Syndicated Corruption in the UK, e.g.,CPZ (controlled parking zone)

Local government in the UK has tapped into the British Empire DNA and found a way to make serfs of its residents. In an exemplar of syndicated corruption, I will use what has been happening in my own local council as an illustration and case study.

In London, each council is divided into several wards. Each ward elects 2-3 residents as Councillors to represent the community at the local council level.

My ward is dissected by the main thoroughfare running between Central London and Wales. A part of that road, which is also part of the ward I live in, is known as the Golden Mile. It is so-called because of the concentration of industry along a mile-stretch of the road dating back to the early 1900s, which was long a source of local prosperity. Factories of architectural merit remain as a reminder of the Golden Mile’s important past.

We are not only a (historically) reasonably prosperous ward in the borough. My ward is also home to a college, and tube and railway stations. The college is a further and higher education institution with a local and international student population of more than 6,500, who go on to pursue their studies at good universities around the city.

Most of the students at the college travel in by public transport or car. Roads adjacent to the college can therefore become packed during term-time, adding to the parked cars of people who work at local businesses in the area. 

It’s worth noting that along one of its perimeters, the college has a car park with 100 or so spaces. Even so, car parking congestion spills out in and around my ward – because of the exorbitant costs of parking, which is no small consideration on a student budget.

Now, successive Conservative governments have decreased local council funding over the years, citing wastage and low accountability, among other things. The knock-on effect of this is a reduction in local services: for example, refuse collection takes place fortnightly; local libraries have been threatened with closure; and so on and so forth.

So, local councils have become creative about how to fill their emptied coffers. 

Enter CPZ.

A totally unnecessary scheme that has become beloved of councils, especially in London.

In my ward, I estimate that non-resident cars – those that are parked on the road during normal business operating hours – come to a total of around 500. If a charge of GBP2.00 were levied on each of these, the Council would reap weekly revenues of GBP5,000.00. Multiply that by 48 weeks (to account for bank holidays and other paid employment holidays), and the income would be a staggering GBP240,000.00 The income from  day-workers and students increases yet further – perhaps four-fold – when you factor in their spending at local shops and businesses.

Sensible levies of non-resident car parking could therefore bring substantial benefit and income to my ward, and to the council more generally. But local government, as cunning and corrupt as any national government, wants more. Much more.

The CPZ scheme has been ten years in the making in my ward. Leading up to this, the Council has dealt with the issue of car parking problems using ever draconian and nonsensical measures. The problem that residents faced was that students and business workers were obstructing access to reasonable parking – the council decided not to take action on this; it did not ticket the offenders at all. It did, however, ticket residents whose car bumpers and boots overhung their driveways by even a quarter of an inch. So, if anybody says CPZ is a scheme designed with residents in mind, they really don’t know what they are talking about.

As part of the Council’s consultations about the CPZ scheme, it administered resident surveys. Of the 12 residences in our road, 1 outright rejected the scheme while the others abstained from voting. They did so in the belief that only a ‘Yes’ vote would count in favour of the scheme; and that abstaining was as good as rejecting the scheme.

The Council, however, moved the goalposts – indicating that CPZ had already been rubber-stamped and that they were merely going through the motions of democracy – by announcing that 100% of the households surveyed supported CPZ. When reminded of the results in our own road, and that two residents on a road next to ours had also objected, the Council stonewalled dissent. 

In other words, the Council had at best misinterpreted abstaining votes as agreement or acquiescence to the scheme; and at worst, it had committed a very visible fraud on local residents. 

To compound matters, a ward Councillor supported a local resident’s efforts to raise a petition claiming that daytime parking congestion in our area, during normal business and college operating hours, was somehow the fault of Friday evening worshippers at a local mosque.  By this logic, worshippers at the local Christian church on Sunday morning were as much to blame, but the petition focused squarely on Muslims, and not on any other race. Even the problems associated with the college were buried, and so too the onslaught of 4x4s which deliver and collect predominantly white students to a private school nearby every day during normal working hours, and which cause a congestion.

The Councillor who encouraged the anti-Muslim petition is the very same Councillor who supported an aged white woman in having an obstructive raised platform on her doorstep, along a shared pathway that also leads to the front door of a neighbour. The platform was erected for the white woman’s ease of access into and out of her home. However, it obstructed access by her Indian neighbour, a woman of an almost similar age, to her own main entrance. When the latter objected, referring the Councillor and the council planning officers to the fact that her neighbour’s platform could just as well be placed at the rear door of her property, these people were nonplussed. They hadn’t known of the back door. But once they did, they still refused to move the platform there. They told the ageing Indian woman to use the kitchen door to her property as the main entrance. Nevermind that access to the front door is impeded for all visitors to her property.

It was as blatant a use of the race card as was the Councillor’s encouragement of a petition blaming parking congestion on Friday evening Muslim worshippers. And it was compounded when the Council demanded a second set of fees to drop a kerb which the Indian lady had already paid to take place in the past, in order to provide access to a part of her garden where she could park her car off-road. The job had been marked down in Council records as having already been completed, despite clear and visible evidence to the contrary. The fee for fulfilling a job already paid for would be ten times higher, the Indian lady was told. Another example, lest we need reminding, that local Councils are no less corrupt than our national politicians.

Reverting…

The anti-Muslim, and totally racist, petition was signed by thirty households out of more than 200 in the road. The local Council used it as the basis to revive the CPZ scheme, following the singular failure of its earlier survey and the incredibly fraudulent spin it had put on the survey results. 

The Council administered a second CPZ survey, once again clarifying to residents that only a ‘Yes’ vote would count as a vote in favour of CPZ. No surprise, then, that households were once again shocked to learn that abstentions were being interpreted as affirmations of CPZ. Indeed, a minority of 1 ‘Yes’ vote carried the day, and the scheme has since come into operation.

Under the CPZ scheme, residents have been told to pay GBP80.00 annually for a permit to park their car. Additional family cars incur additional annual fees. When challenged about the fact that some households subsist on means-tested benefits, a local Councillor looked sheepishly away and ignored the question. The scheme does not allow for nuances in employment and income, which vary greatly across the area. 

As a result of CPZ, about 300 of the original 500 pre-CPZ non-resident parked cars that I estimated continue to use the roads in my ward. The college car park remains severely under-utilised – empty, even; as do the 150 or so exorbitantly priced metered parking bays on perimeter roads. Non-residents are seeking out spaces wherever they can, without paying unrealistic and inflated parking fees.

So, we have a situation in which:

  • non-residents , who are a vital part of local life and professional activity, and who contribute economically, are being systemically excluded; and
  • residents, who were previously experiencing problems parking outside their own houses, or even their own roads, paying a minimum of GBP80.00 to… well, still not be guaranteed a car parking spot outside their home.

Furthermore, residents are required to submit all car registration and insurance details to the Council when applying for a CPZ parking permit. This includes the details of their insurer, their insurance premium, and information about their income bracket (on which their premium is calculated).  

The annual update of resident parking permits thus requires the annual submission of private household information to the Council. They sell this on to commercial companies seeking in-depth voter information for marketing purposes. We have already seen this happen with Facebook and Cambridge Aanalytica – the erosion of privacy is real, and is one in which we are forced to be complicit. But using social media sites, or wanting to park a car, should not come at the cost of our right to our privacy – we should not accept that we are complicit in allowing Facebook, or our Councils, allowing access to information which they have no right over. They are willfully and deliberately at fault. And it’s all for money.

The Council stands to make a lucrative, under-the-radar income by selling residents’ information on to third parties. It is an abuse of power, a continuation of the kinds of backhander deals we expect of Parliament, and a gateway to rigging elections.

It is the corruption nobody is allowed to talk about.

Many UK residents won’t be aware of the webs of unaccountable, non-transparent, abuses of power in which they are enmeshed in their daily lives and by their local leaders and representatives.

Today’s essay hopefully helps in starting to raise that awareness, and in making us more engaged residents.

 

Advertisements

MYTH: UK’S INTEGRATION HYPE INCITEMENT TO MURDER

Having lived in the United Kingdom for over 50 years I thought I had seen all the good, bad and ugly that Great Britain has to offer. Yet since the mid-70s I have held the view that I am living in the UK on borrowed time, as integration is solely dependent on the indigenous people’s willingness to allow dignified cultural and religious disparity to take place while maintaining equal access to resources and amenities for all.

I recall vividly the degrading and disgusting names Sikhs were called regarding their turban, as well as in reference to their brown colour skin and their consumption of garlic, onion and ginger-enriched food.

In those days, out of sheer politeness and maturity in the face of what they recognised as the retarded mentality of the locals, the Asians in the UK kept their opinions about the natives to themselves.

Then race laws were introduced, banning racist references. Equality became enshrined in law. Cooperation and coexistence seemed feasible and, on the whole, tolerance, understanding and mutual appreciation evolved over the ensuing decades.

On 7th Oct 2017, I ventured into the social media platform of Facebook for the first time. Using a photo of myself and an Indian nickname that also sounded a tad anglicized, I joined several groups. One of these was called “ALL JOKES, ONE LINERS AND GREAT GAGS WITH REASONABLE ADMIN”. The group had 18,600 members, made no bones about the fact that it was a hard-hitting, over-the-top, no-holds-barred, adult humour group. I was happy joining since my humour and second-rate wit can on most occasions hold their own; and of course, the group wasn’t likely to throw anything at me that I had not heard before. Approval to join the group came through and I began to read the posts.

As promised, the FB group was hyper-racist, homophobic and misogynist to the core. Reference to female genitalia was an accepted and standard norm in the construction of any given sentence by the contributors, who were white men. I only came across two women: one with a sensible, middle-of-the-road humour and wit, and the other engaging in badly disguised full-on race hatred.

I introduced myself to the group, my profile image visibly establishing me as a Sikh gentleman with a full grey beard and a white turban. I wrote that I had already heard most, if not all, of the stuff they were likely to hurl at me, and that rest assured I would give as good as I got.

Right from the start, my religion and turban were targeted. Indeed, an initial remark used the exact same wording we Sikhs used to hear in the 1960s. This means that although racism was successfully removed from open public dialogue decades ago, it has been passed down the generations, from great-grandfathers through to great-grandchildren. Without hesitation, I retorted with a frank put-down, which silenced the guy who made the racist remark. He never made a comment to me again. I, in my social media naivete, thought he had gone on holiday until I was told he had blocked me. It became clear to me that I was dealing with grown men who could dish it out but became cry babies when it came to taking it.

Generally, I would make an observation, draw people into responding, and then fend them off with a sophisticated put-down, leaving a third person who was observing the exchange to smile and ask the other person, ‘What does it feel like to be played?

Rather than take it all in good grace, once the members of the FB group realised I could match their observational humour, the gloves came off. Explicitly degrading and disgusting religious, racial, cultural and dietary remarks came thick and fast.

By this time, I was on my third day into this experience. Concerned that there were zero non-white contributors, I scoured the list of group members and found pages and pages of people with African and Southeast Asian images and names – who had never participated in the group at all and seemed, to all intents and purposes, to be fake accounts. They were a front for the UK natives to spout their vitriolic race-hatred could flourish unbounded. The penny dropped that this was the real underbelly of the ordinary natives of Great Britain: their race hatred had flourished throughout the decades, and been passed down through the generations. It did not begin with Brexit.

The attacks on me by members of the FB group became more personal and direct. Seven days later, I decided to write my first post. I informed the group that in many cases their names, when translated into Asian languages, have explicit toilet meanings; and that they, like the rest of the animal world, have disgusting body odour, bad breath and stinky homes. In fact, if they were to meet an honest South-east Asian, this person would tell them that the average European’s freshly-washed smell is like sick.

Well, I could not believe it, my post disappeared. I inquired about what had happened to it. Terrance Ward, one of the group administrators, wrote back: ‘Didn’t you get the message?’ ‘What message is that?’ I asked in all innocence. I had been blocked. Given that the FB group was advertised as an adult, no-holds-barred humour group and its members posted the same, why block me when I had suffered a whole gambit of racial, cultural, religious and dietary abuse?

I left it there, trying to see the funny side of the group’s hypocrisy. My last exchange with them was on 13th October 2017.

Since then, I and my 70 yr old sister have suffered an onslaught of race-hate intimidation, leaving both of us in no doubt that we, and especially me, are going to be killed. The type of race-hate that was the norm in the 1960s is alive and well in our locality. All the Anglo-Saxons of our area check out the car when we are out driving, then the car registration number, and me with my white turban. In the initial days following the final denouncement of my FB group experience, a volley of venomous racial abuse spewed from their mouths. The underlying violent intent was immediately evident, and required only a trigger to be unleashed.

We reported the matter to the police. They noted the details of our case and our genuine belief that we are going to be murdered. The local community police officers contacted us subsequently, and set in motion the requisite procedures.

Like all people, our days follow a set itinerary. It is incredibly easy to log our movements and target us. Thus, regardless where we travel in our locality we are targeted. They, the rednecks, work in teams via multimedia mobile phones: logging the time they see us, they pass the message onwards about the direction we’re traveling, and as soon as we reach a certain landmark another two lookouts are already there waiting to check us out and pass the information further down the line. This has now translated into the message going out to a collective and who-so-ever thereafter notices us feeds back our movement information.

We take photos of them, and their car registrations numbers. WE HAVE THE NAMES AND PHOTOS OF THE CONTRIBUTORS FROM THE FACEBOOK GROUP “ALL JOKES, ONE LINERS, AND GREAT GAGS WITH REASONABLE ADMIN”… AND WE WILL NOT HESITATE TO PUT THESE ONLINE ACROSS SEVERAL MEDIA SITES IN ORDER TO OUT THESE RACIST PSYCHOPATHS.

Now, the question for Anglo-Saxons is this: If you, the indigenous can dish out racist toilet humour then how come you guys can’t take it?

All of a sudden the British bulldogs have turned into pussies? Integration and tolerance means verbal abuse is a two-way street. But for you Anglo-Saxons it just seems to mean that you get to rant, rave, and blame ‘others’ for everything without showing any modicum of maturity. You dish out abuse but can’t take the truth that comes your way. And an inferiority complex and low self-esteem leads you to kill rather than accept that, to others, perhaps your names do reference toilet habits, and you do smell.

You’re a race of psychopaths.

The media who represent you – e.g. The Daily Mail, The Daily Express and a selection of LBC radio presenters – should do the honourable thing for once and publicly announce what you and they really believe: that integration is bullshit (before returning to their usual racial venom).

Because real integration means that if you’re going to indulge in degrading racial abuse towards others, you have to accept the same back.

Reflections on proposed caste discrimination legislation: or ‘What is this thing called caste?’

The question I put to the British parliament is this; Why is her Majesty and the entire stratum she occupies not included in the proposed caste law, and why is it limited to race and aimed only at South Asians as it is currently tabled?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions of caste are as follows:

  • One of the hereditary social classes in Hinduism that restrict the occupation of their members and their association with members of other castes.
  • A division of society based on differences in wealth, inherited rank, or privilege, profession, occupation or race.
  • The position conferred by caste standing.
  • A system of rigid social stratification characterized by hereditary status, endogamy, and social barriers sanctioned by custom, law, or religion.

My argument:

Please read Caste, Class and Community in India: An Ethnography Approach by Balmurli Natrajan (William Paterson University).

The article’s argument supports my view that we are confusing class/economic distinctions with caste, such that the economic status of social groups is being projected onto, and even conflated with, social caste.

The fact is that like-minded social groups gel and function together as they have intimate nuanced understanding that cannot be accessed by other groups. To put it another way: we humans are neither psychologically nor socially identical, and do not share the same life experiences. This does not, at least in various Indian cultures, emerge as prejudice but is rather a form of snobbishness verging at times on hostility.

Precisely because of this, it makes sense therefore that individual social groups practice social endogamy and establish their own kinship clubs – Gurdwaras are a case in point. And they should be encouraged in doing so.

My point is that caste is a paradigm encased in structured cosociality rather than in subjugation and unequal power relations.

(And if we are talking about the latter, it is worth noting that I have repeatedly experienced rejection by well-to-do so-called lower castes – which blows apart the idea that oppression works in one direction only!)

The problem with the proposed legislation against caste discrimination is that it is embedded in the notion that caste is a form of unequal class/economics relations. It simply does not recognise the cosociality of caste as a valid, necessary and comforting form of in-group identity.

But consider this: in playgroups, babies can clearly be seen exhibiting strong likes and dislikes towards each other; they congregate in like-minded groups. Who taught them such prejudice? No-one. We human-animals psychologically attach ourselves to, and associate and intermingle with like minds.

This is not prejudice. What precisely it is, we have yet to sort out.

Now, for those who say caste as practiced today – in the form of class/economic inequality and hostility – is a historical phenomenon within South Asian societies… go learn your history!

Buddhism, Sikhism and Vedism in earlier times – before Bharat lost her substantial lands and succumbed to successive periods of colonization – did not apply caste divisions as we understand them today.

Indeed, caste division is not ‘Indian’ at all. It began in the west as a form of rigid social organisation whereby people were not permitted to work outside the occupational bandwidths set by the state, as happening to trades people in the United States. The Roman Empire relied on this to protect itself from implosion. Thus, caste refers in this sense to established western practices of restricting people to certain occupational domains, which restricted them socially and economically.

Such casteism continues to operate in the west today, as a cursory examination of recent English history illustrates. The cost of moving beyond the barriers of one’s caste was experienced by King Edward VIII when he deigned to marry Wallis Simpson – he had to abdicate. Even Prince Charles was not permitted to marry at will, but was shepherded into a marriage of convenience.

All of this is not to say that caste is not an aspect of Indian cultures. But as I noted earlier, it was certainly not a feature of earlier Buddhist, Sikh or Vedic societies, especially not in the western form of restricting people to particular occupational bandwidths.

Originally, in Bharat, children were given into the care of faith-teachers whose task was to find the appropriate occupation and role of their wards, and to encourage them to fulfil that. So, a farmer’s child with artisan skills would be encouraged in that direction, while the child of unskilled workers would move into farming if they exhibited the abilities for such work. It followed that people did not necessarily follow in their parents’ footsteps; they moved across groupings freely based on their skills-set.

It also follows that parents did not prize financial solvency when looking for life-partners for their children, rather they laid greater store by a prospective son- or daughter-in law’s capacity to manage their affairs responsibly and maturely.

However, older western societies have come to exert a strong influence on the modern construct that is Hinduism, which is itself the product of a socio-political revolution against the perceived rigidities of Vedic practices. Ironically, Hindusim has curated the kind of casteism for which the whole of India has become renowned, and which it erroneously embraces as an inalienable and intrinsic aspect of itself.

Consequently, we forget that caste refers to a bandwidth of in-group intimacies that in fact have been vital in enabling the successful transnational flow of people. Sikhs and others who moved to East Africa or to the United Kingdom were intrepid aspirants, but they were only able to ease the isolation that migration brings by congregating with others who shared their language, diet, rites and rituals, and who could advise them of local mores and provide a network of support.

Against the cosociality that caste traditionally referred to in older Indian societies and cultures, is the highly stratified system of difference which it exhibits in the west and which we forget to call out because we are so busy misunderstanding and denigrating our own eastern cultural heritages and practices.

And if we are in doubt as to the rigid boundaries that caste builds in the modern western world, let’s consider how our kids from North America and England emerge from university with degrees – equipping them to practice some trade or other, but which actively preclude them from switching trade or following another occupational strand. For that, they have to go right back to university and re-train, and get re-certified.

The same restrictions apply ofcourse to trades-people. Since the emphasis is on economic security and socio-economic mobility, very few people get to change occupational track despite showing flair and having accumulated skill-sets that make them ideal for jobs other than those they’ve been certified to do. The moral degeneracy of this situation is that it stratifies people, restricting them ‘to their own kind’. Yet, when they embody such stratification and hierarchy, we call them out and propose anti-caste legislation. When the system itself enforces this, why blame the people for imbibing it?!

And to what degree will anti-caste legislation be enforced? Will Gurdwaras have to provide a register of how many people of other castes (cosocial cultural groupings, as they themselves see it) attend in order to stay on the right side of the law? What counts as discrimination? Will I, as somebody who has repeatedly experienced discrimination from so-called lower castes, be safe-guarded and be able to pursue my case under law?

Will the British monarchy be allowed to continue to exist in its closed forms, while the average person on the street gets vilified for belonging to a group they know intimately and feel a sense of support, security and belonging with?

Clearly, I am missing the point of the anti-caste legislation, because it feels to me very much like a stick with which to beat Indians. And the best thing is, we Indians are culpable in this, because we know nothing of our own history or that of caste as a phenomenon.