23 October 2009

Contemporary Trends in Society

I'm really not sure if I'm happy about being back in the country.

I prefer living in countries where the sun is a distinguishable, circular object in the sky, for starters. Then the place outside my house looks like the set from East Enders. Believe it or not, I happen to know. Before I came to the UK, I used to devour BBC Prime (their global channel) which suffice to say, did not have much variation in their programme). Interesting what selection of images about the UK BBC projects into the minds of people overseas. And crazy people on the street everywhere. If my room in KL was an oven during the day, my house here is like a premonition of the incumbent ice age. This, coupled with a defensive, semi-ignorant attitude of one of my flatmates when I tried to introduce ecological cleaning products into the household, as well as other recent events, set my mind off on a critical journey of British society, starting with environmentalism in this country.

Although the UK seems to have (one of?) the toughest ambitions on carbon reduction in the world as far as I am aware of, therefore raising the stakes for corporate social responsibility, it still needs to instill a more conscious consumption on the side of the customer. Green is becoming big in the UK, you could say it is on the way to become en vogue. People are more knowledgeable about the impact of their behaviour on the future than ever before. Plastic bags that used to be given out automatically, thereby confusing me when I first popped into a supermarket for a single item, are now either only available on request for money or still free but removed from visibility as other stores practice it. Re-usable bags are seen at tills more often now and also in the hands of many people. However, that only affected the big supermarket chains. Sadly, corner stores couldn't care less about implementing environmentally friendly policies. And in addition to that, people continue to litter.

London has recently been awarded the honour of being Europe's dirtiest city (and the Trafigura its figurative flagship overseas) and I have to say, I am not surprised. People leave their shit behind in public transport, I wonder if ticket machines get a daily health and safety wipe, bins are not available in many places and should be painted in bright colours to be more visible. The free metro papers are a disgrace to the environment. Why doesn't anyone think of news screens on the tube? Leicester Square station shows that it is possible to do it for advertisement in one of the most frequented stations. I don't know if it is lack of ambition on behalf of TFL, if it is lack of political will or misdirected leadership. If you happen to be on a late train, the carriage looks like a deserted party venue. Somebody else will pick it up, right?

The lack of sense of community is appalling. People are polite if you step into their sight but sometimes treat you like a revolutionary undeserving to be treated like you had rights. Often with suspicion, too. Most of the time people don't care much about their surroundings. In addition, UK is a litigative society, everyone's afraid to get sued and few people courageous enough to take responsibility. You can sue somebody for forgetting to remind you of what you don't know!

Bureaucracy has invaded and reduced efficiency and service delivery in customer care and also public services. Countless forms and questions need to be signed before action is taken. Taking risk is not encouraged and meeting targets quantified in the UK. And so, as the Guardian suggested recently, doctors in A&E sometimes take people with less serious injuries first to meet the waiting time target. Schools don't teach students to think for themselves but rather promotes regurgitating, and teaching to the test. This is pretty much common knowledge. What did surprise me though was when the writer mentioned it in an article related to the Royal Mail industrial action that somehow "struck a core in the nation" as the writer put it. Basically, postal workers oppose mechanisation because they felt left out in the consultations and many are afraid to lose their jobs especially in this climate. So a related article I believe, about public services, elaborated that the government from now on will do less inspections and leave companies, practices, schools more to themselves in what the writer paraphrased as a free market-like self-regulatory effect (I spent 30min trying to find that link again, in vain!). It couldn't be more satisfying for me to read that. At last the mills of bureaucracy are moving towards a less restrictionist approach, giving more free reign to encourage innovation and risk-taking. Super-nanny is probably a brainchild of expense cuts and a cry for more efficiency in allocating and managing human and financial resources within and for the government's institutions.

The next step would hopefully be the reversion of a Thatcherism-induced decline of the NHS. Many people agree that Margaret Thatcher's partial privatisation of health services was to blame that today the NHS is crap - which reminds me that there is an outstanding complaint I need to submit about my recent visit at the doctor. People should sue doctors for not being risky enough, for negligence. Perhaps that is what it takes to achieve a revision of current health policy. Instead of investing in a national ID card scheme that would contribute to a further erosion of civil liberties and human rights in this country, it would be more productive to invest in shifting the emphases back to the NHS back and to primary health care. It is much cheaper than having doctors yell at you for what the hell you coming in for when it is minor and reprimanding you for not coming earlier when it is really bad and you stayed at home because your previous encounters about minor ailments make you think your condition is not bad enough to be DESERVING of medical attention!!! Often, medical staff preach to you about your lifestyle, with the prejudice it was be a bad one. Sorry to disappoint you if I don't smoke, binge or eat crisps three times a day. It would get me so offended because patients are treated as if they were stupid. Instead of sharpening their ears and listening to the patients' accounts for anything unusual within reason, doctors and nurses often automatically adopt a patronising attitude. There are several reasons for this: 1) They get points for lowering people's blood pressure and getting people to stop smoking 2) The responsibility is transferred to the patient and the onus of presenting evidence that you deserve their taking the risk of seeing a potentially (rewards-wise) strategically less valuable patient is put on the patients themselves. Also, it is an easy and quick way to bypass any costly test and by making a note of it in your file, they are protecting themselves from any liability on their behalf for not keeping you healthy 3) Also, it gives them moral authority. Sometimes I wonder if the NHS gives out IF-THEN organigrammes to medical students. The structure of interviews seem to always be the same, that's why. But if consultation structure is as rigid as that, it gives less flexibility to doctors to actually investigate, therefore promoting apathy.

One does what one can in the 10min slot. Let's make sure it wasn't totally a waste of time and educational investment and log achievement of some targets.

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