Life, Sloppiness, and Afghanistan: 3 September

A British Crash is being read in America. A distant cousin ordered 3 copies, with signatures. Last week she reported that they had arrived, but without the signatures – ‘unless you’ve written in invisible ink.’ My sloppiness shamed me. Exactly this sloppiness in others is what goads me into grumpy-old-manism.

We sent a letter to our savings bank to transfer some money. They sent their official form which we returned, completed. They then phoned asking me to confirm the amount, as on their form the amount is only in numbers, not words as well. I pointed out that they could just look at the original letter. Why not look at the file properly in the first place?

My daughter had a phone call at 8am from the secretary of a consultant she was waiting to see: ‘Please can you come at 7.45 today?’ ‘This evening?’ asked my surprised sleepy daughter. ‘Oh… No… It was actually 7.45 this morning.’ Why not look at the appointment dates properly in the first place?

These sloppy mistakes seem universal in Britain today, so universal that there has to be a universal explanation. My candidate is the lack of criticism in Primary education. For years, no Primary teacher has said ‘That’s not good enough. Do it again.’ Certainly no-one ever said that to our daughters, despite some clearly sloppy work. Praise and encouragement are good, but if that’s all children receive, they don’t learn to check and correct what they are doing – ever. The also ubiquitous ‘recording for quality and training purposes’ can’t compensate.

Today I talked with the Office of the Public Guardian about why they had rejected my application to register my mother’s Lasting Power of Attorney. Their letter said they had ‘identified problems’, without specifying, which were too late to rectify. The problem was that I had left a couple of boxes unticked. Touché!

Even The Sun newspaper has voices calling for our troops to be pulled out of Afghanistan. ‘Our lads are stuck in the midle.of hatered that has went on out there for hundreds of years,It has nothing to do with Taleban  But everything to do with power.We lost to many good lads in Iraq,Why should we be repeating the same Mistakes That we encountered in Iraq,Bring all our lads home now before we loose any more young lives.’

‘Nothing to do with the Taleban’? You may question that. My friend, recently returned from Afghanistan, explained that much of the conflict is due to Pashtun nationalism. Afghanistan is one of the many artificial countries (including Iraq) created, mostly by Britain, to tidy up the map for the Imperial powers. The Pashtun homeland and community now straddles the Afghan / Pakistani border.

Yugoslavia was allowed to be split along ethnic / geographic lines. Why are people outside Europe not allowed even to consider such a change? We need a UN Border Change Commission to begin to talk about new borders that make geographic / linguistic sense, as they do in Europe. Surely this would be no more protracted and messy than carrying on with the interminable conflicts across the Middle East and Africa? It would certainly be less bloody.

Sudan shows that such debate / negotiation is possible. The border between the North and South is being fixed, with one disputed oil-rich town having recently been allocated by an international body to the South, without great uproar from the North. It’s early days yet, but if it can be done in Sudan, it can be done anywhere.

Why too can more countries not follow the example of the United Kingdom – one central government with strong regional variations, especially those in Scotland. It is possible to have local laws and local banknotes. It is long past time for Britain to state ‘Do as we do, not as we told you years ago.’

Roger Harper

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