Hands off the Steering Wheel

The other day I needed to drive across town to pick up a parcel. The depot was in a part of town that I don’t normally visit so, as usual, I secured the phone in the hands-free cradle and let Google tell me what to do. I had two choices,via the motorway or via the back streets. I chose the backstreets simply because the first set of lights made it a minute quicker.

As I drove I reflected that Google must have chosen those routes knowing the traffic profile and time of day. Otherwise how could it have got the timing of arrival so accurate.

As I drove, the streets were empty and strange. These were streets that I had never seen before and would never have visited any other way. What would I have done without Google? I would have used a map. Taken the motorway and taken the closest exit ramp then used the map from there rather than the complex route Google chose. I’d have been another car on the motorway clogging it up. As I looked around, I saw all this unused infrastructure – empty streets when the motorway was probably loaded with cars.

Auckland has a traffic problem. The motorways clog up too quickly and here I was on empty streets. Perhaps the answer is Google, Google maps and driver-less cars. Take the choice away from people. They put in a destination and Google gets them there – no choices, Google decides the route. That way all this infrastructure gets used more efficiently. Don’t build more roads, just better use the ones that we have.

The fine of the future “driver had his hands on the steering wheel.

This is great inspiration for a short story, one that I would like to call, “Just Drive.” Perhaps one day I will write it. Rebellion against authority by doing something we currently take for granted. But which is right, using infrastructure effectively or the freedom of choice to sit, crawling, on the motorway?

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All Lives Matter, Right

If All Lives Matter, then abolish the death penalty and stop killing people with drones.

Do the people quoting All Lives Matter really, truly believe that ALL lives matter? All of them? 

All Lives Matter is a smokescreen. If they really, really want to show us that all lives matter, there plenty of ways to do that. 

The Department of Everything Else

Safer communities together. If people ask about the Police that’s what comes to mind. It’s an old slogan that the Police here in New Zealand used. I go to look it up and find something different, Our mission is for New Zealand to be the safest country in the world. I’m OK with the new mission  seeing is as I live here.

Then I see what others have to put up with and I feel really good about it. Our guys are tops. Best police in the world. No armoured vehicles, no robocop style armour, no purchasing of ex military hardware. Heads screwed on and all that.

Is there more to it though, leadership can’t be the only difference. Perhaps not, the U.S. police has leadership. If you watch the video, they also have an impossible mission. As the country closes down funding for other services, the costs and effort play out on the Police. Watch the video. Reduce funding for mental health services and the effort transfers to the police. Reduce funding for the management of stray dogs and the effort falls onto the police.

I remember talking to a senior  police officer here in NZ many years ago. When I asked what the role of police was, he described police as the everything else department. If something happened that was not within the scope of another government agency, it fell to the police.

The flow on is simple. Let’s take mental health for example. If you fund that, people who experience problems have a place to go. Access to medication, support and professional advice to better manage their disease. Potentially a way to participate in society, hold down a job. Fence at the top of the cliff.

Remove the funding and the support that provides and you lose a lot of people whose issues will play out in public. It becomes a problem for the police taking time and attention off other things. People with problems end up moving into jails and when they are released, their coping skills are reduced meaning that they become another burden on the police. Ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. 

If the police are underfunded then the time and attention dealing with the mentally unwell (whose problems may play out in the form of violence against others) takes police time and attention away from other duties such as property crime. Stretch them enough and parts of your society can go feral creating dangerous, lawless ghettos. A pile of broken bodies at the bottom of the cliff. 

I like safer communities together, really I do.

Update: I wrote this before I learned of this, an unarmed black mental health caregiver lying on his back, hands in the air, gets shot by the police. I take it all back. To the US police, go sort your shit out. You are insane. There is no way you can claim to be a healthy organization if stuff like this occurs. Deal with it!

Story Inspiration: will the Police end up creating a special mental health division, a dog control division, a child protection division as other agencies shuck off responsibility or get underfunded out of existence. What happens if every agency you dealt with had guns and the power of arrest. 

Elections: Outdated Battle-Axe vs Tea Towel

I want to talk about an election that was between an outdated battle-axe, a symbol of old times, of privilege and oppression, versus a tea towel, a come from nowhere upstart with no history, a hobbled together cluster of ideas, both vying for the top job. I want to talk about an election where voting was based for the most part driven by rejection, the desire not to see the other party win.

I’m talking about the New Zealand flag referendum. New Zealand has had the same flag for about a century and it’s a flag with a lot of problems. It looks almost exactly like the Australian flag, it has the Union Jack on it despite being independent of England. It’s blue, It’s boring, and we represent ourselves using other symbols for the most part – the silver fern or the kiwi.

Or Prime Minister took it as a job to change it so he set up a referendum. The story is this change would be his legacy so the referendum was set up to maximise the chance of change. A call for flags was issued and a panel selected four to go to a vote. Problems started there because a public petition added a fifth. Whichever won the first round would go head to head for the second. The result, a bland, unpopular flag that was technically sound but for many was considered more deserving of a tea towel. In the end a choice between two unsatisfactory candidates, the vote (old flag winning) seemingly decided by a desire to deny the other victory.

There’s nothing that says a democracy is broken as much as voters being left between two unpleasant choices. Democracy is more than just the vote, it’s the system that allows that vote to be used effectively. When all that’s left to vote of is the lesser of two evils. Look to the system.

Is democracy working for you?

Trump Wins the U.S. Presidency!

May as well hear it here first. I know there’s an advantage to being the first news outlet to report breaking news so I thought I’d get in real early. It’s not that I want him to win, or support him. I just think he will win. And the only reason is people are voting crazy. The 99% movement. Brexit. The rise of the right in Europe. Wherever there’s a protest vote, people seem to be taking it. I wonder what the voters regret for bringing in Trump will be called?

Is this going to be bad? Who knows. The choice is for Clinton who almost epitomizes the political system. The same system that people don’t trust. That they wanted Obama to change eight years ago. Or Trump, who will more than likely kick the shit out of the system or attempt to. Maybe it’s for the best. It would take a no holds barred, skin like an elephant character like Trump to affect the system. The risk is what he replaces it with.

Maybe, Trump can’t break the system but instead demonstrates beyond all doubt that it is broken and people wake up. If we are lucky. We’ll know if that happens when Democrats and Republicans start to agree on key issues. That’s the sign of a healthy democracy, when the opposition agrees on things that make sense. Watching the bickering over the past decade has been hugely disappointing. Once the U.S. represented democracy and the free world. I’m note sure now. I don’t know which country does. Where is democracy healthy these days?

Demagogues like Trump are the sign of an unhealthy democracy. One that wants to expel the sickness. Will Trump be as bad as people make out?

My pick is that we will get to find out. My other pick is that it’s not as bad as people fear. The systems is too resilient for that.

Writing Inspiration: A lot of alternative histories are based around ultra conservative governments. For once, we have one ahead of us. What does that do to the world?

Black People are not Aliens

This is my response to a question by another writer asking about whether to include a black person in their story. Others were tending to say that she might struggle and should write what she knows.

Write what you know does NOT exclude black people. You know them. Even if you have never met one. You know them because they are people first. They do not define themselves by their blackness. The minor character in your story will define herself as a person, as a friend, as a mother, as a lover, as a doer of whatever she does for fun or money. Write a person. Describe black skin. It will will succeed. Guaranteed.

The correct short name for black people isn’t blacks, it’s people.

Fear of a Black Planet

Outraged is how I feel.

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are the latest to die in encounters with police. There is no doubt both of these men would be alive if they had not been black. If they could have magically changed themselves, to appear as anything else, they would be alive right now. Black men are feared, even if they are 12 years old. So many police officers/security officers in these situations have said they feared for their lives–that this was the reason they shot the other person, even if that person was running away from them, even if the person was being held down on the ground.

The police have a difficult job and they are terrified. Who wants a terrified protector? The many instances of white citizens resisting arrest, bickering with the police, even fist fighting with the cops and then walking away alive amaze me. A black person would have been dead–but the police were not afraid of these citizens and that kept them tight in the head, they didn’t shoot.

I have taught my son that police officers are our friends, that they help and protect us. He trusts uniforms, mommy wore one. He’s eight. I hate it that I have to perhaps teach him that if he is ever stopped for speeding he is in terrible danger. That he must try to calm a terrified person with a gun, smile and don’t move a muscle. “Please don’t shoot me, sir. I’m may be black, but I want to live through this traffic stop.”

How fucked up is this? Black men, even boys are feared. Period. I may need to accept this fact of our existence. The bad people who are black have made each of us a target for police in fear of them. Unfortunately, the first thing seen is skin that screams ‘criminal’. Even outnumbered, subdued, running away, handcuffed and in a headlock, a black man most be the most terrifying being on the planet.

Perhaps there is no need for me to write vampires anymore. The greatest terror to trained, armed men sleeps in my bed. His Phd, publications, and years teaching at universities doesn’t matter, his dark skin is the problem, passed onto my advanced-reader son.

~PM Carson writes erotic paranormal romance. When she’s not working on her series, soon to be released, she takes the time to notice the world is trippin’.

 

The Changing Face of Power

America has a new image, a woman staring down almost impossibly armored riot police in Baton Rouge.

Powerful as this image is in the contemporary setting in which it was taken, what’s more revealing is what it reveals about the changes in our society over time. Let’s imagine this scene playing out at different times.

In the middle ages, protesting against authority would have been viewed as treason. Likely outcome: burned at the stake.

In 1800 in Baton Rouge, an act of defiance like this would have been dealt with as a slave discipline issue. Likely outcome: suspended upside down and whipped until unconscious.

In 1900 this would have been seen as an afront to authority and a black person interfering with white folks business (use of a public road). Likely outcome: brutally dragged off and locked away by a sham court process.

In 1960 this would have been seen as an act of civil disobedience. Likely outcome: arrested and violently dragged off. Probably charged and released unless they could pin something significant on her.

2016? Quietly arrested and a symbol of the protest movement.

Across all time periods if she was armed and prepared to fight? Likely outcome: killed on the spot by the authorities.

Guns don’t make you strong. In fact, the more civilized the society, the less relevant guns become for resolving conflicts. Now, they are a hindrance. Bring a gun, and you undermine your moral position.

Story Inspiration: Where could this end up? Owning a gun becomes proof of antisocial tendencies? Politicians being asked if they owned guns just as currently they get challenged on whether they ever smoked dope?

How are the Cops like an Abusive Spouse?

Wow, read this for some perspective on the current problems with the U.S. police. This author describes U.S. cops (who happened to be presenting to schoolchildren) as saying the same things that abusive spouses do. If we stop you and kill you, it’s your fault…

…go figure.

Writing Inspiration: If the police keep heading down this line,  what would our society look like? Any infraction could have unintended consequences. The Black Lives Matter want equality when being stopped by the police, one form of equality is that everyone gets treated the way they do when stopped!