is ruin. “Traitor” has been carved into your antique writing-desk. That’s there forever now. No amount of polishing is going to remove that. Ornaments and knickknacks have been smashed to pieces. Strange how saddening that is. They’d been around so long that you’d really stopped noticing them, but they were yours and now you suddenly appreciate how much nicer they made living here.

No time to mourn, though, everything has to be sorted out quickly. There’s a deadline looming. It’s like that time you threw a teenage party the night before your parents were due back from holiday. Christ, what were you thinking?

Oh god! What has someone done on the TV? The filthy animal!

No time to dwell on it. It’s time for the Marigolds and the sturdy bin-bag. Just stuff things in, no time to worry about whether what you’re hastily discarding is repairable or valuable, you just have to clean up.

God, this would be a lot easier if you didn’t keep remembering all of the crap that the wine made you say last night. Did you really make those plans? Was everyone as drunk as you? Are they really going to expect you to do those things?

Fuck! That Lancaster House speech! What were you thinking?

Block it out. Stuff things into bin-bags with extra force. Just throw everything away, you can always say you’ve de-cluttered, de-toxed, gone back to basics…minimalist. Yeah, you can make that sound like a choice, rather than just an outcome.

Right, there’s no way that room is ever going to be the same again. Perhaps you could just close the door on it and pretend it was never there. Hey, that might work for that bedroom as well. Sure, the house will be smaller, but you might be able to manage the bits that you live in.

That really was one hell of a party, but this is 2018, the year of the hangover.

Theresa-May-Campaigns-On-The-Conservative-Battle-Bus

Notifications from the Dead

My first one arrived this morning, “Dawn Brown and 2 others have their birthdays today. Help them have a great time”. Facebook doesn’t know that Dawn’s time ended on April 3rd this year; her life is gone, her remains interred, yet still her social media profile lives on, sailing like a ghost ship through the ether.

How we deal with the electronic personas of those who’ve passed on presents us with social, ethical and legal questions for the years to come, but for the time being at least Facebook will continue to remind us of those who are no more.

And one day there’ll be notifications for us.

Most of us live lives that will afford us no statuary or monuments when we die, we will leave behind no canon of work to immortalise us, we will not be as much as a footnote in the history books of the future, but our social media presence will remain. What we say, how we say it, what we like, what we share will be out there, perhaps forever. Day by day, post by post, click by click, we build our own mausoleums.

If these notifications remind us of anything then let them remind us that what we say on-line may be the prism through which those we care about now, and those that come after them, view us. The good as well as the evil that we do shall live after us, and each of us decides upon the proportion.

Maybe start by remembering that a reminder of a dead friend’s birthday is a reminder to treasure people while we have them, and behave a little more kindly towards them while we can. While we’re here we have choices to make, let these notification from the dead be a reminder to make them well.

Dawn

Happy birthday, Dawn. RIP.

Who will tell? (A Play)

WHO WILL TELL?

A(NOTHER) PLAY BY EXCELPOPE

INT.  A MEETING ROOM, LATE AFTERNOON.

THERESA MAY, BORIS JOHNSON, DAVID DAVIS, MICHAEL GOVE AND LIAM FOX SIT AROUND THE TABLE, WHICH IS LITTERED WITH PAPERS, WATER GLASSES, COFFEE JUGS.

THEY SIT IN SILENCE. A CLOCK TICKS IN THE BACKGROUND.

DAVIS SURREPTITIOUSLY LOOKS AT HIS WATCH.

A FEW SECONDS PASS

GOVE TAKES A SIP OF HIS COFFEE AND THEN MAKES A FACE, IT’S OBVIOUSLY COLD.

A FEW MORE SECONDS TICK BY

JOHNSON FLAPS HIS LIPS WITH HIS FINGERS.

FOX STIFLES A YAWN

ANOTHER FEW SECONDS OF SILENCE.

MAY: We’re going to have to tell them we can’t do it.

DAVIS: Steady on, perhaps we should think about it a bit longer. It’s only 5 o’clock.

MAY: We’ve been thinking about this since last June. It’s hard to believe another half-an-hour is going to crack it.

JOHNSON: We can’t tell them we can’t do Brexit! They’ll string us up from the bloody lampposts.

DAVIS: Exactly. We need to think of something…even if we’re here until six.

JOHNSON: Actually, I’ve got theatre tickets for this evening.

FOX: Oh, anything good?

JOHNSON: Punch and Judy.

MAY: Gentlemen! We need a border with the Republic of Ireland that is impenetrable to some people and invisible to others. We need to keep planes in the air and lorries off the M20. We need to comply with EU standards, while being completely free to make up our own. We need replacements for the European agencies that are leaving and the thousands of references to them in UK laws, which need to stay. We need to come up with dozens of new trade deals, in 16 months, that are better than the ones that took years and we need to finally, once and for all, get rid of that sodding Human Rights Act because, god help me, I am getting something out of all of this!

They all sit in silence, looking downcast.

MAY: So, can we do it?

JOHNSON, FOX, GOVE AND DAVIS [TOGETHER]: No.

MAY: Then we have to tell them we can’t do it.

JOHNSON: That’s awfully brave of you, old girl.

MAY: If I do it you’ll back me, won’t you?

JOHNSON: Um

DAVIS: Er

FOX: Well…

GOVE: I’ll be right behind you, Prime Minister.

MAY puts her head in her hands.

MAY: Oh god, you’re going to push me out if I do it.

GOVE: Look, it’s a foreign issue. Clearly a job for the Foreign Secretary.

JOHNSON: Et two, Bruté!

DAVIS: I agree with him. FO matter, through and through.

JOHNSON: Really? Isn’t there a whole department for exiting the EU?

DAVIS: Shit.

JOHNSON: Look, Theresa’s going to have to sack whichever of us says we can’t do it, but if we can’t do it then you’re going to lose your job anyway, so you might as well step up to the block…er, plate.

DAVIS: But if we’re not leaving then we don’t need him either [he points at Fox] and he’s done the square-root of FA since the vote, anyway, so he should announce it.

FOX: Would you really sack me for saying we can’t do it, PM?

MAY [NODDING, SADLY]: I’d have to, Liam. I can’t have that sort of insubordination from a cabinet member.

FOX: But if I said we can’t do it, then you sacked me, wouldn’t that make it look like you still thought we could do it?

JOHNSON: He’s got a point, old girl. If it doesn’t come from you then it looks like it’s not official. Ball very much back in your court.

MAY: It can’t be me. I’m a remainer. If I do it then the frothers will think it was personal. We’ll have Farage in Number 10 inside a year. It has to come from a leaver.

JOHNSON: You’re right. How about Michael? He had a lot to say about how great leaving was going to be.

GOVE: No, I can’t be sacked. There’s so much to do at the environment.

JOHNSON: David or Liam can do the environment. Rumour is they’ll be looking for new jobs.

GOVE: They can’t replace me. I was the face of ‘Clean for the Queen’, people trust me with the environment.

DAVIS: The only thing the British people trust about you is that you’ve got the face they’d most like to punch.

FOX: We could announce it together. A joint press conference. It’s always good to have your friends around you.

DAVIS: Can we get pizza?

FOX: At the press conference?

DAVIS: No, now.

GOVE: Every meeting we’ve been in for the last week you’ve asked about food. You’re obsessed.

DAVIS: I haven’t been eating well at home, I [mumbles]

FOX: What?

JOHNSON: He said he renegotiated his gas supply. You’ve been cut off haven’t you, old boy?

DAVIS nods.

MAY puts her head back into her hands.

MAY: Oh god.

FOX: Look, if we do a press conference perhaps we could get Jacob up there with us. Give us some credibility with the young voters.

DAVIS: Not a bad idea. You’ll have to speak to him, Boris.

JOHNSON: Why me?

DAVIS: He only speaks in Latin now.

MAY: Jacob’s never going to get involved in this. If one of you lot doesn’t replace me then it will be him.

JOHNSON: It might not be. It might be Amber.

MAY: Amber? She’s one jump-scare in Murder, she wrote away from losing her seat.

DAVIS: Well, even if it’s Jacob, he’s still going to end up where we are. He won’t believe Brexit’s possible for very long.

MAY: Are you sure? He still believes in a literal virgin birth.

JOHNSON: That’s the very opposite of our situation. The virgin birth is where we got something good without anybody getting f…

MAY: BORIS! Boris, this isn’t helping.

DAVIS: Look, this is a bit off-the-wall, but we could say that what with our narrow majority, and all, that this needs a co-ordinated effort. Propose a national government. Get Jeremy and his mob on-board with this.

There is silence.

MAY: David [pause] How do you imagine that’s going to help?

DAVIS: Well…misery loves company.

MAY: I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been miserable enough to welcome Jeremy’s company, and hard to imagine that, even if I did, it would make me less miserable.

FOX: Jeremy’s out, then?

GOVE: Wait a minute! Brexit is going to cause a lot of medical problems, isn’t it? Funding for the NHS, radiation stuff for cancer, medical research, and so on…and there’s more than one Jeremy.

MAY: Michael, are you suggesting that we give this job to Jeremy Hunt?

GOVE: Jeremy has my full support.

MAY: Excellent. Can somebody get the health secretary on the phone, please? So many people are going to love his promotion to Secretary of State for Exiting Brexit, aren’t they?

GOVE, FOX, JOHNSON, DAVIS [TOGETHER]: Yes, Prime Minister.

PLAY FULL-TIME WHISTLE

 

Common ground

Donald Trump’s recent flip-flopping on whether to allow the importation of elephant hunting trophies into the US has led to people taking to Twitter to put forward the economic case for hunting as an aid to preservation.

helmer hunting

The argument goes like this:

  1. If elephant hunting is allowed then people will come to hunt elephants
  2. This brings money into local economies
  3. It’s therefore in the interest of locals to preserve the supply of elephants

This seems pretty straightforward and irrefutable. Nobody wants to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs (unless it would look really good mounted on your wall). Where it comes unstuck – the argument, not the goose-head on your wall – is with an economic theory called the tragedy of the commons.

As a named theory the tragedy of the commons has been around since the 1830s, but it’s essentially a re-writing of a principle that is familiar to non-economists; left to their own devices people are dicks. When there is a shared resource people act in their own self-interest, even if doing so will harm the long-term interests of the group as a whole.

It happens on a large-scale – such as the, seemingly inexhaustible, supply of North Atlantic cod, which we fished almost to be point of extinction – and it happens on a small-scale; we’ve all worked in an office where a little perk has been removed or regulated, because some people take the piss.

As the old joke has it, when something is needed by everyone, and could be done by anyone, most of the time it’s done by no-one.

Helmer himself shows exactly how this works. On literally the same page of his Twitter timeline as the quoted tweet above he retweets the message at the top of this image:

roger tl

Here he’s RTing someone who’s arguing that because we’re not the major contributor to oceanic plastic waste – the oceans being, of course, a huge shared resource – we shouldn’t be doing what we can to help solve the problem.

This is the tragedy of the commons writ large. This is the individual rationalisation that the problem isn’t with me, it’s with all those other bastards who are much worse. This is the logic that would, one day, lead to somebody whose wallet is far fuller than their soul pointing their gun at the last wild elephant and telling themselves, as they pull the trigger, that they’re no worse than the thousands who did the same thing before them.

Yeah, they don’t call it the tragedy of the commons for nothing.