How can it be that seemingly otherwise intelligent people can make such silly decisions?

One of the things that has concerned me increasingly in recent years is that our society seems to be ever more inclined to follow rules, even if those rules become quite meaningless when considered in a particular context.

Take, for example, this situation that happened near Derby.

Some roadworks were being undertaken, and as a result it had been found necessary to turn off the street lighting that has normally illuminated the roadway at night.

Now that event is fairly self-evident.  If the street lighting isn’t on, and it gets dark, then by and large you notice the lighting is not there.  So there really isn’t much need for a sign to be placed on the road side that says the street lighting is not on.

But if one has to have a sign that says the street lighting is not working, then by and large it is probably going to be necessary to have that sign announcing the failure of the lighting system, illuminated – because there is no street lighting to allow drivers to see the sign.

So to have, as the A52 has, a situation in which there is no street lighting, but there is an un-illuminated sign saying that the street lighting is not working, strikes me as rather ludicrous on at least two counts.

However this moves from the ludicrous to the interesting when one asks how two such utterly silly decisions could be made.  In short, why did no one responsible for street signs notice that this whole procedure was completely bonkers?

I suspect that no one did notice because there are over-arching rules that say, for example, when something that is normally operational by the roadside is not operational there needs to be a sign that says so.  Which is fine if the non-operational issue is, for example, traffic lights.  A sign saying that one needs to take extra caution because the traffic lights at a cross roads are out of commission is not just helpful but quite often utterly essential if drivers are used to charging by with the assumption of right of way.

But I fear that this lack of asking “why?” is both deeply ingrained and spreading.  To give another example, to get to my friend’s house one leaves a main road at a roundabout and follows the route into the village where he lives.  If one continues along the road it eventually reconnects with the main road at another roundabout a couple of miles further south.

However for the present, the second connection with the main road is closed because of a major building project.  There is just the one way in and out of the village, instead of two.

The logical approach one might think at the first roundabout would be a notice that says, “local traffic only” or “road closed in 2 miles” or something like that.

But it seems no one has yet created a sign that says “road closed in 2 miles” so instead at the roundabout we simply are told “road closed” which looks completely ludicrous because the road beyond the sign is palpably not closed, and there is a constant flow of traffic past the sign as people ignore the notice in order to get to their homes.

There is no reference to which road is closed which leaves a lot of people confused, and as a result there have been a couple of minor accidents as people have stopped, or suddenly changed direction wondering where to go.

We might call both situations ones in which there is no joined up thinking – or indeed again a failure to ask “why?”

Wondering if such thoughts just occurred to me, or whether others had noticed, I mentioned these musings to a friend of mine who supports one of the big football clubs, and who goes to games on the train. The trains on the line he uses can have four carriages, six carriages, eight carriages, or even ten carriages at different times of day.

Although there is not too much pressure on the train service before matches since supporters tend to spread their arrival time out, some arriving early, some just before kick off, etc, there is a huge pressure on the service at the end of the game when everyone leaves at once.  And yet after every single match the trains arrive with just four carriages and get dangerously over-filled.  One asks again, why?

Following these three examples, I wonder if there ought not to be classes in schools in “joined up thinking” – or to put it another way, asking the question “why?” (Or, if one prefers, the application of fairly basic logic.)

I guess the reason in part comes from the fact that asking “why?” is absolutely discouraged in many schools, where it can be seen as a sign of pupils or students “being difficult”.

Indeed perhaps if our civilisation does eventually decline, those who are left to record its demise might call us, “the people who couldn’t ask ‘why’?”

I always enjoy meeting with my customers and chatting about their views, except when I don’t.

Over the years I have met a number of people who bring me information that catches me out.

Not in a bad way, but rather in a way that I appreciate because I do quite like being caught out as it makes me ponder and think.

For example, I do have a particular liking for what these days are known as inconvenient facts, such as the one that one of my more eccentric clients came up with which suggested that taking the drug ecstasy was no more dangerous than horse riding.

Now I have to admit that I didn’t believe a word of that until my client directed me to the work produced by the pharmacologist David Nutt, and yes it has been reported in various learned journals which like to use statistics in the proper way (that is to say, taking the number of people doing x, seeing how many of them get injured in various ways, and then comparing all the data with the number of people doing y).

But now apparently you can’t read it in any government journals because the head of the team that did the research was sacked and his findings removed from the official record.

I was both horrified that the information could be covered up, and fascinated by my own reaction to the finding.

I guess such a statistical finding is very uncomfortable, perhaps because horse riding is considered “good” and “healthy” and maybe above all “done by the right sort of people” while taking ecstasy is considered the opposite in every regard.  And I didn’t include the relationship between horse riding and gambling in that.

But apparently it is so.  If you go in for horse riding you are as likely to get more injuries of a more serious nature than in you take ecstasy.  Which I must stress is absolutely not a suggestion that taking ecstasy is safe, but rather than it might be worth easing up on the horse riding.

So it seems these days there is a movement to be economical with the statistics.  Just as there is a spot of being economical with the freedom of speech as well.

I suspect most people in the UK do actually value free speech – up to a point.  The problem is where that point is reached.  Personally I don’t value the freedom of speech within the audience in the theatre while I am trying to focus on the production.  And I find myself very confused about whether or not I want to defend the right of racists to speak about their beliefs.  Probably not, when I think about it.

But freedom of speech can be misused.  Take, for example, the issue of water.

We are gradually seeing in this country the arrival of the notion of “raw” water – something that has become quite popular of late in certain parts of the United States.

Raw water is apparently real, original, honest to goodness water.  Water that people who write things on Twitter with the hashtag nofilter go in for.  Water that doesn’t have any fluoride in it… except the natural fluoride that occurs in groundwater … and which actually occurs at much higher levels than is allowable in the water that comes out of our taps.  Levels that could be quite dangerous.

And because it is not treated it also has a nice juicy variety of waterborne bacteria within the H20, the drinking of which can lead to… well, it’s a nasty disease but you might be eating your lunch while reading this so I don’t want to mention it.

The more I look at it, the more complicated (not to say lopsided) the whole world seems to be.