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Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

The Bubble Bursts Print E-mail

ImageIt all began when Rae parked her new Peugot so that she was blocking in other cars in the Peacock Street carpark. It was a selfish and stupid thing to do and one which was bound to have consequences.




One of the problems however with people who aspire to power is that they are arrogant enough to assume that others will respect them in spite of their own lack of respect. This is the bully syndrome. A bully presumes that they can fill others with fear and that this fear will make it possible for them to hurt others without anyone ever punching back.

The presumption that we will be able to predict consequences lies at the heart of any materialistic culture, and has the potential to bring about its downfall. We buy a shiny new red car and assume that everyone will be filled with envy and that they will admire us. The advertisements promise as much. In fact our glossy objects provoke envy and hatred. How could it be any other way? Inadequate insecure people only have a chance to feel superior when they have something which other people do not have. Why should anyone admire their display of insecurity?

All this would just be fun if it was only a game. The game turns nasty when some people feel superior because they have nuclear weapons while others do not. The presumption is that everyone will act in a rational way, with complete respect for power. The suicide bomber is however playing a different game with different rules. We are playing Russian roulette with the whole of the planet when we assume that intelligent people will act in an intelligent way.

A good place to begin solving the global nuclear and ecological crisis might be in the Peacock Street car park. The scale is small, but the behaviour patterns are the same the world over.

When respect for others, and the recognition that mutual co-operation makes more sense than provoking anger, resentment and tension, are replaced by an ego-centric world view disaster is only around the corner.

When you park your car, because you are not using it, in a way which prevents other people from not using their car, it is wise to leave the car open and the keys in the lock so that anyone can move it. Unfortunately the arrogant do not think like that.

Joan walked all the way up to the car park to discover that she could not go about her intended business. She left a note on the unknown car and began making enquiries at all the houses to see if anyone might have visitors in a shiny new Peugot. No luck. She had little choice other than to stay home.

Later in the day Carl rang to ask if Joan could pick him up from St Heliers. She explained that she would be pleased to do so, but this would only be possible if the person blocking her in had shifted their car. Joan walked all the way up to the car park. No luck. She was still imprisoned. Carl set out to walk home.

Meanwhile someone with less patience than Joan allowed their justified anger to boil over into action and they threw a concrete block through the windscreen of the Peugot.

Carl arrived in the car-park to find the windscreen smashed and reasonably enough wished that he had had the courage to deal with the bullying behaviour in the same way. He went further and identified so completely with what had happened that he convinced himself that he had actually done it. He walked home from the car-park and announced “they will not do that again”.

Joan assumed he was guilty and insisted that he should go along and tell Rae. It was the perfect scenario for a second transferal of guilt. Rae now assumed that Carl was guilty when it would have been clear to any intelligent person that she was herself guilty.

The assumption of guilt by people who are not guilty has always fascinated me because it can lead to devastating consequences. When a person confesses to a murder the law presumes that that is the end of the affair. When the real murderer is discovered years later the puzzle only seems more incomprehensible.

Perhaps an innocent person assuming they are guilty is not so different from a guilty person assuming they are innocent. Some personality types make victims of themselves while other personality types make victims of everyone else.

The triumphant tagging which appeared all over the Bay probably held the clue as to who had actually smashed the windscreen, but no one bothered to look at that when there was a much easier scapegoat to find.

It was the USA problem all over again. The destruction of the twin towers of World Trade Centre in Manhattan was not a random act of violence. Architectural arrogance is provocative. It is supposed to produce admiration when in fact it only produces resentment. Retaliation against Iraq became an excuse for avoiding rational thought and before long the downward spiral was out of control. Hundreds of thousands of people died, with almost all of them unaware of doing anything wrong. The architectural profession never confessed to any responsibility and went on admiring what they were doing. The glossy architectural magazines were supported by advertisements for new Peugots.

If the world is going to have a future a good first move might be to analyse the human dynamics of the Peacock Street car park. It would be tragic to think of us destroying the whole planet without any understanding of why it happened. It is only in the contemplation of life that we are fully alive.

Thoughts from the events of Saturday 12 January 2008.


People do not worry me, but I do get upset about injustice. When I find injustice I feel compelled to speak out. The peculiar twist in this case was that after speaking out in defence of Karl because no one else was willing to lay themselves on the line, it was Karl who asked me to take my comments off my web page. In a rare fit of generosity I did so, and the thanks I got for doing that was a torrent of abuse. It seemed best to just put it back on. Human beings are very hard to understand. I seldom read novels because they seem to make sense of life. In the real world nothing makes sense.


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