Parkingstein–Son of Frankenstein

Recently during a periodic social telephone call with friends living in East London, I was able to advise them of a forthcoming visit to London affording me of the opportunity to visit them at the same time. I was quite surprised, in fact taken aback to be informed I needed a permit to visit them. It transpired the local authority where they live have been introducing ever-increasing controlled parking zones throughout their borough faster than the spread of the ash tree disease about to ravage our country.

Being the inquisitive sort of person I am, a quick Google search revealed not only details of this visitors parking permit but what also seemingly gave me, the impression of what in due course, could be the start of a blossoming list of implied liberty curtailing measures.

The list included
 

  • Resident parking permits
  • Resident access permits
  • Resident visitor parking permits
  • Business parking permits
  • Business access permits
  • Disable resident parking permits
  • School visitor parking permits
  • Carer parking permits
  • Trade parking permits
  • Courtesy vehicle parking permits

It would be fair to say charges did not apply to all these permits with a mixture of either free, permit allowance or charges applied. However, unless I am reading things wrong, this list does seem to imply that permits will be required to drive through given areas let alone additional permits to park there. It does all seem a bit oppressive. Who knows, perhaps cars with even bigger windscreens will be required in future to display all these permits.

I live in a rural area not well catered for by public transport. My village attracts only two buses per week, other villages get none at all. While all the surrounding market towns do have parking charges in central shopping areas, all the large stores and supermarkets provide large toll free car parks for customers. Without private transport the rural economy would simply cease to exist. This is probably one of the reasons I found this list of permits such an anathema. Any local authority attempting to introduce such controls in rural areas know they would be proverbially hung, drawn and quartered by the electorate, irrespective of political colour thus allowing a deeper wisdom on this subject to prevail.

It was not just this one London borough in isolation introducing what I find oppressive parking controls, most of them seem to be at it in one way or another. I cannot but help feeling all these controls are creating a monster in the land of Parkingstein. I lived in London close to a large street market before I moved to Somerset over 20 years ago, where a degree of controlled parking became necessary. It was all introduced on the basis it would be free to residents, however we all now know the in the world of politics, even pledges mean nothing nowadays as most fee paying university students will testify. The free parking outside my old home now attracts an annual fee of £150 to residents with the original promise of a free scheme forgotten somewhere in the mists of time. Once introduced, parking controls inevitably attract fees in time, and once fees are introduced, the only route for them is to increase in price. Up… and up….. and up.

Taxation of vehicles now accounts for about 7% of the national economy with road fund licences and various forms of fuel taxation raising about £36 billion in 2009. Without this vital economic prop, draconian increases in taxation would be needed elsewhere. Many people, particularly in non-metropolitan areas,  do not use public transport as it either does not effectively exist in some parts of the country, it is too expensive, or it simply is inconvenient in meeting peoples travelling requirements. Without private transport much of the country would grind to a halt both physically and economically.

I always have a simple question I put to any politician be they national or local when they start spouting about the curse of the motor car, Why do you keep biting the hand that feeds you? Few politicians ever attempt a reply.

What actually is life?


The Spark of Life

One of the most precious and often unnoticed things in the universe we take for granted as we go about our daily business, is life itself. If we stand still in the street for a few moments and consciously look around us for things that are living, it suddenly becomes apparent that our immediate environment is teeming with life. Apart from fellow humans, every animal, creature or insect from a dog or a bird, to a spider or an ant abound around us. Other forms of plant life are equally abundant from a tree to a blade of grass or even a speck of moss growing on a roof. Unseen life in the form of bacteria to microbes are everywhere including inside our own bodies. With so many forms of life around us, its remarkable that mankind still does not know what life actually is.

We certainly know the difference between something that is living and something that is dead but what we do not know is what that something is. I will not get involved in religious argument about the “soul” or other planes of existence, none of which I accept, as common sense dictates there is no difference between a dead person or a dead leaf. Both become non-living organic material.

 I find it strange that so much speculation is given to the possibility of finding extra terrestrial forms of life in the universe without our even understanding what life actually is. I do accept it is inevitable that other life forms will exist in the universe be it animal, plant, bacterial or something we have never even thought about, but how can we effectively think about other life forms without understanding what life actually is itself.

It is possible to identify common characteristics between all known living things but they do not explain what life is. Those characteristics are;

All known living things;

1. Need to take in energy.
2. Need to get rid of waste.
3. Grow and develop.
4. Respond to their environment.
5. Reproduce and pass their traits onto their offspring.
• 6. Evolve over time in response to their environment.

So far it has not been possible for mankind to create life although many have tried. I do not necessarily mean the Frankenstein dream of a humanoid monster roaming the streets but on a more basic level of say an amoeba. While the molecular and chemical structure of a simple single cell  may be known, even if it is possible to recreate that structure, at the moment, the result would still be a dead simple single cell. The spark of life whatever that may be would still be missing.

It may well be that life turns out to be part of a natural occurring process that starts spontaneously rather like the same process which I believe the mind to be. (See “Does the mind really exist“). The simplest analogy I can give of this is that of lighting a match. When we strike a match, a combination of events cause heat from friction in turn to cause additional heat to be produced from a chemical reaction in the head of the match. The heat generated causes a flame to appear that continues while there is sufficient heat, fuel and oxygen and disappears once again once when either heat, fuel or oxygen are no longer available. We do  not ask where the flame came from or where it goes to, we accept it only exists as long as the burning or combustion process is able to continue.

If life did or does occur as part of a process caused by a natural combination of events, it still means that scientists do not yet fully understand what that process or combination of events are.

I cannot help but wonder that with so little understood about the process of life, why does mankind so actively take part in the process of destroying that which he is so far, unable to create?

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