You can’t even call Britain a Zombie Nation, because zombies show more animation than this

Joseph M. writes:

Although unrelated to immigration or Islam, this story from the Daily Mail sadly illustrates why the British are no longer able to defend themselves against those threats. They seem to have lost the most basic instinct to assert themselves in any situation.

Here’s the headline of the article Joseph sent:

Charity shop worker drowned in lake just 3ft deep after firemen refused to wade in due to health and safety rules

* Drowning Simon Burgess, 41, was just 20ft away from firefighters but inquest hears they refused to save him
* Police officer who went in to water was ordered back
* Witness claims firemen told her they couldn’t go in if water was more than ‘ankle deep’


Jim Kalb writes:

What robots. The whole point of training and what’s called education today is to eradicate what’s normal and substitute an artificial way of functioning. The good news is that it’s not going to last. The bad news is that what replaces it will probably be something pretty crude.

In fairness to Britain, I think something just like this happened in California a year or so ago. Some bystander went and saved the guy though.

LA replies:

Let us also remember that the firemen and policemen who let the man drown, far from experiencing any remorse for what they did or even any second thoughts, will doubtless congratulate themselves on their “integrity,” by which they mean following to the letter the prescribed bureaucratic procedures. (I pointed to the real, bureaucratic meaning of “integrity” in the recent post about NASA’s pursuit of diversity.)

So, to continue Mr. Kalb’s argument, “education” now means learning how to be an inhuman robot, and “integrity” means consistently putting into practice what one has learned during one’s “education.”

Daniel F. writes:

On this topic, I seem to recall that, during the Columbine shooting, the highly trained, heavily armed and vested SWAT team waited outside the school while the perps went from classroom to classroom shooting unarmed kids. Nauseating.

Obviously, you can’t blame individual cops and firemen for this sort of thing. An officer who violated the rules to save a life would probably be subject to discipline, possibly termination. These guys have kids of their own to feed.

LA replies:

Yes. We could say that the guilt belongs to all the institutions involved in incidents like this, not just to the individuals whose job it is to put into practice those institutions’ procedures.

JC in Houston writes:

This story is just unbelievable. As bad as we Americans are, I don’t believe we are this far gone. I was watching the series “Air Crash Investigations” on you tube about the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 into the Potomac River after takeoff from Washington National Airport in 1982. There were five survivors floating in the frozen river and a courageous Park Police helicopter crew flew through the fog and basically alighted on the river’s surface to pull four survivors to safety. One of the struggling survivors could not grasp the life ring from the helicopter and an ordinary government worker named Lenny Skutnick dove into the river and pulled her to safety. Ronald Reagan asked him to sit in the Presidential Box at the State of the Union address. I would hope we Americans still have that sterner stuff. As for Britain … I’m almost sorry my Dad and my uncles helped save the place during World War II.

April 26

Lydia McGrew writes:

I’m afraid America is in the same bureaucratic boat as England on emergency workers who stand by and watch people die. Here is a similar case in America one year ago. The language is very similar to that in the case in England. And in Raymond Zach’s suicide, there is little doubt whatsoever that he could have been saved. His suicide took an hour while rescue crews stood aside because they “lacked the training and equipment” to help him. He did die. A volunteer simply retrieved the body.

Josh W. writes:

Daniel F. wrote:

Obviously, you can’t blame individual cops and firemen for this sort of thing. An officer who violated the rules to save a life would probably be subject to discipline, possibly termination. These guys have kids of their own to feed.

Not so. This is the test of one’s moral fortitude: being forced to choose the “hard right” over the “easy wrong.” For most of us, only a few of these types of situations present themselves in a lifetime, and how we decide to deal with them can be said to define who, and how good, we are. The “kids to feed” argument is not compelling either—would this be an acceptable defense for, say, Mike McQueary (not sure if he had/has kids) when he saw Jerry Sandusky raping a young boy in the shower but chose to do essentially nothing about it? Would you argue that the fear of being unable to provide for one’s children justifies allowing a child rapist to continue his crimes? What if it was murder? Because that is what we are talking about here: allowing a person to die, for absolutely no reason at all other than concern for one’s financial well-being.

We must actively condemn not only the bureaucracy that produces this utterly inhuman, robotic behavior but also anyone who is complicit in its operation. We are only kidding ourselves if we imagine the two entities to be distinct. The system cannot function without well-intentioned but apathetic drones who shrug their shoulders in the face of evil and injustice and say, “But I’ve got bills to pay, dude!”

LA replies:

Hear, hear.

Charles G. writes:

There’s a clue in the article: “given strict orders not to do so by fire station watch manager Tony Nicholls.” A few year ago, firefighters’ rank titles were all changed to ensure that they all knew they were nothing but a branch of the bureaucracy. “Leading Firefighter” became “Crew Manager,” “Sub-Officer” became “Watch Manager,” and London’s “Chief Fire Officer” became the “Commissioner for Fire and Emergency Planning.” You can see the full list here, on the London Fire Brigade’s Wikipedia page, which candidly notes “The traditional ranks … have been replaced in the LFB, by new titles more descriptive to the job function [i.e. management as an end in itself]’. Bear in mind the London Fire Brigade is practically traditionalist in these matters; every other Fire Brigade in the country has been re-named “Fire and Rescue Service.” It’s also worth looking at the organizational structure for the “Fire and Rescue Service” in question. Is there anything, apart from the hold-out of “Chief Officer” that would tell you this is a fire brigade, as opposed to, say, a paper supply company?

The modern phenomenon, by no means limited to Fire “Services” but widespread in the UK, of non-commercial organizations aping corporate nomenclature and practice, no matter how inappropriate, is an interesting one. I suspect there is something of the cargo cult about it. Since corporations and their ilk are so celebrated and successful, other organizations, like schools, fire brigades and so on, copy their outward appearances, hoping the same success and reputation will come to them.

LA replies:

Or, it’s just part of the built-in tendency human organizations to become more bureaucratic over time. Some enterprise starts off with a purpose. Human beings devote themselves to that purpose, trying to do as good a job as they can. But once the enterprise becomes established, it loses the focus on its purpose. Instead, its own internal rules, forever increasing, become an end in themselves. This is the tendency Jesus was resisting when he said (Mark 2), “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 25, 2012 06:46 PM | Send

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