48. Tuning in to the sound of sharpening knives.


An architect taking a quick personality test

It’s a clear, bright evening in Yorkshire. A man in a Volkswagen Golf stretches both hands behind his head, steering for a while with his knees. He is observed by police safety cameras and later charged with dangerous driving. Not only does he get a year’s ban, 100 hours community service and a fine of £685. In addition he is vilified on the evening news by a sanctimonious policeman. In a moment he has gone from ordinary bloke to public enemy number one. The moral of the story is that any pretence that Yorkshire had to be ‘the Texas of England’ has completely evaporated.

The deeper moral is that sanctimonious people are much more dangerous than careless drivers. It’s not that long ago – the eighties? – that people were put in pillories and stocks and burned as witches. More recently the tabloids have taken over the hunt, bringing down celebrities whenever they can.

I am sure the bible covered this very issue, in the episode about casting stones at the adulterous person. Clearly, hypocrites have always existed. The practice of scapegoating existed in Ancient Greece, where they used to throw a beggar or a disabled person out of town whenever there was a natural disaster. They could have used a goat, like the Israelis, but maybe it suited them better to exclude a person, in terms of reducing the social security budget.

If the storms and floods continue I suspect we will have to blame a football (or cricket) manager and cast him out. It would be all too easy to mention a name or two.

It probably suits the police to pretend they are fighting crime by video. But a casual inspection of the local town centre reveals significant criminal activity. Lots of drivers are using mobile phones, parking on yellow lines, eating sandwiches and smoking cigarettes. All at the same time, in some cases. It wouldn’t take me long, if you made me a crime-fighter, to find people riding bikes without lights, on pavements, or even without hands on the handlebars.

Higher up the criminal food chain, complex laws are also enforced selectively, from drug possession to tax evasion, depending on the whim or policy of the CPS. The EU Commission even has an article in its constitution stating that it will pick and choose what it wants to enforce.

Suffice it to say, there seems to be a lot of luck involved in falling foul of the law, certainly more than your history teacher explained on the Magna Carta field trip.

I suspect the recent legislation banning fox hunting with dogs reflects an acknowledgement that all of us might have a deep rooted and nasty tendency to join a baying mob, which must be guarded against.

Scapegoating is a process found in dysfunctional groups and families. It is viewed as an unhealthy defence mechanism that, nevertheless, serves some purpose in preserving the group’s existence. Scapegoating often seems to occur in group therapy, where it can be interpreted, or even better, treated. With jazz.

Today’s paper reveals that jazz has infiltrated the public sector and has been applied to NHS managers, senior policemen and the department of transport. Alex Steele, musician and founder of ‘Improwise’, states that the NHS, in need of radical change, has called in his jazz quartet several times ‘to help with leadership’.

A police chief is quoted as saying the situation in his organisation was best explored through ‘parallels with the world of jazz’. Comedian Alexei Sayle famously observed that Jazz had no natural enemies or predators, but it seems he was wrong.

The Department of Health ’rounded furiously’ on the jazz workshops, stating that taxpayers will be ‘rightly appalled’.

So, jazz, intended to help groups function better, itself becomes the scapegoat. But Jazz cannot be blamed for careless driving. Hands off the Wheel was grunge, not jazz, and Asleep at the Wheel are Country. From Texas, not Yorkshire.


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